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  • Can Stronger Regional Partnerships Help The UN Promote Global Stability

    Though no one questions the promise of regional partnerships, there are many impediments in practically achieving it as is evident from past partnership missions of the UN.

    November 04, 2016

    Bhumish Khudkhudia asked: How significant is the UN General Assembly’s decision to choose the path of text-based negotiation for carrying out Security Council reforms? What was the rationale behind the US and Russia not contributing to the text?

    Arpita Anant replies: The decision of the UN General Assembly to adopt text-based negotiations on the “question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters” is significant because it has established that a majority of the nations agree on the principle of reform. Also, it has helped clarify the positions of particular nations and/or groups of nations on this important subject.

    UNSCR 1540: A decade of existence

    The success of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 should not make the international community overlook persisting problems. The objective of the 1540 is to internationalise WMD security by targeting the entire supply chain.

    April 28, 2014

    Kinshuk Jain asked: What was India's role in the Geneva II Conference?

    Gulshan Dietl replies: The Geneva II was a UN-backed conference for ending the civil war in Syria by bringing the Syrian Government and the opposition together. It was held on January 22, 2014 in Montreux followed by the one in Geneva on January 22-23.

    India responded to the international appeal for humanitarian assistance by supplying essential food items, pledging $2 million to the United Nations Syrian Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (UN-SHARP) and offered technical expertise as also $1 million to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the destruction of chemical stockpiles and related facilities in Syria. On the broader political issues, India refrained from taking sides in the Syrian civil war. Thus, it abstained on a UN Security Council resolution that condemned the Syrian regime’s violent crackdown on the protesters as the resolution did not condemn similar violence by the opposition. It also abstained on the UN General Assembly resolution that called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. It voted for a UN Security Council resolution only after the issues of regime change, military intervention and sanctions were deleted from the text.

    India was invited to the Geneva II along with roughly forty other countries. Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid led the Indian delegation. He expressed concern that the situation in Syria had sharply intensified the sectarian fault-lines across the region and that all shades of religious extremism had infiltrated into Syria from all over the world. He reiterated India’s stand that there can be no military solution to the conflict and no society can be re-ordered from outside. He extended support for an all-inclusive Syrian-led peace process and offered to assist in the implementation of the Geneva II resolutions.

    Posted on March 28, 2014

    The Geneva Conference on Syria: What Will It Deliver?

    The UN is convening a conference on Syria in Montreux from January 22 with 30 odd states including India attending the meet. While the US is standing in the way of Iran’s participation, Russia has stated clearly that Iran’s absence will prevent the conference from delivering the intended results.

    January 20, 2014

    Abhishek Tyagi asked: Why is the Security Council not taking any military action against the DPRK under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, despite continued testing of nuclear weapons by the latter?

    Pranamita Baruah replies: After the latest round of nuclear tests by North Korea in February 2013, many seemed to argue that the political realities in the Korean Peninsula dictate that an overt military strike-even one limited to cruise missiles-should be on the cards. However, that cannot be the case as even the most restrained attack could have devastating implications for the East Asian security.

    Most of the US military planners too seem to be of the view that even the notion of limited strikes against the hermit kingdom is fraught with potential escalations. It could destabilise the country and further aggravate the tension in the whole of East Asian region. Moreover, Pyongyang might treat such an attack as a part of Washington’s attempt to bring about a regime change in North Korea. This cannot be acceptable to the current regime as the Kim family, since the time of Kim Jong-il, has used the perceived threat from the US and its allies in the region to legitimise its dynastic rule over North Korea. So, in the interest of keeping the current regime intact, Kim Jong-un and his advisors in such circumstances could retaliate by a military action of their own.

    Though North Korea’s claim of having missiles capable of striking at the US mainland is still doubtful, one cannot really deny that the North, with reportedly 10,000 fortified artillery pieces trained on Seoul, could easily target South Korea. Most importantly, North Korea has more than 100 No-Dong missiles that can reach deep into South Korea as well as Japan. Under such circumstances, both South Korea and Japan will not support any military action against the North. In fact, North Korea’s erstwhile ally Russia and current benefactor China too will oppose such an action. Though after the latest provocation both Moscow and Beijing had strongly criticised Pyongyang, they will, for the time being, continue to insist on diplomatically engaging with North Korea. Beijing’s recent effort towards resuming the Six Party Talks (SPT) clearly demonstrates its support for continued diplomatic engagement.

    If the UN is to take a military action against North Korea, then it will require full support from its Security Council. However, this may not be possible if two of the permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, decide to veto it.

    Outer space comes closer to a regime

    The Group of Government Experts need to take into consideration complex and inter-related concerns of space activities before formulating the Transparency and Confidence Building Measures. The need is to have an effective mechanism and not an accommodative one.

    May 20, 2013

    HC Dutta asked: What does India stand to gain by pushing through a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the UN?

    Satish Nambiar replies: As a country affected by terrorism, long before the more powerful countries of the developed world began to take cognisance of the threat it poses to international peace and security, India has always condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; stressed that tackling such behaviour required a holistic approach and collective action; and recommended that the scope of legal instruments must be expanded to bring the perpetrators of terrorism to justice. India, therefore, has a vital stake in the formulation of counter-terrorist measures at the international level, including a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). It is in this context that India had proposed a draft of a CCIT as far back as 1996.

    The conclusion and ratification of such a convention by member states would bind them to action on the contents of the operative paragraphs of the Security Council Resolution 1373 of 2001 that are available at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2001/sc7158.doc.htm. They are self explanatory in so far as pursuing India’s interests are concerned.

    Manish Singh asked: After India voted in favor of a UN resolution against Sri Lanka, how has it impacted or affected the ties between the two countries?

    Gulbin Sultana replies: Since the end of Eelam War IV in May 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has passed three resolutions on Sri Lanka: (i) First was during the special session on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka held on May 26-27, 2009 (ii) the second resolution came during the 19th session of the UNHRC on March 22, 2012, and (iii) the third and most recent one was during the 22nd session of the UNHRC held on March 21, 2013. In 2009, India had voted in favour of Sri Lanka, but later it voted against Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013. India’s vote in favour of the UN resolution in 2012 was a huge disappointment for Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh immediately wrote a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa conveying that though India voted in favour of the resolution, it worked behind the scenes to make it "non-intrusive". However, this did not seem to have convinced them much. The Sri Lankan media remained critical about India’s stand at the 19th session of the UNHRC. At the official level, though Sri Lanka declared that voting would not have any impact on India-Sri Lanka relations, their displeasure over India’s position was obvious. No high level political visits took place since the voting in March 2012 until President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited India in September 2012 to lay the foundation stone for the University of Buddhist and Indic studies in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.

    As far as trade figures are concerned, Sri Lanka´s imports from India amounted US$ 3,483.74 million and exports to India amounted US$ 518.71 million, registering a decline of 19.51 per cent and 1.91 per cent respectively as compared to the corresponding period of 2011. India had a share of 19.52 per cent and 5.69 per cent respectively in the global imports and exports of Sri Lanka during 2012. The decline in exports from India to Sri Lanka in 2012 was largely due to steep increase in the excise duty imposed on the import of vehicles on two occasions during the year that seriously affected the competitive advantage enjoyed by the Indian auto companies. Sri Lanka has increased excise duty on utility vehicles to 173 per cent from the previous 100 per cent. Total duty on cars less than 1000cc increased from 120 per cent to 200 per cent, including a 47 per cent increase in excise. The excise on three-wheelers was raised from 45 per cent to 100 per cent, and on two-wheelers from 61 per cent to 100 per cent. Colombo has also imposed an absolute levy of Sri Lankan rupees 109,000 on commercial vehicles, besides a 12 per cent excise duty. Thought the new policy applies to all the countries and doesn’t single Indian firms out, yet it affects Indian automobile companies the most because they account for 95 per cent of the auto market in the island nation.

    Sri Lanka is the largest export market for Indian automobiles. In 2011-12, out of India’s $6 billion worth of auto exports, Sri Lanka accounted for $800 million. Despite this setback to Indian auto industries, India continues to be the largest trading partner of Sri Lanka. In 2012, 176,340 Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka. Despite the travel ban issued in 2012 on Sri Lankans visiting Tamil Nadu, around two lakh visas were issued by the Indian High Commission in Colombo to facilitate travel between India and Sri Lanka. Both the countries held the first round of talks on comprehensive civil nuclear cooperation in New Delhi on October 11, 2012.

    Regular defence interaction continues between the two countries. The 21st International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) meeting was held onboard the Sri Lanka Naval Ship ‘Sagara’ at the Indo-Sri Lanka Maritime Boundary Line off Kankasanthurei on July 6, 2012. The Indian Naval Ship ‘Chetlat’ made a goodwill visit at the Port of Trincomalee on July 18, 2012. The coast guards of India and Sri Lanka held four-day meeting to discuss maritime issues during August 26-30, 2012. The Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa visited India on October 25, 2012 at the invitation of Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

    In short, it can be concluded that though Sri Lanka was disappointed with India voting in favour of the resolution at the UNHRC, at the official level it has not affected the Indo-Sri Lanka relations much. Reportedly, the Sri Lankan Cabinet has given its approval for the proposal made by its External Affairs Minister G .L. Pieris to expand its diplomatic and consular representations in India.