Addressing the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Saturday afternoon, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar explained India’s position in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying India was on the side that respected the UN charter and on the side of peace.
The Minister also made a strong pitch for UN Security Council (UNSC) reform.
Mr. Jaishankar said India was often asked which side it was on in the Ukraine conflict. “And our answer, each time, is straight and honest,” he said.
“India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there. We are on the side that respects the UN Charter and its founding principles,” he said, but did not name Russia, which launched an invasion of Ukraine at the end of February this year.
“We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that India was on the side “of those struggling with rising food, fuel and fertilizer costs”. Mr. Jaishankar said it was in the collective interest to bring an early resolution to the conflict.
“The year 2022 is an important milestone in India’s journey towards growth, development and prosperity,” the Minister said, as he highlighted previously stated principles of governance of the Modi government.
“ … We are resolved to make India a developed country in the next 25 years. For the world, that creates more capacities for global good,” he said.
While the world was focused on Ukraine, India was also facing challenges in its neighbourhood, the Minister said, and was “fulfilling the gap in humanitarian needs left unaddressed by political complexity”.
Among the examples cited were financial and commodities assistance given to Sri Lanka, food assistance to Myanmar and wheat to Afghanistan.
He highlighted India’s global climate initiatives, such as the International Solar Alliance and the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” to fight climate change.
India will take over the presidency of the Group of Twenty (G20) in December and Mr. Jaishankar outlined the country’s priorities for that office.
“India will work with other G-20 members to address serious issues of debt, economic growth, food and energy security and particularly, environment. The reform of governance of multilateral financial institutions will continue to be one of our core priorities,” he said.
Without naming China, he criticised those that politicise the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) sanctions regime, saying that countries “defending proclaimed terrorists, do so at their own peril”.
China had, in recent days, placed a hold on a U.S.-India proposal to sanction Pakistan-based LeT terrorist Sajid Mir at the UNSC’s 1267 Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee.
Mr. Jaishankar said that on the UNSC, India had “acted as a bridge on some serious but divisive issues”. While India has characterised its actions on the Council in this manner, it had found itself having to defend its abstentions on votes critical of Russia at the UNSC earlier in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Mr. Jaishankar made a strong pitch — as he has been doing through the week — for Security Council reform, which had widespread support, he said, because the current system was “anachronistic and ineffective”.
“It is also perceived as deeply unfair, denying entire continents and regions a voice in a forum that deliberates their future,” he said.
He said India was willing to take on more responsibilities but also wanted to ensure that the “injustice” faced by the Global South was addressed.
The inter-governmental negotiations for UNSC reform could not be held hostage forever by “naysayers”, Mr. Jaishankar said.
The Minister ended his speech on Saturday with a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message to Russian President Vladimir Putin last week about this not being the time for war.
“We believe and advocate that this is not an era of war and conflict. On the contrary, it is a time for development and cooperation,” he said.
(Report is based on remarks as prepared for delivery)