Sushma Swaraj calls for UNSC seat for India, Africa
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New Delhi: Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday called on Africa to join hands with India to put in place more democratic global governance structures as she demanded the inclusion of India and representatives of Africa in a revamped United Nations (UN) Security Council.
The forthcoming climate change talks in Paris and agreement on making sure there are adequate funds for financing development goals agreed to by the international community at the UN General Assembly session in New York were other areas where India and Africa needed to work together to safeguard the interests of developing countries, she said.
Speaking at the India-Africa foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, Swaraj also called for a “regular review mechanism” to evaluate the efficacy of the implementation of various programmes launched by India at the bilateral, regional and pan-African levels.
The foreign ministers’ meet aims to set the stage for the third India-Africa summit, which is to take place on Thursday.
The summit has been billed as the biggest gathering of foreign dignitaries in New Delhi since the 1983 Non-Aligned Summit.
Previous India-Africa summits—the first in New Delhi in 2008 and the second in Addis Ababa in 2011—were smaller events, with India and representatives of select African countries participating.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco and King Mswati III of Swaziland were the first to arrive in New Delhi late on Sunday and early on Monday.
Others due to fly in ahead of Thursday’s summit include presidents Salva Kiir of oil-rich South Sudan, the world’s newest country, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and José Mário Vaz of Guinea Bissau.
Making a case for the reform of the UN Security Council, Swaraj asked: “How can we expect legitimacy from a governance structure that excludes the entire African continent and a country which represents one-sixth of humanity?”
“India and Africa can no longer be excluded from their rightful place... permanent membership of the UN Security Council,” she said.
India has been campaigning for a permanent seat in a reformed Security Council for many years. It has joined hands with Germany, Japan and Brazil to form a pressure group to push forward the reforms process, but so far, the grouping has met with little success. The UN Security Council consists of five permanent members—the US, the UK, France, China and Russia—and 10 non-permanent members, who are elected for a rotating two-year term.
Many African countries, while in agreement on the need for a more democratized UN Security Council, have reservations about the expansion plans since they have not been able to arrive at a consensus on which countries will represent the continent.
In her speech, Swaraj recalled India’s millenia-old ties with Africa. While India and Africa joined hands against colonialism in the 1960s and 1970s, in recent times, both sides had “worked together to demand a more just and fair international political and economic order”, she said.
On the forthcoming climate change talks in Paris, Swaraj said developing countries needed assistance “to mitigate climate change and to adapt and adjust to its impact. India and Africa have shared concerns and interests in this regard.”
On its current efforts to forge strong ties, Swaraj said India was “committed to a people-centric approach which focuses on capacity-building, human resource development and technical and financial support for our mutually agreed priorities”.
This is in contrast to strategies employed by nations like China, which focus on large infrastructure projects such as airports, football stadia and roads.
Since the first India-Africa summit in New Delhi in 2008, India has given 40,000 scholarships to African students, approved almost $9 billion in concessional credit for nearly 140 projects in more than 40 African nations, with 60 completed projects, Swaraj said in her speech at the foreign ministerial meeting.
She noted that Indian investments in Africa were growing in areas such as telecommunications, hydrocarbons, agriculture, manufacturing, information technology, water treatment and supply, drugs and pharmaceuticals, coal, automobiles, floriculture and textiles.
“Such investment brings in capital and technology, and assists value addition and industrialization. It also leads to diversification of economic activity and, most importantly, generates employment and skill development for local populations,” she said, in what can be construed as a subtle reference to China’s investments in raw materials and resources, described by some critics as exploitative and not creating skills or generating jobs.
In a reference to African countries sourcing cheap Indian generics to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Swaraj said, “Ensuring access to affordable and quality medicines and treatment is an important area of our cooperation. We recognize the value of... the use of affordable generic medicines, promoting the use of traditional medicines and their regulatory procedures.”