With India in its eighth two-year tenure as an elected-member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), following is the ninth analysis in the ICWA series of ‘India in the UN Security: Monthly Recap’ by Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations.
Ireland assumed the Presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC) in September 2021. It organized four signature events during the month. These were a discussion on International Peace and Security (7 September), an open Debate on Peacekeeping Transitions (8 September), an open Debate on Climate Change and Security (23 September) and a briefing on Nonproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (27 September). India participated actively in all these events.
Six UNSC resolutions were adopted unanimously during the month. These included UNSCR 2594 on 9 September on UN Peacekeeping Operations; UNSCR 2595 on 15 September on Libya; UNSCR 2596 on 17 September on Afghanistan; UNSCR 2597 on 17 September extending by one year the mandate of the UN team investigating crimes by the ISIL/Da’esh (UNITAD); UNSCR 2598 on 29 September on Maintenance of International Peace and Security; and UNSCR 2599 on 30 September on Libya.
Ireland issued one Presidential Statement on 18 September on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project (GERD) under the UNSC’s agenda item Peace and Security in Africa.
The UNSC issued four Press Statements. These were on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States (9 September); on the situation in Somalia (18 September); on Sudan (22 September); and on Lebanon (27 September).
The focus of the UNSC on Afghanistan during September was on integrating the principles of UNSC resolution 2593 of 30 August 2021 into the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). These principles included the need for an inclusive political settlement and building on the gains over the past two decades in Afghanistan’s socio-economic development, including upholding the rights of minorities, women, and children.
At its press conference on 1 September on assuming the Presidency of the UNSC, Ireland said that there was need to judge the Taliban by their actions, rather than their words, especially on the participation of women in the new government. On 9 September, the UNSC discussed the renewal of the mandate of UNAMA after being briefed by the Head of UNAMA Deborah Lyons (of Canada). The UN official said that of the 33 names in the provisional government in Kabul, “the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers and the foreign minister are under United Nations sanctions.” She highlighted that despite the obvious political hurdles that the Council must address, there was a huge humanitarian and economic crisis facing Afghanistan.
India supported a central role for the United Nations in Afghanistan as part of the reviewed mandate of UNAMA. As a major development partner of Afghanistan, India had undertaken more than 500 development projects in each of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Last year, India had delivered 75,000 MT of wheat as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan (through the Iranian port of Chabahar). India noted the commitment of the Taliban not to allow the use of the Afghan soil for terrorism, including from terrorists and terrorist groups designated under resolution 1267, and insisted that Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist acts. India reiterated the need for the voices of Afghan women to be heard, aspirations of Afghan children to be realized and the rights of minorities to be protected. India supported a broad based, inclusive, and representative formation attained through an inclusive negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, which would gain greater international acceptability and legitimacy. On 17 September the UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 2596 rolling over the existing mandate of UNAMA for 6 months until 17 March 2022 (when the UAE would be presiding over the UNSC). It asked the UN Secretary-General to submit a written report by 31 January 2022 on the nature of UNAMA’s mandate for consideration by the Council when its current mandate expires in March 2022.
The UNSC continued its pattern of holding separate meetings on Syria relating to alleged use of chemical weapons, the humanitarian crisis, and prospects for a political resolution of the Syrian conflict. Meeting on 2 September, the Council was updated on the forthcoming meeting between the Syrian National Authority and the Declarations Assessment Team of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in October 2021. India welcomed this development and reiterated its support for the Chemical Weapons Convention. It asked the Council to ensure that any chemical weapons in Syria should not fall in hands of terrorists due to political instability in Syria. On 15 September, the Council looked at the plight of more than 13 million Syrians in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. India underlined that this situation had been further aggravated by the compounding water crisis, and any solution to the humanitarian crisis depended on a political solution. Welcoming the first crossline delivery of aid to Aleppo from Damascus, India stressed the need for an effective monitoring mechanism, which involved the Syrian Government authorities, to enable the smooth and efficient delivery of humanitarian assistance. On 28 September, India supported the ongoing diplomatic efforts of UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen (of Norway) to facilitate a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Two developments for optimism were the Special Envoy’s first visit since February 2021 to Damascus, and the high-level engagements between Syria and the Russian Federation. India felt that the major impediment to a political solution in Syria continued to be the influence of external actors, which fuelled the growth of terrorism in both Syria and in the region.
The newly appointed UN Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg(of Sweden) briefed the UNSC on the seven-year conflict in Yemen on 10 September. He highlighted the impact of the conflict since early 2020 following the sustained offensive by Ansar Allah (also known as the Houthis) on the Marib governate of Yemen, which had worsened the humanitarian situation considerably. He proposed to engage with all the stakeholders in the conflict during the coming weeks. India supported Special Envoy’s initiative. It looked to the dialogue facilitated by Saudi Arabia for addressing the issues, including through the meaningful participation of women in decision-making which would substantially strengthen and deepen the effectiveness of peacebuilding and develop stability in Yemen. Three Indians were among eight civilians who were injured in the recent attack on Abha airport. India called for strict implementation of the arms embargo envisaged in resolution 2216 and its effective monitoring to eliminate such attacks in the future. It said that the Council must continue to support the efforts by UN mission (UNMHA) under the leadership of General Abhijit Guha (of India) towards implementing the Hudaydah Agreement.
The regular meeting of the UNSC on the Palestine Question held on 29 September heard a briefing from UN Special Envoy Tor Wennesland(of Norway) on the need to re-energize international efforts to create a political framework for resolving the issue. India strongly supported“a negotiated two-state solution leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, side by side at peace with Israel, taking into account legitimate security concerns of all concerned parties”. It felt that direct peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine based on an internationally agreed framework would achieve the goal of a two-state solution. The recent high-level interactions between Israel, Palestine, and key regional States provided a window of opportunity for the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine. UNSC resolution 2334 emphasized the need for creating conditions for peace negotiations for advancing the two-state solution. India valued regional and international efforts, including under the auspices of the Middle East Quartet of the USA, Russia, the EU, and UN, towards de-escalation and for resuming these direct negotiations.
The UNSC was briefed on Libya on 10 September by UN Special Envoy Jan Kubis (of Slovakia). He highlighted the importance of holding the proposed elections in Libya on 24 December 2021, as any slippage of this date would bolster “division and conflict”. India supported this assessment of the UN Special Envoy and said the elections must be held in a free and fair manner on an agreed constitutional and legal basis. This would uphold the sovereignty, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of Libya. India focused on the need to respect the provisions of the Ceasefire Agreement and successive Security Council resolutions, particularly those related to the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries whose continued presence (together with the activities of ISIL) in Libya was of serious concern. India said that the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) must render assistance to Libya in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups and non-state armed actors. The UNSC unanimously adopted resolution 2595 extending the mandate of the UNSMIL as an “integrated special political mission” till 30 September 2021. Later in the month, the UNSC adopted resolution 2599 on 30 September extending the mandate of UNSMIL till 31 January 2022.
On 14 September, the UNSC was briefed by Volker Perthes (of Germany), the head of the UN Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS), on Sudan’s transition to democracy two years after former President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a coup d’etat. The UN stressed the need for international support for Sudan’s socio-economic development to sustain the incremental political progress made in its democratic transition. India welcomed the progress made by the Sudanese authorities in the last three months including the appointment of governors of provinces and talks with armed groups and underlined the need for an inclusive transition by fully involving women in peacebuilding and progress. The response to Sudan’s socio-economic needs would be facilitated by Sudan’s decision to be part of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, which would unlock debt relief and funds for socio-economic programmes. Expressing concern at the instability in Darfur, India said that the drawdown of the former UN peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) and full operationalization of UNITAMS with close engagement with the transitional authorities would be a determining factor in the successful political transition of Sudan.
On 15 September, the UNSC was briefed by the UN Envoy Nicholas Haysom (of South Africa) on the implementation of the “historic” Revitalized Peace Agreement of September 2018 in South Sudan. The main development was the inauguration and functioning of the new Parliament in August 2021. The country continued to face major humanitarian and economic challenges. India welcomed the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement, including the appointment of the first woman Speaker of parliament, and new political appointments, as positive signs. India stressed the need to revive the reconciliation process between the Transitional Government, and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA). India appreciated the continuing cooperation between the Transitional Government and UNMISS in providing protection to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps, which were now under the sovereign control of the Government. The Indian troop contingent in UNMISS was also contributing to sustainable development and welfare of the people of South Sudan, including through computer training and veterinary assistance camps. The outstanding work of 135 Indian UN troops serving as part of UNMISS in Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area had been recognized in a medal ceremony, while tribute had been paid to two Indian UN peacekeepers (Corporal Yuvraj Singh and Mr. Ivan Michael Picardo), who had been posthumously awarded the prestigious Dag Hammarskjold Medal this year for their courage and sacrifice in the line of duty.
The UNSC held a meeting on 15 September on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). In the Presidential Statement issued unanimously by Ireland after the meeting, the Council encouraged Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to resume negotiations at the invitation of the Chair of the African Union on the project with a view to finalizing the text of a “mutually acceptable agreement” on filling and operating the dam “within a reasonable time frame”. India placed on record its view that any discussion on matters relating to trans-boundary water issues did not belong to the domain of the UN Security Council. India suggested negotiations between experts held bilaterally or facilitated by relevant technically qualified institutions to reach to a mutually acceptable, long-term solution to the relevant issues.
The focus of the briefing given to the UNSC on 28 September by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammad on Somalia was on ensuring a 30 per cent quota of legislative seats for women in the forthcoming national elections. India said that the holding of elections and formation of a new government was the topmost priority for Somalia in accordance with the 17 September 2021 and 27 May 2021 agreements. India supported measures to include women across all sectors of Somali society to advance peace and stability. At the same time, India cautioned the Council not to lose sight of the terrorist threat to Somalia from Al Shabab while focusing on the forthcoming elections.
A discussion on International Peace and Security was hosted by Ireland on 7 September. Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and former UN Under-Secretary-General Lakhdar Brahimi briefed the UNSC on their perspectives on this topic. They stressed that the challenges faced by the UN today are too large for any one member-state to handle alone, and any inaction by the Council to respond to these challenges was the Council’s responsibility. Ireland as President of the UNSC highlighted the special role of women in maintaining peace and security, taking the case of Afghanistan. India emphasized the UN Charter’s focus on the peaceful settlement of disputes, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member states. The structural impediment of the Security Council due to its inequitable decision-making process giving special privileges to the five permanent members must be addressed through UNSC reform. Issues falling under purview of other designated UN bodies should not be on agenda of UNSC. Response to global challenges should be through partnerships between stakeholders, including on countering terrorism for which India had put forward an 8-point plan to the Council in January 2021.
The UNSC considered issues related to UN Peacekeeping Transition to post-conflict peacebuilding at its meeting on 8 September, presided by Irish Foreign and Defence Minister Simon Coveney. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, a member of The Elders (group of distinguished international leaders) said it was necessary for the host-country of the peacekeeping mission to adopt “peace as a way of life” to sustain this transition. She called for transitions that are “nationally owned, integrated, coherent and sustainable” and for the early structural reform of the UN Security Council to provide for equitable representation for African countries, since 70 percent of the crises on the UNSC agenda were from Africa.
Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi of India stressed that successful transitions required the active cooperation of all stakeholders. Peacekeeping missions should be given clear and achievable mandates, matched by adequate resources. Transitions must fully respect a host country’s sovereignty and priorities. The best recent example of this transition was UNITAMS in Sudan. Digital technology can play a crucial role in post-conflict peacebuilding, to improve public services, promote transparency in governance, enhance the reach of democracy, promote human rights and gender sensitivity.
After this meeting, the UNSC unanimously adopted its first stand-alone resolution (2594) on the transition that follows the deployment of UN peacekeeping missions, which incorporated the points made by members (including India) in the discussions.
On 23 September, the UNSC held a debate chaired by Ireland’s President Michael Martin on the links between Climate Change and Global Security. The United States, France, UK and several elected members of the Council felt that the UNSC should use its influence to stir action on responding to climate change challenges which impacted on human security. India, Russia, and China pointed out that climate change is under focused discussion in the relevant mechanisms of the UN. India emphasized that addressing climate security in the UNSC is not desirable, as it could build a parallel climate track.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test BanTreaty(CTBT), the UNSC organized a debate on 27 September. It was pointed out that near-universal adherence to the CTBT was a global objective. However, for the Treaty to enter into force, all 44 “nuclear-capable” states listed in Annex 2 of the Treaty had to sign and ratify it. China, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and the United States had signed but not ratified the Treaty. In addition, North Korea, India, and Pakistan had not signed the Treaty. Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said that India was the first country to call for a ban on nuclear testing in 1954 and for a non-discriminatory treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as distinct from non-dissemination, in 1965. India was committed to the goal of a nuclear weapons’ free world and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, to be achieved through a step-by-step process underwritten by a universal commitment and an agreed global and non-discriminatory multilateral framework. India maintained a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear explosive testing. India actively supported and contributed to the strengthening of the global nuclear security architecture, including by participation in the Nuclear Security Summit process and the International Conferences on Nuclear Security organized by the IAEA. India was a member of the Nuclear Security Contact Group, and of various export control regimes namely, Australia Group, Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Missile Technology Control Regime. India’s controls had been harmonized with the Nuclear Suppliers Group lists.
India’s participation in the UNSC during September 2021 continued to encourage the Council to respond to the crises on its agenda by mandating political transition missions, with an emphasis on elections for inclusive government, including representation by women, and a focus on socio-economic development. During the coming weeks, India will have to negotiate integrating this template into the Council’s mandate for UNAMA following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
India’s ability to do so will depend on the support of the veto-wielding five permanent members. That hurdle provides the context for India’s continued attempts to reorient the UNSC as part of “reformed multilateralism” through the current inter-governmental negotiations in the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The joint statement by foreign ministers of Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan in New York on 22 September instructing their delegations to the UN to “develop a single consolidated text as a basis for a draft (UNGA) resolution” to amend the UN Charter is an important marker for this larger objective.