India seeks early reforms in UN, fiscal bodies

Singh subtly criticises US-led interventions in Libya

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday told the United Nations General Assembly that the world would succeed in addressing the contemporary social, political and economic challenges only if it embraced once again the principles of “internationalism and multilateralism”.

“We need a stronger and more effective United Nations. We need a United Nations that is sensitive to the aspirations of everyone – rich or poor, big or small. For this, the United Nations and its principal organs, the General Assembly and Security Council, must be revitalised and reformed,” said Singh, even as he subtly criticised the US-led interventions in Libya and proposal for similar moves in Syria.

Stressing that the actions taken under the authority of the UN must respect the unity, territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of individual States, the prime minister said that the observance of the rule of law was as important in international affairs as it was within countries. “Societies could not be re-ordered from outside through military force. People in all countries have the right to choose their own destiny and decide their own future,” said Singh.

India has over the past few months been critical about the way the UN concept of “Responsibility to Protect” was misused by the US and some of its western allies to intervene in Libya and even cautioned against following the same model in Syria. India, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, in March abstained from voting on Resolution 1973, which sought a no-fly zone over Libya and authorising “all necessary measures” to protect the civilians from Muammer Gadhafi’s forces. It did the same last month on a resolution against Syria in the UN Human Rights Council.

“The international community has a role to play in assisting in the processes of transition and institution building, but the idea that prescriptions have to be imposed from outside is fraught with danger,” said the prime minister amid applause.

India made it clear that it held no brief for now-deposed regime of Gadhafi and even reached out to the new dispensation in Tripoli, supporting its accreditation to the UN.

The prime minister told the UNGA that the governments were also duty bound to their citizens to create conditions that enable them to freely determine their pathways to development.

As countdown for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls already began, the beleaguered Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government’s desperation to bring its foreign policy out of the US shadow apparently prompted the prime minister to strongly articulate India’s distinct view on the nature of international responses to the crises in Libya and Syria.

New Delhi ignored Washington’s reservations and pledged support to Palestine’s bid for statehood in the UN, adhering to India’s principled stand on the conflict in Middle East. Singh on Friday also had a bilateral meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the UN headquarters, with New Delhi stressing on the role of Tehran in stabilising not only Afghanistan, but also turbulent West Asia, North Africa and Gulf regions.

The UPA’s first tenure in power in New Delhi saw India-US ties reaching new heights with Singh and the then American President George Bush clinching the civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Ties continued to boom even after the change of regime in Washington with Singh being the first head of a country to be the state guest of President Barack Obama in November 2009 and the latter pledging US support for India’s bid for UNSC permanent membership during a visit to Delhi in November 2010.

India-US ties however witnessed a drift over the past few months, particularly after New Delhi dropped two American contenders from the fray for the $10.4 billion contract to provide 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts for the Indian Air Force. The US is also unhappy over India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage legislation, which Washington believes denies a level-playing field for American nuclear companies.

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