India in the UN Security Council: Monthly Recap for April 2021
Focus on Asia, Africa and Thematic Issues
With India in its eighth two-year tenure as an elected-member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), following is the fourth 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.
Vietnam assumed the Presidency of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the month of April 2021. As an ASEAN Member State, its priority was the response of the UNSC to the evolving crisis in Myanmar. The UNSC unanimously adopted 11 decisions during the month of April. Apart from two Presidential Statements, the UNSC adopted four resolutions, two of which were on Libya, one on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (UNSCR 2572), and one on protection of civilians (UNSCR 2573).
India was also a party to five unanimous UNSC Press Statements during the month. These condemned attacks on UN peacekeepers in Mali; supported prospects for peace in Yemen; expressed concern on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia; supported scheduled elections in Somalia; and condemned the terrorist attack in Quetta in Pakistan.
The UNSC held briefings on Kosovo (13 April), Western Sahara (21 April) and Colombia (21 April) to consider the status of political dialogues to broker peace.
An “Arria-formula” meeting on Myanmar for UNSC on 9 April was co-sponsored by the UK, USA, France, Estonia, Norway, and Ireland. The objective was to bring “Myanmar voices” to speak of the conflict’s impact on Myanmar ethnic groups, the process of interaction with ASEAN, and to extend support for a new constitution through dialogue. India prioritized the release of detained political leaders. India’s ground-level support for the Myanmarese displaced persons in the camps in Bangladesh provided substance to India’s commendation of Bangladesh for hosting a million displaced persons from Myanmar in its territory. India joined Vietnam, China, and Russia in supporting a negotiated solution to the Myanmar crisis.
At a “private meeting” on Myanmar on 30 April, Brunei briefed the UNSC on the outcome of the 24 April meeting of ASEAN leaders in Jakarta. The meeting issued a “five-point consensus” for the parties to end violence and engage in dialogue. India supported the central role of the ASEAN in responding to the Myanmar crisis.
On 6 April, the UNSC met to consider allegations on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. India supported a six-month extension of the Tripartite Agreement between the Government of Syria, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and UNOPS (UN Office of Project Services) to facilitate the mandated activities in Syria. UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen of Norway’s briefing on 28 April was overshadowed by the announcement on 18 April by the Speaker of Syria’s parliament that presidential elections would be held on 18 May. This provoked polarization among the permanent members of the UNSC, with the P3 (France, UK, USA) opposing any elections, and Russia and China supporting elections. The UN reported that although the United States and European Union had assured that their unilateral sanctions would not stop the flow of humanitarian supplies to Syria, more than half of the international Damascus-based non-governmental organizations reported serious banking issues in 2021. India supported the UN Special Envoy’s assessment that without an ongoing dialogue, there would be fresh escalation of hostilities in north-west Syria, and resurgence of terrorism by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh).
At the UNSC meeting on 15 April on Yemen, India prioritized creating conditions for an inclusive political dialogue to ward off incipient terrorist threats. India’s intervention for support for uninterrupted humanitarian supplies was focused on the port of Hudaydah, where the United Nations Mission to support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA), headed by Lt. Gen. Abhijit Guha of India is active. India’s concerns were included in the UNSC Press Statement issued on 16 April, which welcomed the announcement of Saudi Arabia on 22 March, supported by the Government of Yemen, to end the conflict in Yemen and reach a comprehensive political solution. The UNSC welcomed Oman’s mediation efforts aimed at unconditional engagement between the key stakeholders for an immediate nationwide ceasefire followed by a Yemeni-owned, inclusive, political settlement.
UN Special Envoy Tor Wennesland of Norway briefed the UNSC at an Open Debate on the Palestine Question on 22 April. His objective was to support the emergence of a single legitimate national authority through Palestinian elections, which could lead to reconciliation with Israel and advance peace in the wider region. India emphasized her support for Palestinian preparations for legislative and presidential elections scheduled for 22 May and 31 July respectively, through participation in electoral observation and election-related training to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission. India reiterated her policy supporting a negotiated two-state solution achieved through direct and meaningful negotiations as the only viable solution to the conflict, which should fulfill Palestinian aspirations for statehood and sovereignty, meet Israel’s security needs and resolve all final status issues.
At the UNSC meeting on 6 April on Mali and the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission (whose mandate expires on 30 June 2021), India reiterated the need for more robust support from the Council to the diplomatic efforts of the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S) consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. India stressed that the objective of the Council should be to facilitate elections due in March 2022. Mali’s elected government should address the long-term issues identified in a three-phase report submitted to the UNSC by the UN Secretary General on 25 March. India supported the mediation role of ECOWAS and AU towards the restoration of constitutional order in Mali.
A UNSC Press Statement issued on 2 April called on the transitional government in Mali to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks on MINUSMA, the 15,000-troop UN peacekeeping mission in Mali which has lost 140 troops to terrorist acts so far. France as the “pen-holder” on Mali in the UNSC was expected to work with Mali’s transitional government to effectively deter terrorism directed against the UN.
The UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Huang Xia of China in his briefing to the UNSC on 12 April said that 15.3 million persons were reported displaced in the region due to violence in their home countries. As a major development partner ($3.9 billion worth lines of credit in 10 countries) and troop contributor (2000 out of the 18,000 UN troops in MONUSCO) in the region, India emphasized the importance of implementing the UN-brokered Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework Agreement of 2013. This would build on the momentum generated by the successful holding of elections in Tanzania, Uganda, Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic and address the drivers of conflict in the region.
On 15 April, the United States flagged the growing humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia that had displaced 1.7 million people in the UNSC. The UNSC Press Statement of 22 April referred to the UN “guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance, including humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence” in responding to the crisis. India supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and the role of AU and IGAD in helping Ethiopia overcome this crisis.
The UNSC adopted two resolutions on Libya, drafted by the UK as “pen-holder” on 16 April. The Resolution 2570 addressed UN support for the Libyan ceasefire monitoring mechanism (LCMM) and Resolution 2571 renewed the measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya, which are due to expire on 30 April, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, which expires on 15 May.
In the consultations leading to the adoption of these resolutions, India (which chairs the UNSC Libya Sanctions Committee) insisted on full compliance with the arms embargo the UNSC had imposed in February 2011, non-intervention in the Libyan conflict, and the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay. India supported the UN’s offer of assistance to the Libyan authorities in preparing for crucial elections in December 2021.
On 23 April, the UNSC held an informal meeting initiated by the “A3+1” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) on the activities of foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya. This followed reports of the role of rebels from Libya in the fighting in neighboring Chad, resulting in the death of Chadian President Idriss Déby on 19 April.
The UNSC Press Statement on 23 April on Somalia stressed the need for upholding the commitment of the parties to the conflict in Somalia to implement proposals for holding elections. India called on the Council to support a “Somali-owned, Somali-led electoral process” with an agreed timetable, and the role of the AU and IGAD to achieve this objective.
On 26 April, the UNSC considered the situation in Sudan/Abyei following the evolving rapprochement between Sudan and South Sudan. With major investments in South Sudan’s oilfields, India welcomed resumption of oil production in the Unity and Toma South oil fields in South Sudan. India supported the continuing role of the UN Special Mission (UNISFA) as proposed by the UN Secretary General to support the “community grass roots peace process”. The “A3+1” members of the UNSC supported the role of the AU to mediate in the dispute.
The UNSC Open Debate on 8 April on Mine Issues, presided by Bui Thanh Son, newly appointed Foreign Minister of Vietnam, adopted a Presidential Statement focused on enhancing implementation of UNSC resolution 2635 of 30 June 2017, through equipment and training of UNPKOs to deter mine casualties. India emphasized her commitment to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 2001 and all five of its Protocols. India recalled her moratorium on the export and transfer of landmines, and her commitment towards reducing the dependence on Anti-Personnel Mines (APM’s). India remained willing to share her best practices with member states and the United Nations with respect to minimizing damages from IED development and proliferation and was ready to contribute towards capacity building, victim assistance and victim rehabilitation.
At the annual UNSC Open Debate on 14 April on Women, Peace, and Security India put forward a 7-point plan for member-states to develop a comprehensive legal framework with international standards to ensure the effective prosecution of sexual violence as a self-standing crime. These points were: (i) national governments had the primary responsibility for prosecuting and deterring such crimes in conflict situations on their territories, even if these are alleged to have been committed by non-state actors; (ii) a victim-centered approach was needed to prevent and respond to sexual violence in armed conflicts; (iii) the nexus between terrorism, financing of violent extremist groups, trafficking and sexual violence in armed conflicts had to be acknowledged; (iv) the sanctions regimes and other targeted measures by the UNSC needed to be strengthened including by listing individuals and entities involved in sexual violence against women in armed conflicts; (v) there had to be greater participation of women in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconciliation processes; (vi) there was need for mainstreaming of gender perspective in peace operations and increasing women’s representation in peacekeeping; and (vii) the issue of violence against women, including sexual violence, had to be discussed by other UN bodies, including at the Human Rights Council.
On 19 April, Vietnam’s newly elected President Nguyen Xuan Phuc presided over a UNSC Open Debate on the UN and Regional Organizations, which adopted a Presidential Statement underscoring how regional and sub-regional organizations were well-placed to understand the root causes of conflict in their respective areas and to promote confidence-building measures and political dialogue at various levels. It recommended that the UN needed to boost the capacity of such organizations.
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said that India supported engagement between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations, in line with the UN Charter, since these bodies had deep knowledge of local factors and complexities. The UN needed coordinated and concerted action across borders to face such diverse challenges as terrorism, radicalization, drug trafficking and organized crime, as well as the security implications of new technologies. ASEAN was a key pillar of India’s foreign policy and the foundation of its Act East Policy. India’s vision of the Indo-Pacific as a free, open, and inclusive region, underpinned by international law and a rules-based order, was premised on ASEAN centrality and the common pursuit of progress and prosperity. India had contributed to regional cooperation under the BIMSTEC framework, and was partnering with the African Union for development partnership initiatives.
At the UNSC Open Debate on Protection of Civilians held on 27 April, Vietnam piloted UNSC resolution 2573 to highlight the humanitarian impact of the destruction of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.
India emphasized that the primary responsibility of meeting the protection needs of populations, including the maintenance of essential services, rested with national Governments. The aggressor bore equal responsibility to ensure that civilians and civilian infrastructure were not targeted in armed conflicts. India condemned the use of oppressive violence against innocent civilians and targeting of civilian objects in armed conflicts. Referring to UN peacekeeping operations, India said that the protection of peacekeepers was as important as the protection of civilians. Without proper equipment, training, and resources to meet the objectives of the mandates of UN peacekeeping missions and clear accountability at all levels, the expectation from peacekeeping operations to protect civilian objects was unrealistic.
The month saw India’s constructive engagement on issues on the agenda of the UNSC, through which she sought to prioritize the primacy of a political approach to resolve crises through dialogue and negotiation. This enhanced India’s credentials in the UNSC, despite her inability to set the agenda (especially on Asian issues). That role continued to be dominated by “pen-holder” permanent members like France, the UK, and the United States.