UN reform is a common sense proposition, says Jaishankar at Raisina Dialogue | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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UN reform is a common sense proposition, says Jaishankar at Raisina Dialogue

Feb 22, 2024 06:20 PM IST

Jaishankar emphasised the need to revamp global bodies, saying they hadn’t found multilateral solutions to all the big issues in recent years.

Multilateralism will exist alongside national interests, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday, pointing to India’s experience with the fallout of the decision to take the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations (UN) soon after independence.

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar speaks during the Raisina Dialogue 2024 in New Delhi (PTI VIA @raisinadialogue)
External affairs minister S. Jaishankar speaks during the Raisina Dialogue 2024 in New Delhi (PTI VIA @raisinadialogue)

Jaishankar made the remarks while participating in a session at the Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, that focused on the divide between the West and the Global South and the need to reform multilateral bodies such as the UN. He emphasised the need to revamp global bodies, saying they had been unable to find multilateral solutions to all the big issues in recent years.

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Responding to a question on whether countries could compromise on values but not on interests, Jaishankar said this wasn’t something new. “Look at our own example. Very literally in our first year of Independence, we put our trust in multilateralism and took the Kashmir aggression issue to the UN and others made it into an accession issue and they did it for geopolitical reasons,” he said.

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“It is not that we should be against multilateralism. Multilateralism is a kind of lowest common denominator and anything above that. It will exist side-by-side with national interests, with the calculations and competitions of countries,” he added.

Jaishankar was referring to Pakistan’s response to India’s decision to take the invasion of Kashmir by irregular Pakistani forces shortly after the country’s independence from British rule in 1947.

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On the issue of reforming the UN, Jaishankar said the world body was formed with about 50 members and its membership has now grown almost four-fold. “So, it’s a common sense proposition that you can’t continue the same way when you have four times the members,” he said.

“If you look at the last five years, all the big issues...we have not been able to find multilateral solutions. So, the results or lack of results demonstrates the case for reform,” he added.

Jaishankar contended there was a larger global rebalancing that is bigger than the UN, and this was also about how “rules have been gamed”. He said: “The fact is that the world trading rules have been gamed. We have a lot of our challenges today that also emanate from how countries have used that for their benefit at the expense of the international system.”

He also pointed to the crucial role of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, Russia, France, Britain and the US – in the process of reforming the world body. “If you are going to ask five countries, saying would you mind changing the rules, that you would have less power, guess what the answer is going to be. If they are wise, the answer would be something else.”

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In an apparent reference to China, he added, “If you take UN Security Council reform, the biggest opposer is not a Western country.”

In response to another question on the impact of India’s historic ties with Russia on contemporary geopolitics, Jaishankar said competition in international relations is a reality.

“It will be everybody’s endeavour to find a middle ground. The reality in many cases is we won’t find a middle ground. We will find some common ground. But the idea that everybody would agree on the most important issues of the day is a bit of a fantasy. The fact is competition is for real,” he told the session that also featured Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash, advisor to the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dutch foreign minister Hanke Bruins Slot.

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