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Transcript of Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, Permanent Representative's Interview to ANI


1. Question: What will be the highlights of India’s participation in the High-Level segment?


Answer: The Prime Minister will be participating in two debates in the High-Level segment. The first is of course the General Debate. The other is the High-level plenary meeting to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations on Monday. His address will certainly be the highlight of our participation in the United Nations General Assembly. 


- Further, there will also be a Bio-diversity Summit that will be organized virtually on 30 September with the theme “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development”. This will be the first Summit on Biodiversity in the UN. Our Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Mr. Prakash Javadekar will be participating in this Summit. India is one of the 10 mega-biodiverse countries in the world. We have taken leadership role in biodiversity and we look forward to our participation. You will recall that India recently held the Conference of Parties of Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals in Gandhinagar in February this year. We had also organized the Conference of Parties of UN Convention on Combatting Desertification  in September last year in New Delhi, which saw adoption of an ambitious Delhi declaration.


- On 1st October, there will be an important event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the World Conference on Women held in Beijing and adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, which is widely acknowledged as the most comprehensive and forward-looking plan for advancing the rights of women and girls. Hon’ble Minister for Women and Child Welfare Smt. Smriti Irani will be participating in this event underlining our strong commitment to women’s empowerment and gender sensitivity. The time is particularly opportune since we have just been elected a few days ago to the Commission on Status of Women.


- I would also like to mention that Hon’ble External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar will be participating in some of the Ministerial meetings which will be held on the sidelines of the General Assembly. 


- On 2nd October, the UN will be holding the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla will be delivering India’s remarks at this event. 


2. Question: We are probably going to see the first UN General Assembly in Covid times. I understand many things are going to be tried for the first time in the UN GA session. How do you see the current session of the UNGA, as compared to previous sessions?


Answer: Yes, this UN General Assembly is going to be different from previous sessions. The world is still in the midst of a pandemic and that has also, naturally, affected the functioning of the UN. 


- To begin with, most leaders will not be traveling to New York. This is something which New York has not been used to. So the High-Level debate will be conducted virtually, with world leaders delivering their national statements through pre-recorded videos.


- But the Hall of the General Assembly will not be empty. One representative per delegation will be allowed in the General Assembly hall. If they wish, they can introduce the videos of their respective Heads of State or Government.


- However, I must point out that despite the pandemic the UN has continued to function. So the wheels of global diplomacy has not stopped. Most of the activities in the UN were and are being done virtually.


- As staunch supporters of multilateralism, we have been supportive of new ways of functioning and ensuring that the work goes on. The Member States and the UN Secretariat have ensured that the critical work of the UN does not suffer because of the pandemic.


- We have come together to device a novel way to take decisions using what is called the ‘silence procedure’ method. Under this method, draft resolutions are circulated by the President of the General Assembly, which gives Member States a deadline of at least 72 hours, to raise objections. If there are no objections, the President circulates a letter, confirming that the resolution has been adopted. Over 70 plus resolutions were passed in the last few months using this procedure.


- The theme of the current session of the UN General Assembly is “The future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism – confronting COVID-19 through effective multilateral action”.


- This is a timely topic and we hope that Member States take COVID as an opportunity to opt for reform and change in order to have the future that we want.



3. Question: This is the 75th anniversary of the UN. And in this year, India is also going to enter the Security Council for the term 2021-22. These are significant milestones. How do you look at the UN today in this context?


- I have no doubt that we are entering the UN Security Council at a very interesting if not critical juncture. Both the 75th anniversary and the COVID crisis present us with an opportunity to see whether we can do things differently and whether we can indeed use the challenges which the pandemic poses to bring in genuine reform and change.


- The world of today is of course not the same as 75 years back. There are increasingly complex and inter-connected international challenges. There are fissures and divisions among countries. That doesn’t necessarily mean that multilateralism is per se under threat. It just means that some countries feel that the status quo of multilateralism, including the UN, is not delivering the necessary results. So the debate is not necessarily about unilateralism versus multilateralism. Its about the status quo of multilateralism versus reformed multilateralism.


- And this is what Prime Minister Modi has articulated – the need for reformed multilateralism. We need to resolve shortcomings in the UN so as to make the UN more effective. If we dont do it now, we would have lost a great opportunity.

- The architecture of the UN Security Council remains frozen in time. The lack of progress for more than a decade on the issue of its reform has been frustrating for a vast number of countries today. The reforms are being held hostage by those who would prefer the status quo and that is why we are calling for strengthening multilateralism by shaking up the status quo and undertaking reform. We believe that the time has already come to move towards a transparent result-oriented process, with provision for substantive negotiations based on one single comprehensive text, in a formal setting.


- Moreover, we will be entering the Security Council during the 75th year of the UN. The world today is vastly different from the world that was, when we were last in the Council, which was in 2011-12. We have set forth our priorities for the Council which, as you know, includes peace and security related issues like peacekeeping, maritime security etc, combating terrorism, reform, technology with a human face and development, women and peace building. We are a robust democracy, pluralistic and with strong commitment to human rights. We will bring these strengths to bear on issues both in the Security Council and in the other bodies and organs of the UN. We are participating with a positive forward looking agenda and have already reached out to numerous countries after the onset of the pandemic to assist them in whatever way we can. India will be a voice of hope and change particularly in the Covid and post-Covid world.