India announced a summit of G-4 countries, the leading proponents of UN Security Council expansion, shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in the US on Wednesday evening.
They will meet for the first time in 10 years to “build on the recent adoption of a text” for negotiating UN reforms, said Asoke Mukerji, India’s permanent representative to the US.
The summit, which was mooted by India, will be hosted by Modi at the hotel Waldorf Astoria on Saturday and will be attended by Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
UN general assembly adopted a “Decision on UNSC Reforms” on September 14 that puts before the world body a text proposal for the first time to form the basis for negotiating reforms.
Negotiations are slated to begin in November and India hopes to wrap up the process by this time next year, although officials said they are aware of the challenges ahead.
A group of countries, that includes Pakistan and has the tacit backing of China, is opposed to the reforms, which is generally taken to mean an expansion of the UN Security Council.
India has the support of all five permanent members, but New Delhi is a little leery of Beijing’s offer of support as China opposes any group that includes it historical foe Japan.
By announcing the summit, said officials, India is sending a message that it plans to build on the momentous general assembly decision and keep the ball moving.
The G-4 members expect to announce a document at the end of the summit, which is still being drafted, and it will reveal how they propose to drive the negotiations, said sources.
Coming at the start of the Prime Minister’s five-day visit, the announcement is linked directly to a recent push to the effort from India, including a letter from Modi to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
In the letter, Modi said that the UN’s “relevance and effectiveness will depend in large measure on the internal reform of the United Nations, especially its security council”.
The Prime Minister arrived in New York on Wednesday evening from Ireland to a large crowd of supporters who had waited patiently for him for hours.
Modi did step out of his hotel once to wave at them but that was clearly not enough as the crowd refused to disperse and kept waiting for him. “See him on television so often, I just wanted to see him in person once,” said Jagdish Shah, a resident of Edison, New Jersey, who looked disappointed.
The Prime Minister has a busy schedule ahead, opening with a meeting with financial sector top honchos on Thursday morning.
Prime Minister Narendra will also meet Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas here on September 28, seen as a curtain-raiser to President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Israel in October. Mukherjee will become the first Indian head of state to visit Israel.
Modi himself is planning to visit Israel, which could take place next year, though dates are yet to be finalised.
After stepping up ties with Israel, New Delhi has been trying hard to strike a balance in perception that it hasn’t abandoned the country’s traditional support for the Palestine cause, which has domestic political significance in India.
Modi had met his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu last year on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly and had later met Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin in Singapore.