United Nations/New Delhi | Calling India a “valuable” member of the UN, the president of the General Assembly on Tuesday said that he would encourage it to continue to lead by example, maintain its principled stance for achieving lasting peace through dialogue and diplomacy and to work to bridge divides around the world.
“India is already a key player, both globally and at the United Nations," President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly Dennis Francis told PTI in an exclusive interview.
Francis is on an official visit to India from January 22 to 26 and will hold bilateral discussions with the leadership and representatives of the Indian Government, and engage with civil society, leading think tanks, embark on field visits and participate in events related to sustainability, multilateralism, accessibility, and digital public infrastructure, among other engagements.
"Given India's active role at the United Nations, I can only encourage India to maintain its principled stance for advancing the objective of achieving lasting peace through dialogue, diplomacy, and international cooperation as well as upholding international, humanitarian, and human rights law,” Francis said.
Francis noted that in this moment of great uncertainty and escalating geopolitical tensions, conflicts, and climate change also continue to pose an existential threat to the global community.
“With the experience India has in rapid development, the country is in a better position to share experiences and best practices on sustainable development.
"I, therefore, encourage India to continue to lead by example, to demonstrate its outstanding solidarity, and to work to not only bridge divides around the world, but to maintain the visible commitment to championing South-South and Triangular Cooperation for the benefit of the Global South,” he said.
Francis said that one area in which India has indisputably displayed true leadership is that the country contributes significantly to the regular UN budget and consistently ranks as a top contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations.
“As the world's largest democracy where unity in diversity has endured for many years, India can relate very easily to principles of universality, which is the bedrock of the UN's foundation for sovereign equality of States," Francis said.
"In these challenging times where the UN membership is more divided, as President of the General Assembly, I look to India to lead the charge in our quest to repair the trust deficit among the Member States,” he said.
Francis stressed that India's commitment to the UN Charter is also clearly unambiguous in many other ways.
"We see this commitment expressed not only in the values and principles India espouses at the UN but also in very practical and concrete terms, especially at times of delicate intergovernmental negotiations where India has always been instrumental in finding common ground,” he said.
He expressed hope that as a valuable member of the United Nations, India will continue to play its meaningful role as it encourages other member states to do likewise.
“If we are to achieve the promise of the UN – to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war – each member state, big or small, must equally contribute to the work, values, principles, and ideals that underpin the purpose of the Organisation,” Francis said.
Francis said he is in India at the invitation of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
During his visit, Jaishankar and he will hold a bilateral meeting in New Delhi and he will also meet with other key government officials.
Francis noted that he will also utilise the occasion of his visit to seek India's continued support for his Presidency's priorities at the UN General Assembly, while also allowing for the opportunity to appreciate firsthand India's transformative actions and how that can be a benchmark for other countries in the Global South.
“Furthermore, I look forward to seeing the work of the India-UN partnership, through the Country Team, in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially how the country is mitigating the challenges posed by the lack of means of implementing these Goals; in terms of resource mobilisation and leveraging cutting edge technologies,” he said.
Francis commended India for placing gender equality and women's empowerment at the forefront of its policies and priorities, especially with a focus on women-led development.
“I, therefore, look forward to learning more from these laudable efforts to inform my priorities as I champion mainstreaming gender equality into the work of the General Assembly. I will also be interacting with youth, civil society organizations and think tanks while in India,” he said.
Francis underscored that apart from soliciting India's continued support for his priorities at the UNGA, including the preparations for the Summit of the Future scheduled to be held in New York in September this year, his message to India's leadership and those he would interact with would be one of “appreciation for India's efforts to carter for its people while at the same time championing the voice of the Global South.”