'Pak can't keep harping on about Kashmir issue'

India, Nov. 2 -- It was after 19 years the country became a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2010 for a two-year term.

Hardeep Puri, the country's permanent representative to the United Nations, who has been leading various Indian efforts at the world body.

Puri had also served as the country's permanent representative to the UN in Geneva between 2002 and 2005 and he remains one of the most seasoned diplomats on matters of the UN and various other international organisations.

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, Puri talks on various issues as India gets the presidency of the UNSC for November.

Excerpts:

What are the major issues India would like to flag during India's presidency at the UNSC in November?

Answer: The programme of work of the Security Council is largely determined by the periodicity of mandate renewals and the Secretary General's reports on UN missions and other issues on the Council's agenda.

Due to this periodicity, November is one of the busiest months for the Council. In November 2012, twenty-five meetings are presently scheduled, and some more issues will come up as the month progresses.

Important issues that the Council will consider during the month of November 2012 include the situation in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan, Timor Leste, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Middle East including the Palestinian Question, Western Sahara, Iraq, Lebanon, North Korea, Somalia, Eritrea, counter-terrorism issues, etc. Syria, Mali, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone are also likely to be discussed.

The Council will adopt at least four resolutions during November. As the Council's president, I will present its annual report to the General Assembly, and deliver a statement in the event to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

I will also present a report to the Security Council on the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee and its achievements.

We will have two open debates on piracy and Council's working methods, in which all member-states can participate.

Are there any concerted efforts that India is taking on addressing the issues such as maritime security and cyber security?

Today, maritime piracy and armed robbery at sea have become a major concern for international community, in particular, ship owners, seafarers, international organisations, insurance companies and governments alike.

Despite international efforts in recent years, maritime piracy has remained a major economic, commercial, humanitarian and security concerns.

Several of the major maritime trade routes of the world, in particular the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea, continue to be affected by piracy, hampering international trade and commerce.

Of late, the plight of seafarers held in captivity by pirates has also become a serious concern.

The problem has been of particular concern for the country. Much of the country's trade passes through the Gulf of Aden, estimated at over $160 billion annually.

Indians constitute 7% of the world's seafarers and a consequence of such piratical activities has been the tremendous human cost that these seafarers have had to pay.

According to the secretary general's latest report, 259 hostages from 18 ships are presently held by pirates. Of these, 43 are unfortunately Indian nationals.

To discuss all these issues, we are organizing an open debate on 19 November. We expect to highlight the problem and promote a comprehensive counter-piracy strategy for the international community.

Cyber Security is an issue to which India attaches the highest importance. It is, however, not a Security Council issue. The subject is dealt by the UN General Assembly and the ECOSOC.

Within the UN system, cyber security matters are being addressed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the International Telecommunication Union.

There are several UN General Assembly and ECOSOC resolutions which are guiding the work of UNODC on cyber security.

It was after a while, there were verbal spars over Kashmir between India and Pakistan continuously this time?

Yes, and since they raised it, its a question that you should address to Pakistan.

But it was after a while, and how do you see this?

Pakistan is claming a territory (Jammu & Kashmir) of our country. They cite decades-old resolutions to stake the claim. They should understand the ground reality has changed. There are too many hotspots in the world now for the world to get busy with.

So, you were not surprised at what Pakistan did?

No. And no one benefits from raking up these issues at the security council,"

How would you evaluate India's contributions as a non-permanent member so far?

The country was elected to the Security Council for a two-year tenure during 2011-12 after a gap of 18 years. As a non-permanent member, we influenced the Council's decisions on a number of issues of direct concern to us.

We succeeded in highlighting the problem of hostage-taking by pirates. Largely due to our efforts, the Security Council has pronounced on this issue and asked the member-states to cooperate to mitigate the humanitarian issues concerning hostages.

It was under the country's Presidency of the Security Council in August 2011 that the first Presidential Statement on Syria was adopted unanimously by consensus.

Its value can only be appreciated even more, with the benefit of hindsight, when you see three double vetoes on resolutions that followed on Syria.

The PRST issued under our Presidency had called for a complete cessation of violence by both sides and an early resumption of an all inclusive political process, which still remains the crying need of the hour in Syria.

Under my chairmanship of the Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee, the concept of zero tolerance was introduced in the Council's counter-terrorism strategy document.

We have also promoted the capacity building of States in the field of counter-terrorism.

Our most important achievement has, been our role as 'bridge builders' wherein we have promoted consensus-building while protecting the interests of developing countries in Council's decisions.

Ours has been a voice of moderation and balance in the Council aimed at promoting the larger good of the international community.

Our serious and constructive engagement on the issues that came on the Council during 2011-12 buttressed our claim for permanent membership of the Security Council.

What's the latest update on the UNSC reforms?

I had said this is a 'tough and lonely battle' for which we have had to fight each day in order to keep just the process alive.

Another quote of 2011, wherein I said, "that we have entered the Security Council after 19 years, and we have no intention of leaving it" has been often used as a misleading reference point by some commentators to state that we would be having Security Council Reforms by the end of 2012!

I said and I repeat that is our 'intention' of completing the ground work for which we are working with full steam. The process of the Short Resolution, which we embarked upon has already received 84 signatures of support from member states.

Our outreach process with our partners from Africa has also reached an advanced stage of understanding between the L.69 and the C-10 groupings, which is a vital step forward.

I am confident of being able to close the negotiations very soon. The further steps will involve political decisions.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.