'There's lack of political will to act against terrorism in UN'

'There's lack of political will to act against terrorism in UN'

By GEETA MOHAN | | 11 March, 2016
Former Ambassador of India to UN Asoke Mukherjee
Former Ambassador of India to UN Asoke Mukherjee, who recently returned from New York, attacks the UN, alleging lack of political will to act against terrorism, lack of transparency in the international body. Excerpts:

Q. On problems that India faces at the UNSC when it comes to getting terrorists designated:
A. I have said that there is a distinct lack of focus on that organisation dealing with terrorism whether it's in their approach to the legal framework of countering terrorism, classic example of the way in which India's proposal for a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism had been dealt with for over 20 years now, or whether it is the day to day countering of threat to international peace and security. UN has not delivered on both these counts

Q. On 1267 committee only dealing with organizations connected to either Al Qaeda or the Taliban:
A. When the sanctions committee was formed, the terrorists whom we were confronting had to be seen as what we would say transnational terrorism.

After Mumbai 2008, the links between groups that attached Mumbai like LeT and links with Taliban and Al Qaeda became more clear to the international community and therefore we expect the international community to take action against these groups which target Mumbai in the same way they take action against other groups which belong to Al Qaeda and Taliban.

Q. On Lakhvi bail question of India at UN blocked by China. How difficult was it for India to put the country's problems forward?
A. The problem for a country like India which is not a part of the Security Council is that our representatives do not sit inside the SC chamber when our request is put on the agenda.

From what we understand, by talking to the chairman of the committee, they have an internal procedure which is based on the working procedures of the UNSC.

When you are working at UN, it comes as a great surprise to many that the working procedures of the UNSC have been provisional from the year the council was set up. They have no working procedures that are established.

There is no predictability in the manner in which India's request would be treated.

Q. On reasons given by the committee for not entertaining India's request on Lakhvi:
A. The committee did not invite India to present our case inside the council where the committee sits.

The committee did respond through its chairman to our request by saying that because there was lack of evidence, consensus within the council, this issue could not be taken further.

Now, the rest of it is a speculation as to what exactly happened inside the council...Which of the members that blocked it. Officially, there is no  record of who is blocking which request.

I think that that leads us to the reason why we have to reform the way the Security Council works and we have to reform the Security Council itself because until we sit inside the SC we cannot ensure that our national priorities of combating terrorism will be carried through the international structure of the Council.

Q. We also know when it comes to Pakistan, that they have a permanent friend within the UNSC and that's China. Is lack of evidence a good enough reason to block India?
A. This issue of whether it's lack of evidence or whether it's one of more countries which are members of the SC which are raising these questions. These issues are not transparently known and I therefore would hesitate in only looking at one country or one procedure as the reason why we are not able to push forward our request. The answer for us lies in becoming a permanent member of the SC.

Q. So you are saying that unless there are reforms of the UNSC, the decisions taken will continue to be political, serving the interests of one country or the other which is a P5 member?
A.I have said and I repeat it again that as long as you have a SC in which only one permanent member of a developing country this is not going to be a Council which will act on requests made by developing countries and take the steps that they have to take to ensure that threats to international peace and security are dealt with effectively.

As we enter the implementation of the Agenda 2030 for development, the issue of developing countries being members of the SC has to be addressed head on.

Q. In terms of dealing with terrorists, India had again put in a request to designate an organisation and it's members at the organisation and terrorists respectively. How difficult would it be for India?
A. In addition to the reforms there also needs to be political will within the United Nations to act against terrorism.

If they follow the piecemeal approach that they have so far, they have 31 entities in the United Nations dealing with countering terrorism but there is no single coordinator. So how can this organisation be effective.

Q. Are you talking about CCIT which still hasn't seen the light of day?
A. Yes, including the talk about the Comprehensive Convention which is still deadlocked over defining 'terrorism' when what is terrorism is know to the victims of terrorism very clearly. So how can you wait for a definition.

Q. So there is indeed a dire need to reform UNSC and get countries, especially the P5, to show political will? What are the difficulties that you faced as Indian envoy to the UN?
A. There has been a conscious attempt to slow down reforming the way the UN functions in a broader sense as well as to slow down the way in which the United Nations Security Council functions.

As long as the SC had the primary responsibility of maintaining peace and security, as long as international peace and security is a prerequisite for the flows of investment and resources for development, I think that India's cause and India's case for reforming the UNSC has to be seen as a top priority.

Q. Are the P5 members the greatest impediment to the UNSC reforms?
A. Two of the P5 members, UK and France, have joined with India and other countries, calling for reforms at the SC. We do hope that due to the noise that the text-based negotiations have begun in February this year that the other three permanent members will also contribute to the text. And I hope that this will be shipped by the time the 70th session ends in September this year.

Q. What about the veto? India's stand is clear that it will not compromise on the power of veto for all new members?
A. As long as the veto exists, India as a permanent member would be entitled to have the veto.

The negotiation process is on. It is only when the payer reaches that process that the membership of the UN will decide to have the veto or abolish the veto.

Q. When you were negotiating on Lakhvi, how difficult was it?
A. In the UN itself, the kind of response there is from countries which are part of the group which calls for UNSC reforms, especially a country like New Zealand which chairs the 1267 committee, was quite positive. The countries which understand the importance of reform are positive about it.

Unfortunately, it's the way the procedures are that stymie these countries from delivering results.


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