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Transcript of Virtual Special Media Briefing on the UNSC elections by Secretary(West) (June 18, 2020)

June 19, 2020

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Friends, Namaskar and Good evening. Thank you for joining us for this special briefing. We have with us, Secretary (West) in the ministry – Mr. Vikas Swarup, AS (IO) – Mr. Vikram Doraiswami, and Joint Secretary (UNP) – Mr. Sanjay Rana. As you know, India was elected as the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in the elections late last evening and to brief us on this, I would request Secretary (West) to give his initial remarks and thereafter we will open the floor to questions.

Mr. Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Thank you Anurag. Friends, wonderful to see you all after a bit of a gap and I'm happy to be sitting to the right of JS (XP) and not in JS (XP) seat, but I'm sure all of you have seen the news of the elections which took place on the 17th of June to the United Nations Security Council. India was elected with overwhelming support, garnering a 184 votes out of 192 to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2021 - 2022. India was elected unopposed, as we were the sole candidate for the Asia-Pacific seat. However, this was made possible because Afghanistan had withdrawn in our favour in 2013 for which we thank the Government of Afghanistan. The strong support by the entire UN membership for India's election demonstrates the goodwill that India enjoys in the UN and the confidence that the international community has reposed in India's capability to contribute to the work of the Council. Our two-year term will begin on the 1st of January 2021. This will be the eighth time that India will be serving on the Security Council, bringing with it rich experience and legacy. We look forward to being a voice for all those who are not represented in the council. As a founding member of the United Nations, India is fully committed to the principles and purposes of the UN Charter. As the world's largest democracy, a major contributor to UN peacekeeping operations and a strong votary of the rights of developing countries, India will bring its own unique strengths and perspective to the Security Council. We will act as a voice of reason and moderation and a firm believer in respect for international law and peaceful settlement of disputes. In fact, India has all the credentials to serve on the UN Security Council. Our work in the Security Council will be guided by honorable Prime Minister's call for a reformed multilateralism and the dynamic 5S vision for foreign policy namely, Sammaan - Respect, Samwad - Dialogue, Sahyog - Cooperation, and Shanti - Peace, to create conditions for universal prosperity - Samriddhi. Through this approach, we seek to move towards a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system, which can be encapsulated as NORMS. Our external affairs minister had already outlined the priorities we have set for ourselves as a member of the UN Security Council. I will briefly reiterate them. Seeking responsible and inclusive solutions, concrete and result-oriented action at the Security Council for an effective response to international terrorism, reformed multilateralism to reflect contemporary realities, a comprehensive approach to peace and security, guided by dialogue, mutual respect, commitment to international law, for which we also hope to help streamline UN peacekeeping and technology with the human touch. The COVID-19 pandemic is perhaps one of the most serious crisis this generation has ever faced. We believe that the current crisis offers us new opportunities to seek innovative and inclusive solutions by using multilateralism and international cooperation. It is clear to us that the United Nations and indeed multilateralism itself needs to change to reflect contemporary realities and remain effective and credible. As we look forward to celebrating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and later the 75th anniversary of our own independence in 2022, India's presence in the Security Council will help bring to the world our ethos that the world is one family, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. So these are my opening remarks and now as I said, I am open to taking a few questions.

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir for those remarks. We've received a few questions in advance, so I will go through them. Geeta Mohan from the India Today wants to know, while it's a secret ballot, who are the likely 8 countries who have not voted for India? Would you like to respond to that?

Mr. Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): That is your job not mine. It was a secret ballot as you all know and it is not possible for us to speculate on that ballot. But the important thing is, focus on the 184. You know, this reflects an almost universal acceptance, the most widespread support possible and also don't forget that we had the complete endorsement of the Asia-Pacific group, we were the only candidate for that sole seat. And I think, the number of votes that we have received, far exceeded the minimum threshold required. You know, the threshold to become a member of the Security Council is you have to get a two-thirds majority, which is 128 votes. In our case, we not only got the 128 votes, we got many more in excess of that, reaching 184. And, I think this was one of the best performances ever by India in a UN Security Council election, so I would leave it at that.

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: There's a similar question from Akhilesh Suman from Rajya Sabha TV, so I will not read that. Huma Siddiqui from The Financial Times Online wants to know - what is the importance of being a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council? Does it or will it help in becoming a permanent member?

Mr. Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Well, you know the UN Security Council is the highest body that the international community accepts, charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Our presence on the Security Council and our performance there over the next two years will underscore the value that a country like India brings to the table and reaffirm our credentials to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It will be a good measure of the value India can bring to the council by increasing the representativeness of the council and building bridges among various groups. It will help the process of making the council better reflective of contemporary realities. We will of course continue to take part in the intergovernmental negotiations in the UN, where the matter of UN Security Council reform is being discussed and we will make efforts for concrete progress in those negotiations.

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson:
Sir, Maha Siddiqui from CNN News18, her question is - overwhelming support for India at the UNSC elections, but there are some reports in Pak media that after endorsing India last year in Asia-Pacific group, they would not vote for India in the final round. Is that correct? Was there any statement from Pakistan permanent representative because the ballot is a secret one? And if this were the case, do you believe they have politicized the matter by bringing in bilateral relations in a multilateral platform?

Mr. Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): You know, unfortunately, this is the kind of behaviour we have now been seeing from Pakistan over the past many months and years. They always rake up bilateral issues in multilateral forum. In fact, they have made it almost as a standard norm for their policy. As far as we are concerned, our foreign policy has a much broader canvas. We have a much wider and global focus and as a member of the UN Security Council, we will be dealing with all those issues which are under the consideration of the Security Council, in line with the priorities that honorable external affairs minister has already outlined.

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson : The next question is from Siddhant Sibal of WION - how much focus will be cross-border terror for India and passage of the CCIT?

Mr. Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): You already heard me Siddhant, when I outlined the priorities that we will bring to our tenure at the Security Council and yes enhancing counter-terrorism action by the UN Security Council is one of the main priorities for us. Earlier also, if you recall, when India was a member of the UN Security Council during 2011-12, we had chaired the United Nations counter-terrorism committee and had brought in the concept of zero tolerance for terrorism. During our coming term, we will work to enhance the global action against terrorism, their supporters and sympathizers, and safe havens by seeking the streamlining of the process of sanctioning of the terrorists and terrorist entities. The process of sanctions also needs to be depoliticized as there is no justification for any act of terrorism. We will also work for the early finalization of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism, which as you all know, India had proposed way back in 1996.

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: There's another question from the Sidhant Sibal - is UNSC an archaic body, which can't bring a statement on COVID?

Mr. Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West): Look, COVID-19 is the biggest crisis faced by our generation and in the UN system, it is being dealt mainly by the World Health Organization, which is the key technical body, empowered to act as the voice of the global community in this regard. However, at the same time we have clearly said that the UN system needs reform urgently, and all its bodies including the WHO and the Security Council need to be reformed to reflect contemporary realities. This is the reason why Honorable Prime Minister has called for a reformed multilateralism. So the point is not to reject everything but to see what is there and to make it better.

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Sir, Madhurendra from News Nation wants to know - what was China's and Pakistan's position on India's election to UNSC?

Mr. Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West):
Madhurendra, this is a question you need to ask China and Pakistan, I am not their spokesman, you should better ask them. As far as I'm concerned, we had overwhelming support of a 184 countries present in voting that day.

Mr. Anurag Srivastava, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, sir. I understand, there are no more follow-up questions. So we can conclude the special briefing. Thank you so much for joining us. And we will resume in 5 minutes with our weekly media briefing. So please stay with us, stay connected. Thank you.


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