India getting three UN bodies not too ominous: diplomats

Published January 14, 2021Updated January 14, 2021 08:49am
The UN Security Council room seen in 2017. — AFP/File
The UN Security Council room seen in 2017. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani diplomats believe that India getting chair of three United Nations Security Council (UNSC) committees could be looking ominous, but may not be quite as much.

India, which is on the Security Council as a non-permanent member for 2021-22, has been given the Taliban Sanctions Committee, Counter-Terrorism Committee and Libya Sanctions Committee.

The announcement was immediately seen as a diplomatic setback for Pakistan because many believed that Delhi would use its presence in the Counter-Terrorism Committee to malign Pakistan, besides complicating the peace process through the Taliban Sanctions Committee.

But diplomats were of the opinion that there was little for India to be jubilant either because it did not succeed in getting its wish list — the ISIL (Daesh) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee (1267), Non-Proliferation Committee (1540) and Taliban Sanctions Committee (1988), in addition to the Afghan file. India laid claim to the committees being the successor of Indonesia from Asia-Pacific group. Indonesia had earlier held the chair of the three committees.

Say they successfully lobbied to prevent Delhi from having Daesh and non-proliferation committees

The committees that India got instead were as a result of compromise. The 24 UNSC committees are allocated by the five permanent members through an agreement.

Pakistan to start with did not have enough clout to prevent India from getting committees of its choice, except for China.

The problem with China too is that it would not have liked to stand out in opposition to the other four members — France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The Pakistani diplomats, however, contend that they successfully lobbied to prevent India from getting the Daesh and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee and Non-Proliferation Committee. Some of the Western members too had concerns over India getting the Non-Proliferation Committee, which made Islamabad’s job easier.

“India’s presence on the Security Council is in itself problematic for Pakistan, but we have made best out of the worst situation. What they wanted would have harmed us more,” a Pakistani diplomat explained during a background discussion.

The Counter-Terrorism Committee was given to India in compensation for the Daesh and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. The committee, which will be chaired by India in 2022, was formed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. It is a normative committee with a prescriptive role which sets standards on counter-terrorism. Moreover, it has no role with regards to lists and sanctions.

India would, however, still try to use the committee to target Pakistan. This was obvious from Indian envoy to the UN T.S. Tirumurti’s statement, who said: “The chairing of this committee has special resonance of India, which has not only been in the forefront of fighting terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism, but has also been one of its biggest victims.”

The Taliban Sanctions Committee had been desired by India, but as its chair it wouldn’t be really in charge. There are two reasons for that — firstly, India would take up the chair when the US has already reached a deal with the Taliban and intra-Afghan dialogue is continuing and, secondly, listing and de-listing are done by the US. Blocking a US move would require a negative consensus of all the 15 members, which is improbable.

Indians, nevertheless, tried to play this up as well. “The Taliban Sanctions Committee has always been a high priority for India keeping in mind our strong interest and commitment to peace, security, development and progress of Afghanistan,” Tirumurti had said.

The Libya Sanctions Committee has meanwhile been dysfunctional for the past few years because of differences among the five permanent members. That in any case does not mean that India would not create trouble for Pakistan.

The mission at the UN in New York has, therefore, worked out what Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Ambassador Munir Akram calls “defensive and offensive strategy” to counter India’s design.

Another senior diplomat, who has a vast experience of working at the UN, said the Pakistani mission was faced with difficult, but not an impossible task. Pakistani diplomats, he believed, would have to strengthen their networking with other members of the UNSC, especially Niger, Tunisia, Ireland and Mexico, besides keenly following the developments so as to be able to pre-empt something unfavourable.

“Options are created, they are not presented in a platter,” a diplomat said, adding that days of “armchair diplomacy” were gone.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2021

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