At UNGA session, India to focus on new partnerships
The annual exchange of insults with Pakistan at the UN General Assembly could dominate headlines as before, but India appears to be planning its most focussed and substantive effort yet at “forging new partnerships” for the 74th session of the world body.
Officials are tight-lipped about details but indications are these new partnerships will go “beyond the usual ones like Brics, IBSA and G/4”, acronyms for groups comprising India, Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa, Germany, Japan and Brazil. These groups have met on the margins of every General Assembly session in recent years at the level of ministers or officials, with the aim of reflecting an evolving world power structure.
India’s push for new partnerships is expected to be commensurate with its changing stature globally. Though the recent installation of solar panels gifted by India on UN rooftops and the India visit last week by UN deputy secretary general Amina J Mohammed, the pointperson for sustainable development and climate issues, could point to climate underpinning these new relationships, indications are that they won’t be confined to any single issue.
No details were available of the new push, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will address the General Assembly for the third time in all and the first time in his second term, and external affairs minister S Jaishankar, who has close ties with counterparts around the world through his long years in the foreign service, have packed agendas.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that Modi will travel to the US during September 21-27 to participate in the high-level segment of the General Assembly in New York. He is also expected to hold several bilateral and multilateral meetings and join an Indian community event in Houston.
People familiar with India’s plans for the 74th General Assembly session acknowledged they are acutely aware of Pakistan’s intentions to raise Kashmir at meetings but they weren’t worried about it.
“NATO” or “No Action, Talk Only”, said one of them, summarising the sense of fatigue in India’s foreign policy establishment over Pakistan’s overhyped and unproductive efforts to internationalise India’s decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan first tried to get President Donald Trump to intervene, leveraging its clout with the Taliban. Trump initially spoke of his readiness to “mediate”, “intervene’ and “arbitrate”, but backed down under pressure from his advisers and in acknowledgement of India’s historical opposition to third-party mediation.
Pakistan also tried seeking a discussion at the UN Security Council but was turned down. At China’s intervention, it was granted closed-door informal consultations and Pakistani diplomats have tried to insert the dispute with India into every debate, including one on the UN peacekeeping operations.
Undeterred by these setbacks, Prime Minister Imran Khan is expected to press ahead, using his first address to the General Assembly to re-litigate the tired rhetoric of his predecessors to seek intervention in Kashmir.
A long-time observer of UN debates and discussions said: “My memory is that from BB (former premier Benazir Bhutto) to Nawaz (former premier Nawaz Sharif) to Shahid Khakhan Abbasi (Khan’s immediate predecessor), the approach is the same. Do you think Imran will be different?”