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Tharoor holds talks with UN agencies, proposes global meet on ‘rebuilding Kerala better’

Vinson Kurian THIRUVANANTHAPURAM | Updated on August 22, 2018 Published on August 22, 2018

Shashi Tharoor, MP from Thiruvananthapuram

The Kerala government should give thought to holding an international reconstruction conference to ‘Rebuild Kerala better’ in partnership with the UN system.

This was among the conclusions arrived at in discussions Shashi Tharoor, MP from Thiruvananthapuram, had with UN agencies in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday.

SERIES OF DISCUSSIONS

Tharoor, who is also Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, held a series of high-level discussions in Geneva, his spokesman said here. His hosts included the senior leadership of the World Health Organisation, the UN, and the International Red Cross, which were briefed on the devastating humanitarian crisis caused by the floods in Kerala.

Tharoor clarified that he had travelled in his individual capacity and at his own expense, as an MP from Kerala and as a former UN Under-Secretary-General with 29 years experience in the organisation, and an extensive network of contacts in the international humanitarian community.

Following extensive discussions, Tharoor arrived at the following conclusions and recommendations:

The Kerala government should request for the $2-million WHO stock of anti-cholera vaccines to minimise the risk of grave water-borne diseases; examine whether it requires a multi-sector needs assessment by UN agencies; and accept the Gujarat University forensics support for dead body management.

Since the Centre does not wish to request international assistance directly, it is entirely feasible to operationalise any arrangement by negotiating with the UN system to have the UN offer what we need, on a no-objection basis from the Centre, the spokesman quoted Tharoor as saying.

This outreach was primarily due to the moral responsibility he felt as a Keralite to explore possibilities of international assistance and support to alleviate the sufferings of fellow Keralites.

The idea was to place these recommendations before the state government for its consideration, and pursuance, if found necessary, with the Centre.

Prior to undertaking his meetings, Tharoor had personally consulted with the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the utility of these discussions, their nature and purpose, and the specific areas of priority for the Chief Minister.

CM'S OFFICE DIFFERS

Tharoor wrote to Vijayan on Wednesday on the impressions gained from his briefings with UN agencies in Geneva and the possible course of actions for the state, if required.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister's Office created a flutter yesterday saying that it had not authorised Tharoor to engage with the UN system on its behalf.

Tharoor's initiative also comes in the context of the Centre not having taken a decision on accepting the offer of Rs 700 crore in assistance to Kerala from the UAE rulers.

On his part, Tharoor stressed throughout that his discussions were informal and exploratory and that whether UN assistance was needed would be determined by the two governments, State and Centre.

The discussions and deliberations were well received by the respective branches of the international system focused on responding to health emergencies, disaster management and mitigation.

Tharoor also briefed the Indian Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Rajiv Chander, in detail on both Monday and Tuesday about his meetings.

AK Antony’s demand

Meanwhile, former Defence Minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony said that refusal to accept the promised ₹700 crore in aid for Kerala from the UAE might compromise the good relations the State has with the Emirate.

Antony acknowledged that existing regulations do not allow for acceptance of such aid but he said that the country should ideally review them even if it might set a precedent for the future.

New Delhi wants to convey that the country is capable of handling the flood situation on its own both, financially and logistically.

Even the then UPA-2 government had declined foreign aid in 2013 when devastating floods had struck Uttarakhand.

Published on August 22, 2018
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