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Modi receives new UNGA President

Peter Thomson to work closely with India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 29: President-elect of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Peter Thomson called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Monday.
In a tweet, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said Prime Minister Narendra Modi received President-elect of the UNGA Peter Thomson.

The two leaders discussed “advancing India’s multilateral agenda” at the 71st annual session of the UN General Assembly that opens on September 13.

Ambassador Thomson said he had discussed with Prime Minister Modi reforms of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), which have been hanging fire for several years.

"I was made aware of the sense of frustration that India has on both these counts, but I was able to assure the Prime Minister that the PGA will be seized of both these matters and hopes to take action on both of them."

He said he was not aware of any member state that was against Security Council reform. "It’s just a question of what kind of reform, what shape the UNSC will take."

The implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will top the agenda of Peter Thomson of Fiji who assumes office as President of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly, when it begins on September 13.

Ambassador Thomson also discussed with the Prime Minister realisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). "This was the basis for my candidacy, and it will be my utmost effort to ensure that in the 71st session we do whatever we can to get the wheels turning on the SDGs. India and the PGA’s (President of the General Assembly) office will work closely on this."

He admitted that one of the big challenges is taking the 17 Goals with 169 targets "to the people and educating them, and have them understand that this is something devised for them" – funds for implementation coming partly from the traditional means such the World Bank and the Green Climate Fund.

"The global financial system itself could go down in flames if the SDGs are not implemented. For example, SDG 13 is climate change. The insurance industry won’t be able to function if climate change is not curbed."

India urges non-partisan functioning of UN

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 29: Visiting President-elect of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly Ambassador Peter Thomson on Monday held talks with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

During the meeting, Sushma Swaraj told the visiting leader that “We need to embed the principle such as zero-tolerance for direct or indirect state support to terror and an obligation to create ‘prosecute or extradite ‘domestic legal jurisdiction and the principle of no justification for terrorism.”

Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup said the Indian Minister also stressed on the need for existing counter-terror structures within the UN to function in “non-partisan and coherent” manner.

Sushma Swaraj’s remarks assume significance as Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), proposed by India in 1996, is yet to be adopted by the UN given the opposition of many countries including the US and some Islamic countries. They have not been able to agree on defining terrorism and terrorists and the scope of the proposed convention among other issues.

CCIT intends to criminalise all forms of international terrorism and make it binding for all countries to cut off funds and deny arms and safe haven to terrorist organisations.

The discussion on tackling of threats of terrorism by the UN structures also comes in the backdrop of China recently blocking India’s moves for a UN ban on Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar.

According to official sources, the leaders also discussed ways to provide further impetus to the ongoing Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) process on UNSC reform and revitalising the functioning of the UNGA itself and implementation issues pertaining to Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this context, Sushma Swaraj said there should not be any dilution of concept of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) while dealing with global environmental degradation.

Asserting that India was among the largest troop contributing countries to the UN, the Indian side emphasised that India’s credentials were well known and it deserves a place in the new reformed UN Security Council.

UN General Assembly Prez-elect Thomson to visit India

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Aug 27: During his two-day visit to India, UN General Assembly President-elect Ambassador Peter Thomson will be discussing with Indian leaders Security Council reforms, combating terrorism and implementation of the ambitious sustainable development goals.

Dan Thomas, Communications Director and Spokesperson for the President of the UN General Assembly, said Thomson will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Secretary for External Relations Sujata Mehta, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Arvind Panagariya and other senior Indian officials.

In a statement on Wednesday before his departure to China and India, he said “my main interest will be to discuss how the UN can assist and accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The 2030 Agenda is a set of 17 goals for global development adopted in 2015 by world leaders with 2030 as the deadline for meeting them. Thomson, who is currently Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN, was elected in June as the president of the Assembly’s 71st session that starts next month. He will succeed Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark.

Thomson said “coming from the Asia-Pacific nation of Fiji, I am pleased to have this opportunity to visit the two biggest countries in the regional group to which I belong.”

The Assembly president’s office has a limited budget, which constrains the official’s activities and in the past has led to presidents seeking outside help. Last month India contributed $250,000 to a fund to assist with running the president’s office independently.

Handing over the contribution, India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said that as a fellow developing nation from the Asia-Pacific region, India was supporting the president’s office.

On Thomson's visit to India, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said that UNSC reforms, terrorism and SDGs will be high on the agenda for discussions with Indian leadership.

“Our approach to Security Council reform is that we see this as an opportunity where a re-emergent India will find its place on the global high table,” he said adding that India’s focus on UNSC reform is to put in place a process towards achieving the long-pending reforms.

New Delhi has been leading efforts for early completion of the long-pending reforms of the powerful UN body.

In July, the 193-member General Assembly rolled over discussions on reforming the world body’s top organ to its 71st session, which will be presided over by Thomson as its President.

Ambassador Akbaruddin said that while some progress has been made on two of the five key issues pertaining to the reform process, “our hope” is that going forward, the UN member states will focus on the remaining areas.

UNSC reform is not only about expansion, which is just one area, but also encompasses other issues of veto and improvement in working methods, he said. “The progress is always incremental, from one year to another,” he said.

Thomson has a wide range of international leadership experience. He was the vice president of the General Assembly in 2010-11. He has also been the chair of the developing nations’ Group of 77 to which India belongs, and the chair of the executive boards of both the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

India warns against nukes by terrorists, asks nations at UN to be responsible

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 24: India has warned of the “catastrophic dangers” of terrorists getting weapons of mass destruction and said that nations have a responsibility to prevent nuclear material from falling into their hands.

Speaking at the UN Security Council debate on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on Tuesday, India’s deputy permanent representative Tanmaya Lal said: “We are fully cognizant of the catastrophic dangers that the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to non-State actors and terrorists could entail.”

Therefore, he said, “The primary responsibility for ensuring nuclear security rests at the national level but national responsibility must be accompanied by responsible behaviour as well as sustained and effective international cooperation.”

At the same time, the focus on terrorists “should in no way diminish state accountability in combating terrorism and dismantling its support infrastructure and its linkages with weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

Without mentioning any country, he said that “clandestine nuclear proliferation networks must be rolled back and their resurgence prevented.”

Pakistan ran an underground international nuclear bazaar overseen by the notorious scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that transferred nuclear know-how and technology to North Korea.

Islamabad’s nuclear bases have come under attack from terrorists, who have even managed to enter one of them.

For its part, India has enacted several laws and set up mechanisms to ensure that terrorists don’t get access to WMD, Lal said. “Our recent steps taken to strengthen nuclear security include the setting up of a Counter Nuclear Smuggling Team (CNST).”

“India is committed to maintaining the highest international standards with reference to control of nuclear, chemical, biological and toxin weapons and their means of delivery and has strong and law-based national export controls consistent with the highest international standards,” he said.

New Delhi was committed to the ideal of the elimination of all nuclear weapons, Lal said. But for this to happen all nuclear-weapon states must hold “a meaningful dialogue to build trust and confidence by reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines,” he said.

“Increasing the restraints on the use of nuclear weapons is not only an essential first step, but it is also necessary in the current complex international environment in enhancing strategic trust globally,” he added.

India’s nuclear doctrine is built on a policy of credible minimum deterrence and a commitment to no-first use and to not using using the weapons against non-nuclear weapon states, he said, adding that New Delhi continues its “unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.”

He cited the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) as examples of non-discriminatory treaties for the complete elimination of those types of WMD. Unlike the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which makes exceptions for certain nuclear powers, those treaties apply to all.

Pakistan’s permanent representative Maleeha Lodhi asserted during the debate that Islamabad had implemented a comprehensive system to control exports and taken steps to improve nuclear security.

She took a swipe at the India-United States civil nuclear deal and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for New Delhi to allow access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel, but did not name either country.

“A challenge to non-proliferation norms was the granting of discriminatory waivers, special arrangements which denoted double standards and opened the possibility of diverting material intended for peaceful use to military purposes,” she said.

While India’s attempts to join the NSG has been stalled mainly because of China’s opposition, Lodhi made a pitch for Pakistan’s membership. She said Islamabad met the criteria for membership and that “it expected that a non-discriminatory and criteria-based approach would be followed for extending such membership.”

A.R.Rahman performs at UN to celebrate India's Indepedence Day

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 15: Music maestro AR Rahman enthralled audience at the iconic UN General Assembly hall with his renditions of Indian Carnatic legend MS Subbulakshmi's music, Sufi songs and the foot-tapping 'Jai Ho' at a concert to mark India's Independence Day.

A photo exhibition to commemorate the birth centenary of India’s carnatic music legend Dr. M.S. Subbulakshmi was also inaugurated at the United Nations. This year marks the 50th anniversary of her performance at the United Nations. The photo exhibition depicts various facets and moments of Dr. M.S. Subbulakshmi’s life and times providing a rare insight to the music legend’s achievements.

Rahman became only the second Indian artist after Subbulakshmi to perform in the General Assembly hall, which is the usual platform for global leaders to address the world.

The concert, organised by India's Permanent Mission to the UN with the support of Sankara Nethralaya, an India-based civil society organisation, on India's 70th Independence Day, was a tribute by Rahman to Subbulakshmi on the occasion of her birth centenary.

The event emphasized that the wisdom of Indian traditions remains relevant to current global thinking. The musical evening provided a glimpse of gaiety and dynamism of India on the occasion of India@70.

In his address, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar lauded the significance of music in India's freedom struggle as well as its role as a unifying power.

"Our journey towards freedom is represented by two songs — 'Vande Mataram and Jann Gann Mann'," Akbar said.

He said that while other countries first formed a nation and then created an anthem, India "created anthems first and then formed a nation".

"Music is the most powerful expression of the soul of India because it inspires that spark of divinity that lives in every human soul," he said, describing musicians as "ambassadors of God".

"...Every morning in India begins with music. Every morning in every corner in India begins with the music of the Azaan, followed by the music of the Hanuman temple, followed by the music of the Gurudwara and then by the music of Church bells," he said amid a huge round of applause, adding that one should "thank destiny for making us Indians".

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin noted that the UN is observing its 70th anniversary as India's celebrates its 70th independence day.

"We hope this event will reinforce the belief that diverse cultural traditions reflecting each others values remain relevant to global thinking and the UN," he said.

Dr. M.S. Subbulakshmi, a legendary Indian musician was invited by the then UN Secretary General Late U Thant to perform at the UN General Assembly hall on 23 October 1966. She thus became the first Indian to perform at the UN General Assembly Hall. She was the first ever musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna Award (1988), India’s highest civilian honour and also the first ever to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award (1974).

A.R. Rahman, an internationally renowned music composer and musician, has won several international awards, including the Golden Globe, two Academy Awards and two Grammy’s for his work on the film score for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.

Dignitaries from the United Nations, Permanent Missions to the United Nations, Permanent Observers to the United Nations, UN specialized agencies and invited guests from the international community attended the event.




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