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New Delhi, September 21, 2011
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh headed today for New York to attend the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), saying that, more than ever before, it was imperative for all countries to act in concert to address challenges such as terrorism, piracy, the global economic slowdown and the upheavals in the West Asia, North Africa and Gulf regions.
"This is the time for United Nations to resume its global leadership role," Dr Singh said in a pre-departure statement here this morning.
Dr Singh will spend the night at Frankfurt before continuing with his journey to New York. He was received at the Frankfurt airport by Consul General of India Taranjit Singh Sandhu and other senior officials.
In his statement, Dr Singh noted that the UNGA was meeting this year at a time when the world was faced with multiple challenges.
"The global economy is in the midst of an economic slowdown coupled with all its attendant problems, including inflationary pressures.
"The West Asia, North Africa and Gulf regions have seen major upheavals and there is uncertainty about the shape of things to come in this crucial part of the world in the period ahead. The Palestine question remains unresolved.
"Terrorism and non-traditional threats to international security, such as piracy, are threatening states and the international political and social order.
"More than ever before, it is imperative for all countries to act in concert to address these challenges," he said.
The Prime Minister said that India had been a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council since January this year, after a gap of 19 years.
"Our efforts at promoting international peace and security and bringing to bear a developing country perspective have, I believe, enriched the Council’s deliberations and enhanced its effectiveness," he said.
"The United Nations must be seen as an impartial, credible and effective body. I will stress the need for early reform of this unique organization, particularly an expansion of its Security Council," he added.
During his stay in New York, Dr Singh is also slated to hold bilateral meetings with the Presidents of Iran, South Sudan and Sri Lanka and the Prime Ministers of Japan and Nepal.
Dr Singh is scheduled to address the General Debate in the morning of September 24.
Dr Singh will be accompanied on the visit by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and other senior officials.
The current UNGA Session commenced on September 13. This year, the General Debate including the addresses by the Heads of Delegation will take place from September 21 to 30.
Briefing mediapersons about the visit last week, Mr Mathai said present UNGA Session was taking place at a time of continuing global economic and financial uncertainties, with food and fuel prices at their peak.
He pointed out that the impact was being felt most severely by developing countries which are struggling to alleviate poverty and improve the living standards of their people.
"As a key emerging major economy, which is playing a constructive role in contributing to global economic recovery, we will reaffirm our commitment at the UN, to continue working with other countries and agencies, to further global economic and financial stability, as well as to foster strong, sustainable and balanced economic growth," Mr Mathai said.
He also pointed out that the Middle East and North Africa region was witnessing socio-political upheaval and the situation was in a flux.
"During our membership of the Security Council since the 1st of January 2011, we have been underlining the need to resolve conflicts through negotiations and diplomatic means rather than the use of force. We will continue to encourage political and diplomatic processes for solutions to the problems of member nations," he said.
Mr Mathai said that India would continue to focus attention of the UN on poverty eradication as the foremost developmental challenge and the need to foster and sustain inclusive growth as a primary requirement for poverty eradication.
"It is imperative that the international community joins hands to ensure that every effort is made to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. India would call for greater mobilization of resources, including honouring of ODA commitments, and policy action for attaining the MDGs. We will also actively engage with UN Member States on human rights issues and to strengthen the UN’s humanitarian operations," he said.
According to Mr Mathai, India’s priorities in the current session of the UNGA would include continuing its efforts for reform of the UN with a view to creating an equitable system that is reflective of contemporary realities.
"We feel that unless comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council is undertaken, the process of UN reforms would only be piecemeal and incomplete. We along with the G-4 and other like-minded countries would continue to work proactively, to maintain the momentum for UN Security Council reforms," he said. India has for long been seeking a permanent seat in the Security Council.
"India remains a votary of a robust UN role in maintenance of international peace and security, including through its peacekeeping operations and political processes. India has remained steadfast in its commitment to universal, non-discriminatory and total nuclear disarmament. Consistent with our concerns on terrorism and clandestine proliferation, we will emphasize the immediacy of effective measures to deny terrorists, possible access to WMD material. We will also be actively participating in the UN high level event on Nuclear Safety and Security which will be held on the 22nd of September," Mr Mathai said.
The Foreign Secretary said the recent terrorist attack in New Delhi had once again served as a reminder of the constant threat posed by terrorism to the security of democratic societies and wellbeing of its citizens.
He said India was currently chairing the Security Council’s Committee on Counter-Terrorism, established by Resolution 1373 adopted in the wake of the September 2001 attacks. The Committee is organizing a special meeting on the 28th September 2011, which is the tenth anniversary of that resolution.
"We will reiterate the need for strong international cooperation and collective action against terrorism. We have time and again insisted on full compliance by all states of their obligations under various UN Resolutions and mechanisms on counterterrorism. We will also push for an early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) that will provide a global normative framework against terrorism," he said.
Mr Mathai said Mr Krishna would represent India at a series of high-level events, including the Annual Commonwealth Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on September 22 and the Ministerial Meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on September 23 which he will be hosting.
He will also attend the 35th Annual Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the G-77 on September 23, an IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa Ministerial Meeting) on the same day, a meeting with the Extended Troika of the Rio Group on September 26, and the Sixth Round of India-Gulf Cooperation Council Political Dialogue on September 27.
Mr Mathai said the Prime Minister's visit would enable India's voice to be articulated and heard at the international body, which would also see the presence of a large number of world leaders. It will also enable him to exchange views with his counterparts both in formal and informal settings, he added.