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Vaccines, terror, climate to be India’s focus during UN Security Council presidency

After 10 years, India has again assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council from 1 August, succeeding France. PM Modi is set to be the first Indian leader to preside over a Security Council meeting later this month.

August 02, 2021 / 01:15 PM IST

Being at the forefront of global policymaking, India is set to use its one-month presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to push its objectives of securing a global IPR waiver for Covid vaccines, ensuring more commitments from developed economies towards battling climate change and cornering Pakistan on the terrorism front.


India's permanent delegation to the United Nations is pushing these issues harder than ever before, while the foreig ministry is doing detailed work on these areas, including outreach and diplomatic engagements, sources said.



"Given that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian PM ever to preside over a UNSC meeting later this month, our positions need to be clear. The prime minister has spelt out our guiding principles during our presidency," an official said.



Major issues 



India's proposal to temporarily waive off certain Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to boost the availability of the vaccines worldwide will dominate its global efforts during the month.



Talks on the vaccine waiver
is seeing slow progress at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and risks overshooting the August deadline.



Opposition from richer nations such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore, and the European Union have continued against the proposal due to fears of it being the first of many attempts to reduce the IPR of many other drugs.


On the climate change front, India has noted that the 'Net Zero GHG emission' plans of richer nations of reaching carbon neutrality by or around mid-century remain inadequate.



The available carbon space, or the total amount of greenhouse gasses that can be emitted before hitting the limit decided upon by global agreement, is shrinking.



Since countries are at various stages of development, which is mostly dictated by manufacturing and industrial growth that emits greenhouse gasses, India has requested richer nations like the United States and European Union to emit less given that they have already been emitting significantly for the past hundred years.



"India will be using the UNSC Presidency to impress upon richer nations to respect the legitimate need of developing countries for growth and commit to bringing down per capita emission to global average by 2030," the official said.


Going beyond global policymaking, the country will use the opportunity to push its bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, sources said.



Big changes sought



India is pushing for a wide range of amendments to the UN Security Council. It is part of the G4 allies, which also includes Brazil, Germany and Japan, who support each other's bids for permanent seats in the council.



Their main opposition comes from the Uniting for Consensus (UfC), a movement led by Italy that is against the possible expansion of permanent seats in the Council.



It is calling for a consensus before any decision is reached on the form and size of the Council. The UfC notably – but not surprisingly - includes Pakistan and is supported by China.


Clashes between the two groups and others reached a crescendo in June when the G4 opposed the decision by current UNGA President, Volkan Bozkir, to postpone the Security Council reform negotiations to the next Assembly session, yet again.



"India wants negotiations on the issue, currently being led by the Intergovernmental Negotiations framework (IGN) to continue in the current session itself, especially since key ally Qatar is heading the IGN," a person in the know said.



The Security Council consists of five permanent members - China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States, all of whom have veto rights.



This means that on 'all substantive matters', the veto by even a single member blocks global action. Interestingly, China has used its veto power to block India’s efforts to become a permanent member of the body even when the other four permanent members have backed New Delhi’s membership.



The Council also has 10 non-permanent members who are elected by the UNGA for two-year terms starting on January 1, with five replaced each year. India began its two-year tenure as part of the Council on January 1, 2021.


Any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states in a vote in the General Assembly and must be ratified by two-thirds of Member States. More importantly, however, all the permanent members of the UNSC with veto rights must also agree.

Subhayan Chakraborty has been regularly reporting on international trade, foreign policy, and evolving industry and government issues for the past 6 years.

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