On UNSC reform, Biden has offered most explicit American backing: Jaishankar

Updated on Sep 29, 2022 10:22 AM IST

Saying Biden's backing for reform of the United Nations was 'most explicit and specific', external affairs minister S Jaishankar said Security Council reforms will be one of the themes discussed during India's presidency of the body in December.

S Jaishankar meets with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Washington DC. (Dr. S. Jaishankar Twitter)
S Jaishankar meets with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Washington DC. (Dr. S. Jaishankar Twitter)

Saying that United States President Joe Biden’s backing for United Nations reform was the “most explicit and specific” American support on the subject, external affairs minister S Jaishankar announced that SC reform will be one of the themes of India’s Security Council (SC) presidency this December.

The other theme will be counter-terrorism.

December will mark the last month of India’s current two-year stint as an elected, non-permanent member of the Council.

On reform, which saw renewed momentum at the UN General Assembly in New York last week, Jaishankar said there had been some developments “including an American position articulated by President Biden and the Russian position articulated by Foreign Minister Lavrov”.

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At UNGA, Biden had said, in a context when Russian veto has blocked US efforts in the Council, that SC members should refrain from the use of veto except in rare and extraordinary situations to ensure the body’s credibility and effectiveness.

“That is also why the United States supports increasing the number of both permanent and non-permanent representatives of the Council. This includes permanent seats for those nations we’ve long supported and permanent seats for countries in Africa [and] Latin America and the Caribbean.”

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A senior official later said that the administration supports India, Germany and Japan’s bid. And on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the support.

Lavrov, in his remarks to the UNGA had said, that India and Brazil were “key actors” and “worthy candidates” for permanent membership of the Council.

Among the G-4 countries — a grouping of India, Japan, Germany and Japan, all SC aspirations — India is the only country that has been backed by both US and Russia in this GA.

Jaishankar said, “My understanding is that the position that President Biden put forward is the most explicit and specific articulation of the US support for reform of the UN, including the Security Council. I don’t think it is a reiteration of something. In that sense, it’s not business as usual.”

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He said how the process went forward now depended on all UN member-states and not any single country.

“We have been pressing the reform effort, including through the IGN. You know where the reluctance comes from. But let’s stay focused on it.”

The minister added that India had never thought that SC reform would be an easy process.

“But we do believe that the need for reform cannot be denied forever.”

The IGN refers to the inter-governmental negotiation process, which is the key negotiating framework for UNSC reform. The minister’s reference to sources of reluctance appeared to be a pointer towards China, which has shown rhetorical support but substantive opposition, and a group of countries opposed to each of the SC aspirants, often termed “naysayers”. By citing the need for consensus, they have blocked the IGN process from arriving at a text on reform.

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India is making a strong push for a text, with Jaishankar, on Saturday in New York, saying, “It is incredible that after so many years, there is no text. How does the negotiation advance if there is no text, no progress, no stocktaking, no end of the year assessment. In the absence of the text, it just goes round and round.”

The text can then be tabled on the floor of the GA, and at that stage, all countries will have to show their hand on reform agenda. It is only then that discussion will move to individual candidates.

In Jaishankar’s discussions with the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres, the issue of reform came up with the UNSG offering strong support for the agenda. By focusing on SC reform in its last month at the Council, India hopes to sustain the momentum of September and create pressure to push the reform process ahead.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

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