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‘Terrorism, economic crisis are biggest challenges’

Hardeep Singh Puri, an IFS officer of the 1974 batch has taken over as India's permanent representative at the UN. Shortly after reaching New York and joining his new position, he spoke to Political Editor Pankaj Vohra on various aspects of multilateral diplomacy, his priorities and challenges. And what will be his approach if India becomes a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

india Updated: May 11, 2009 14:00 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times

Congratulations. You have a formidable reputation and long experience in multilateral diplomacy. How relevant is multilateral diplomacy in India’s foreign policy?

It is an honour to represent India at UN headquarters.

Our commitment to multilateralism is quintessential to our civilizational ethos and our foreign policy. The UN is the primary forum for this. Multilateral and bilateral diplomacy are mutually re-enforcing. Multilateral relationships, when well-managed, are an exponential part of bilateral ties, which can be qualitatively enhanced in multilateral fora and vice versa. The major powers exploit to the fullest, synergies between bilateral and multilateral ties on issues ranging from development, climate change, terrorism, peacekeeping, human rights to specific regional issues. An emerging India must use the UN as a force multiplier to win friends around the world.

What will be your priorities during your assignment?

India was among the nations that established the post-war architecture of international political and financial governance, the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions. These have persisted unchanged over sixty years, while the world they serve has changed beyond recognition. India, the world’s largest democracy and one of fastest growing emerging economies is vital to effective global governance including through membership of the UN Security Council. Achieving progress is a key priority along with ensuring that the global agenda on economic, political and social issues is better aligned to our national interests.

Topical issues include securing decisive international action against terrorism, poverty and meeting the challenges of humanitarian and other global crises.

What is the biggest challenge India faces today?

Terrorism and the global fiscal and economic meltdown are key among these, because the causative element in both instances lies outside our borders. Despite the damage caused, India has the wherewithal to address these. Perhaps the bigger challenge lies within: realizing our potential, and channelizing our energies effectively. Today, we see a new, more self-confident India, a nation that does not seek recognition for the sake of it. This is an India with patience borne of confidence, and the confidence of strength.

What sort of a role would you see India playing, if, by some provident chance, we were to awake tomorrow as permanent members of the Security Council?

Providence is rarely the mechanism by which aspirations are fulfilled, but I take your point. If indeed India becomes a permanent member of the Council tomorrow, I hope to represent the aspirations and hopes of India and its interests, but also more than that. India must be able to reflect the concerns of the global South as well, in a manner that is devoid of rhetoric, with a problem-solving approach. The India of Mahatma Gandhi, with a foreign policy establishment set up by successive generations of statesmen, cannot be unresponsive to its larger constituency of developing nations. We have to also constructively engage with the Permanent Members of the Security Council in keeping with India’s status as a responsible and mature power.

First Published: May 11, 2009 12:39 IST