Sushma Swaraj to meet US counterpart on sidelines of UN general assembly
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Sushma Swaraj to meet US counterpart on sidelines of UN general assembly

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will hold about 20 meetings with world leaders attending the UN General Assembly session.

india Updated: Sep 17, 2017 14:50 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Sushma Swaraj,UNGA,UN General Assembly
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj addressing an earlier session of the United Nations General Assembly.(REUTERS)

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to meet her US counterpart Rex Tillerson for the first time this week on the sideline of the annual UN general assembly and will attend a multilateral meeting chaired by President Donald Trump on the issue of reforming the world body.

Trump, a long-time critic of the UN, has backed a proposal by the UN secretary general António to streamline the secretariat. The changes are largely administrative and will not go into the larger reform of the UN Security Council.

India is supporting the effort as it is generally “pro-reform”. But it feels reform “needs to be much more broad-based,” Indian Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said on Saturday, previewing India’s agenda for the coming general assembly.

“You cannot have reform only of the secretariat; reform cannot sidestep issue relating to governance of UN bodies”.

In short, India, a leading claimant to a permanent seat, would like to see progress on the expansion of the UNSC to include more permanent members.

Asked about a possible move by Pakistan to raise Kashmir at the UN, as it has in the past, Akbaruddin said Pakistan will be predictable if it did so, but it might be noted that the issue has not been discussed in the world body for the past 40 years.

The more substantive interaction will be Swaraj’s meeting with Tillerson, but officials said they were working on the date and time. The two leaders have spoken on phone before but this will be their first meeting, to be followed soon enough by their second, as part of the 2-by-2 dialogue. India and the United States announced a new 2-by-2 talks format simultaneously involving the foreign and defence ministers of the two countries, replacing the earlier version that involved the foreign and commerce ministers.

The new dialogue is slated for later this month, to be hosted by India.

Swaraj has about 15-20 bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA, external affairs ministry spokesperson Ravish Kumar told reporters in New York.

The minister is arriving on Sunday, and will attend the UN reforms meeting on Monday.

Swaraj will address the UN general assembly on September 23 and until then she will have a string of bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Though the minister has no structured bilateral meetings with counterparts from China and Pakistan, she will see them at meetings of multilateral bodies of which they are members, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS.

“They are known to say hello to each other and exchange pleasantries at these multilateral forums,” an official said on background, “but no structured bilateral meetings have been lined up with China or Pakistan.”

Both countries could by name or by reference figure in Swaraj’s speech. Specially Pakistan’s role in abetting cross-border terrorism.

Counter-terrorism will be one of five key elements of India’s agenda at the upcoming session of the UN, Akbaruddin said.

The main element will be a “broad-based” and “all-encompassing” reform of the UN, he said. Which is essentially the expansion of the Security Council to reflect the changing world situation.

UNSC expansion, which is progressing at snail’s pace, will be addressed specifically by Swaraj also when she meets her counterparts from the other so-called G4 countries — Germany, Japan and Brazil — that have come together in support of each other’s claim to membership of the UN’s top decisionmaking body.

The other key elements of the Indian agenda for the session are peacekeeping operations and the questions of sustainable peace. India is a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, tackling climate change and the need to focus on people-centric issues such as migration.

First Published: Sep 17, 2017 10:13 IST