Issue 162 - August 15 - India Assumes Security Council Presidency for August
New York, 15 August 2011
On August 1, India assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), replacing Germany. It is the first time the country has occupied the seat in nearly two decades, the previous instance being in December 1992.
As SC President, Permanent Representative of India Hardeep Singh Puri emphasized the important responsibilities India was to shoulder. “The manner in which you conduct yourself in the deliberations of the council, the kind of positions you take, the political maturity which you display not only as the member of the council but more in the presidency, those ultimately reflect on the country's credentials,” he stated. While India entertains particular aspirations of its own, Puri acknowledged, it must work in the long-term and address the concerns of other countries.
The Council consists of five permanent members and ten elected non-permanent members. The latter hold two-year terms and are not eligible for consecutive re-election. The Council Presidency rotates among members in the English alphabetical order of their names for a term of one calendar month each.
As a member of the Group of Four pushing for an expansion of permanent seats on the Council, India hopes that the presidency will help demonstrate its readiness and qualifications in this regard. “We are hoping to utilize our stay on the Council…also to see what can be done for us to have a more enduring presence,” Puri affirmed. “Not only will we meet those expectations [of the international community] but after we are through with the presidency... people will say here is a country which truly deserves to be a permanent member.”
Syria & Human Rights
Typically, the summer vacation period of August is relatively relaxed. Yet this year India must focus on the immediate problem of unrest in Syria. Indeed, only hours after assuming office, Puri received six requests for an emergency Council meeting to discuss the violence between Syrian protestors and the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Press reports revealed that during consultations he urged a “calibrated” approach towards Libya.
Two days later, the Council issued a presidential statement urging the UN to “effectively addres[s] the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the population which will allow the full exercise of fundamental freedoms for its entire population.” It expressed “grave concern at the deteriorating situation in Syria, and…profound regret at the death of many hundreds of people,” and “condemns the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities.”
Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, urged India to adopt a broad scope in leading human rights efforts domestically, regionally, and now internationally. India should, for instance, push for an international commission of inquiry to investigate human rights violations in Burma. Ganguly concluded that the principles of “an unwavering commitment to human rights and seek[ing] accountability for abuses” should be “reflected in India’s decisions as it assumes the UNSC’s presidency.”