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'Patient diplomacy is the key'

UK's Dy High Commissioner to India, Mark Runacres, is an old India hand. A career diplomat and previously a Counsellor with the UK's Mission to UN. He explains UK's position on the Security Council expasion and gives the raison d'etre for UK's support to India in an interview with Pragya Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2003 17:49 IST
PTI


Q. What is United Kingdom's view on the reformation of the UN Security Council to accommodate more members?


Our view is that the Security Council needs to change to reflect the modern world rather than, as it was when the Security Council was set up. Obviously it was formed in the wake of the Second World War and there has been a lot of change in and around the world since then.

In particular, the SC and its permanent memberships, specifically, need to reflect more a mix of the developed and the developing world. In the end the UN can only successfully perform its functions, if it has the respect and is given the legitimacy by the whole world.

It is the forum where the whole world comes together. I personally had the privilege of observing it in action, my last posting having been in New York and I am acutely conscious of the need for the Security Council in particular to really draw in the full support of that 191 members of the UN and it can best do that if it more representative of the world as it now stands.

Q. What is the United Kingdom doing about this expansion?

We have been in long discussion about it. Clearly the leadership for this discussion is going to be very carefully handled. It is an issue, which affects the interest both of those people who feel they should have a place on the Security Council, of those already on the Security Council and also the whole international Community.

We have been working with other members of the P5, with other major players at the United Nations, well over a decade now, to try and establish the right formula, to ensure that the Security Council does find its proper representation, format and membership.

It is not an issue that has proved easy to grapple with - there are a lot of candidates, there are a lot of conflicting views as to how the reform should take place - both in terms of the nature of the membership, the size of the membership, and who should actually be new permanent members and how the membership should be configured and that discussion has taken place primarily in the Working Group on SC reforms, in which we have played as active a role as we think is going to be effective.

"That I think was most clearly enunciated for the first time by our Prime Minister Tony Blair when he visited New Delhi in January 2002 and in the `New Delhi declaration' with Prime Minister Vajpayee."

Most importantly from India's point of view, we have reiterated often our support for India's permanent membership at the SC. That I think was most clearly enunciated for the first time by our Prime Minister Tony Blair when he visited New Delhi in January 2002 and in the `New Delhi declaration' with Prime Minister Vajpayee committed the UK to working with India to achieve permanent membership at the Security Council.



Since then, our ministers have repeatedly flagged- publicly and privately our support for the Indian membership. We compare notes regularly with India about how its campaign is going and clearly it will be for India to determine how it wishes to conduct that campaign. But we will continue, now, to make very clear our support for India, which to us seems like an obvious candidate for the permanent membership.



Q. And why do you think that India is the natural contender or an obvious candidate?

India's place in the 21st century as a significant economic and political power, I think cant seriously be in any doubt- it has in terms of its economy, population, armed forces, democratic credentials all the qualities of a major power in the 21st century.

It has, in addition to that, a long tradition of leadership in the international arena, of effective participation, in particular in the United Nations, where India has played a crucial role, both in that the political, economic, social and I think very importantly strategic-security debate as well as being a major provider of Peacekeeping forces in a range of operation throughout the world.

So to our mind India really, India has all the requisite qualifications to do this job. It is now a question of us all working carefully to get consensus around that position and to establish what that formula is around the Security Council size and composition which will allow that to happen.

Q. And how are we seeking to do that? Just in terms of the fact that this Working Group has been functioning for the last ten years and nothing tangible seems to be really coming out of it?

It is going to be undoubtedly a question, which will require long and patient diplomacy. We need to make sure that consensus forms around the right numbers, right formats and particularly in terms of balance between permanent and non permanent members, and then around the actual candidates.

That as I say, is going to be something that will require patience and background negotiation. It is going to be an issue, which will be difficult to treat in a very public way at this point.

"That as I say, is going to be something that will require patience and background negotiation. It is going to be an issue, which will be difficult to treat in a very public way at this point." 

The honest truth is that, I think, there a lot of discussion still, to be had on this. And India will, as I say, need to determine how best it can pursue its campaign. The fundamental issue is put most crudely, that of course, there are several contenders for permanent membership, there are several different versions of what the Security Council should look like which were in debate out there and those are in conflict and to achieve a consensus is going to require a lot of behind the scenes diplomatic work.

First Published: Nov 20, 2003 01:35 IST