EAM Jaishankar sure has a lot on his plate. Besides dealing with crisis negotiations with China, handling Afghanistan and Pakistan, and talking up friends and allies like the United States, he also had to do the heavy lifting at the United Nations.
New Delhi has been a member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) since June 2020 and it assumed the rotating presidency of the UNSC in August 2021 and again this month, and is making the most of its opportunity to put across its views on global issues before its term ends at the end of the year.
This week he was in New York to chair two high-level ministerial events. The first was an open debate with the theme ‘New Orientation for Reformed Multilateralism’ (NORMS) followed by a high-level briefing on a ‘Global approach to counter-terrorism—challenges and way forward.’
Jaishankar On India's Discontent with Pakistan
A major focus of Jaishankar’s remarks on both occasions was on the issue of terrorism and the role of Pakistan which was not named in the formal Indian statements. As part of this thrust, a special meeting of the UNSC’s counter-terrorism committee was held in Delhi and Mumbai in October, and the “No Money for Terror (NMFT)” Ministerial meeting in November. The NMFT is organised by the Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) of over 100 countries, also called the Egmont group.
New Delhi hasn't been happy that Islamabad had been let off the hook in the last meeting of the Financial Action Task Force(FATF) in October. It was removed from the grey list of the organisation on account of what FATF said was its “significant progress” in improving legal and government mechanisms to deal with terror funding.
India has been unhappy at the persistent Chinese veto too, the most recent one in October, of an effort by India and the US to designate Pakistan-based terrorists in the UNSC’s 1267 committee’s list of terrorist entities. Among those that New Delhi wanted on the list were LeT founder’s son Talha Saeed and Shahid Mehmood associated with the Falah-e-Insaniyat Trust which is a front for the LeT.
‘Reforms Have Long Remained Sidelined at the UN’
Speaking at the NORMS meeting on Wednesday, Jaishankar reminded the UNSC members that the issue of equitable representation and an increase in the membership of the UNSC has been in the UN General Assembly agenda for over three decades but the debate on reforms “has meandered aimlessly.”
However, in the area of economic policy, there had been a shift marked by the creation of the G-20. Recent developments such as the COVID pandemic or climate action and justice required “a more broad-based global governance.”
But despite calls for reform, little has been done. Indeed the process itself has been conducted “without any time frame” and it is being negotiated without any text and there was no record-keeping to provide some indication of the process.
During the debate, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto brought up the Kashmir issue by saying that states (Read India) could not “advocate multilateral process one day and insist on bilateral avenues the next and ultimately impose unilateral actions”. But the main thrust of Bhutto’s remarks was to undermine the support India has been getting to become a permanent member of the UNSC.
Jaishankar’s tart response was that the credibility of the UN depended on not normalising threats like terrorism. And this applied to not accepting state sponsorship of terrorism, the hosting of Osama bin Laden or “attacking a neighbouring Parliament.”
India's Strong & Scathing Rebuttal On Pak's Role In Terrorism
The next day Jaishankar had the opportunity to attack Pakistan more frontally at a UNSC briefing on global counter-terrorism aimed at revitalising the counter-terrorism agenda of the UNSC.
He said this was needed because “the threat of terrorism has actually become even more serious.” There had been an expansion of groups like Al Qaeda ad Da’esh, Boko Haram and Al Shabab and also lone wolves. And there were “old habits and established networks” still around, especially in South Asia where the contemporary epicenter of terrorism remains very much active.”
Later addressing reporters, he said Pakistan was the epicenter of terrorism and needed to clean up its act and be a good neighbor. He reminded Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar who had earlier termed India as a terrorist state, that in 2011 when she was the foreign minister and was standing beside visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who pointedly noted that “if you have snakes in your backyard, you can’t expect them to bite only your neighbours.”
Amid Economic Crisis & Security Threat, Can Pak Be Let off the Hook Easy?
Nothing much is likely to emerge from the debates in the UN this week. Reform will only come to the UNSC in the wake of a major global political crisis. This is the pattern that led to the reform of the G-7 which agreed to create the G 20 founded in 1999 in the wake of a number of earlier economic crises but since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009, it convenes at least once a year.
Neither is the world likely to be convinced to take a tougher stand towards Pakistan on account of terrorism. Truth be told, India does appear to be a bit over the top in chastising Pakistan, considering that terror attacks have come down significantly in the last decade.
But as the Minister of External Affairs, Jaishankar views it his duty to take up these world-order themes which are part of his vision of locating India as a “leading power” in the international system.
(The writer is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)