The decision-making structures of the United Nations do not reflect the world as it stands today, eroding the voice of the global organisation itself, the Minister of State for External Affairs, Meenakashi Lekhi, said, emphasising that it is regrettable that the reform process is being thwarted by a handful of countries which only pay lip service to reform.

Lekhi, who is in New York on an official visit, said reform of the Security Council is a key aspect of India’s engagement with the UN.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told the General Assembly last year, “reform in the responses, in the processes, in the character of the United Nations is the need of the hour,” she said.

Stuck in the past

“The simple fact is that it has been 75 years since the UN was founded. But its decision making structures, especially the Security Council, still remain stuck in 1945 and do not reflect the world as it stands today. This has eroded the voice of the United Nations itself,” she told PTI in an exclusive interview.

Lekhi asserted that the Security Council has to reflect the realities of today to become more credible.

“Regrettably, the reform process is being thwarted by a handful of countries which only pay lip service to reform. By opposing Security Council reforms, they are actually doing a disservice to multilateralism,” she said, without naming any country.

Referring to the clarion call made by Modi for reformed multilateralism, Lekhi said “since there is overwhelming support among the Member States for reforms, we will be working with them to see how best to advance. I took this up with the Deputy Secretary-General as well in my meeting.”

India, currently in the Security Council as a non-permanent member for a two-year term that began in January this year, was President of the 15-nation Council last month. India has been at the forefront of the years-long efforts to reform the UN Security Council, saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the Council which in its current form does not represent the geo-political realities of the 21st century.

Addressed UNSC

Lekhi visited Colombia from September 4-6 and is in New York till September 9 on her first visit as Minister of State. She addressed the UN Security Council open debate on UN Peacekeeping Operations - Transitions, held under Ireland’s current Presidency of the 15-nation Council Wednesday.

At the UN, she met briefly with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the Council meeting, as well as former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She also had discussions with Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations ,Amina Mohammed, and President-elect of the 76th session of the General Assembly, Abdullah Shahid.

“We discussed issues which are of mutual interest to us including our priorities and contributions to the UN, including the 76th General Assembly session which begins in a few days. We also touched on topical issues such as climate change, development and UN reforms,” she said.

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On her meeting with Shahid, Lekhi tweeted, “Met President-elect of the 76th UNGA @abdulla_shahid. We discussed his vision and #PresidencyOfHope for the session including COVID-19 vaccines, gender, youth, human rights and environment.”

Shahid tweeted that he discussed his priorities for the upcoming session of the General Assembly with Lekhi. “India is a champion of multilateralism. And I am confident of India’s support to the #PresidencyOfHope,” he said.

“Glad to meet UN Deputy Secretary-General @AminaJMohammed today. We discussed multilateral and regional issues. Had fruitful exchange of views on Sustainable Development, Climate Change, COVID-19 response and UN reforms,” she tweeted of her meeting with Mohammed.

Lekhi also met senior officials from the UN dealing with the United Nations Development Programme, climate change and Latin America and Central Asia.

Lekhi noted that India is the largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations in cumulative terms since their inception spread over 49 missions, and 174 Indian peacekeepers have also made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.

“Consequently, peacekeeping has been a priority for India during our stint in the Security Council,” she said, adding that in the UNSC meeting on peacekeeping, she spoke about India’s views on how to effectively manage the transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in the post-conflict period.

Visit to Colombia

Lekhi added that her visit to Colombia was a “significant one” for several reasons since it was her first visit to the South American country and to the Latin American region as the Minister of State for External Affairs.

“I hope that the discussions I had with the Colombian side would give a boost to our relations, especially in the context of post-pandemic recovery. A broad range of issues were discussed during my visit, focusing especially on trade and commerce, cooperation in the energy sector, science and technology and healthcare,” she said.

She termed as a significant outcome of the visit the signing of an MoU between India and Colombia on cooperation in the space sector.

“India had launched Colombian nanosatellites earlier, and there was interest in expanding that cooperation further,” she said, adding that there were also wide-ranging discussions on cooperation in the health sector including in the area of vaccines, as well as in areas such as traditional medicine, Ayurveda and Yoga.

“I was also very impressed with the efforts being made by the government towards peace and reconciliation, with support of the UN Verification Mission. In all, it was a very fruitful visit and I look forward to following up on the outcomes achieved,” she added.