West Asians, North Africans free to decide future: PM

West Asians, North Africans free to decide future: PM

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India wants the people of North Africa and West Asia to take decisions “free of outside interference", after the United Nations (UN) authorized the use of air attacks to protect civilians from Libyan leader Moammer Gadhafi’s forces following a month-long uprising against his regime.

Singh’s comment came hours after India abstained from voting on the UN Security Council resolution, seen as the first big test of its diplomatic skills at the UN high table since being elected a non-permanent Security Council member in January.

“We are happy to see our brothers in West Asia and North Africa taking an increasing role in determining their own future," Singh said at an India Today Conclave in New Delhi on Friday. “These are decisions for countries and their citizens to take for themselves, free of outside interference or coercion. As close neighbours and historical friends, we have a major stake in their peaceful, orderly evolution."

In New York, deputy permanent representative to the UN, Manjeev Puri, said India has been following the unrest in Libya with “serious concern" and deplored “the use of force (by Gadhafi), which is totally unacceptable".

Puri said UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon has appointed a special envoy to Libya and the Security Council has not yet received his report. “We must stress the importance of political efforts, including those of the secretary-general’s special envoy, to address the situation," he said.

The resolution adopted “authorizes far-reaching measures" with “relatively little credible information on the situation", Puri said. There is no “clarity about details of enforcement measures... It is, of course, very important that there is full respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Libya", he said.

Further, the financial strictures mentioned in the resolution “could impact, directly or through indirect routes" the economic interests of the Libyan people, exacerbating an already difficult situation, he said.

Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary, said India’s position on Friday was consistent with its stance in the past, recalling that the government was against similar strictures against Myanmar.

India’s abstention, along with Brazil and Germany—all aspirants for permanent UN Security Council seats—showed “independence in thinking", a sign of possible future alignments of emerging powers with permanent members Russia and China than with traditional powers such as Britain, France and the US, Puri said.