UN Secretary-General on India-Pakistan, Sri Lanka, climate change
New Delhi: “I would not pre-judge what the Pakistan government will say. But I am convinced that the Pakistani government is also committed to addressing terrorism,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told The Hindu in an interview in New Delhi on Thursday. He was asked whether he was confident that Pakistan would heed his appeal to “fully cooperate” with the Indian government in getting to the bottom of the Mumbai terror attacks.
Mr. Ban, who was in New Delhi for a day, revealed that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had informed him the Pakistan government “was going to enact the legislation to allow them to punish those Pakistani people who engage in terrorist acts outside Pakistan.”
Condemning the Mumbai terror attacks as “totally unacceptable,” Mr. Ban underscored the importance of “addressing and eradicating terrorism…in the name of humanity.” Noting that an opportunity had been missed in the wake of 9/11, he said what happened in Mumbai should strengthen the international community’s resolve to work on “a comprehensive international convention on terrorism.”
Asked for his thoughts on what more could be done by way of international pressure or persuasion to ensure that Pakistan did the right thing, Mr. Ban responded: “In investigating and addressing terrorism, that should be done voluntarily by any member state [of the UN] even before any pressure, so-called pressure, comes. This is, after all, a crime against humanity…There should be active efforts by the whole international community regardless of where it happened.”
The UN Secretary-General reiterated his view that all issues between India and Pakistan, including Kashmir, should be “resolved harmoniously through dialogue.” He added that while the terrorist attack in Mumbai was “a very serious crime which must be punished,” it must not be allowed to become “an obstacle” to strengthening the bilateral relationship “in a comprehensive dimension between the two countries.”
Asked how much of a priority the issue of climate change was for him and the UN, Mr. Ban, who received the Sustainable Development Leadership Award 2009 at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, responded that his “top priority and target” as UN Secretary-General was to have “a balanced, comprehensive, and effective” international agreement by the end of December this year in Copenhagen. As a regime, it must also be “ratifiable” as a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Emphasising that “India can play a very important, crucially important role,” Mr. Ban said “that’s why I am here…Everybody is looking at India, what India will do.” With President Barack Obama and his administration “very positively engaged, unlike the previous, Bush administration,” the time was propitious. Saying that he “fully understand the challenges of India,” and specifically that when it came to greenhouse emissions in per capita terms India was not at all at the level of industrialised countries, he made this appeal: “But at this time, when this is by far the most urgent and serious existential threat for all humanity and planet Earth, the whole international community must act together. Now is the time to act. Therefore I would sincerely urge and appeal to the Indian government to really engage in in-depth negotiations.”
Asked for his reading of what was happening in the north of Sri Lanka, where the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which is banned or designated as terrorist in 31 countries, is boxed in a very narrow territory with about 120,000 civilians, Mr. Ban expressed concern over the humanitarian situation and mentioned his discussions with the Sri Lankan leadership. He had asked President Mahinda Rajapaksa to ensure that there were no civilian casualties and also the security and safety of United Nations staff and humanitarian workers and had received assurances. The UN Secretary-General revealed that he was now “considering dispatching a humanitarian assessment team” to Sri Lanka.
Asked whether the failure of the UN to get Israel to stop its brutal aggression in Gaza did not demonstrate the ineffectiveness of the world body, Mr. Ban spiritedly contested the view that the UN had failed in the Middle East. He asserted that “it was the United Nations together with major leaders, powers, in the region and elsewhere that has brought this ceasefire” in Gaza. Now it was urgently mobilising humanitarian assistance. He himself had made an urgent appeal for $613 million to help people in Gaza to recover and was co-sponsoring an international donors conference.
Responding to a question on Iran, the UN Secretary-General expressed the hope that “with a new administration in the United States…the dynamics of negotiation may change.” However, “before everything, it is important for Iran to fully comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions.” He looked forward to “in-depth negotiations” on the Iran nuclear issue given the “change in the political dynamics.”