Kolkata | Former Belgium prime minister Yves Leterme has strongly advocated for the permanent inclusion of India in the UNSC, asserting that such a move will enhance the council's legitimacy and representation.
Leterme contended that there is a need for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to adapt to the realities of the 21st century as it requires representation that goes beyond the structures established in the 20th century.
Lauding the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for elevating India's geopolitical stature, Leterme said the country has earned the right to a more robust position in the multilateral arena.
In an interview with PTI, Leterme applauded the new connectivity initiative, the India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), emphasising its complementary nature to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
He said, "It complements and completes the one that is designed by the Chinese."
Reflecting on the geopolitical aftermath of the Ukraine-Russian conflict, Leterme advocated for a more equitable distribution of roles in multilateral institutions, particularly urging greater participation from countries such as India, Brazil, and African nations.
Leterme emphasised the need for a reset in multilateral institutions, suggesting a rebalancing to address the evolving global power dynamics.
He said, "We are all preaching for a better distribution of roles. I think that our multilateral institutions have served us very well after the Second World War. But there is a need to reset and, by reset, I mean we need to rebalance, to make changes in the balance of power."
Regarding rising nations like India, some African countries, and Brazil, Leterme insisted they are entitled to significant roles in the multilateral framework.
Highlighting the imperative for India to have a more prominent role in multilateralism, Leterme argued, "The legitimacy of the work done by the (UN) Security Council would be enhanced if the P5 is enhanced with India and Brazil, making it more representative. You cannot tackle 21st-century problems with 20th-century setups and solutions."
Expressing his support for India's bid for permanent UNSC membership, Leterme said, "The UN Security Council needs to be restructured so that India, Brazil, and some other rising nations have a say and have the right to influence decision-making."
India, a strong contender for permanent UNSC membership, has expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of progress in Security Council reform discussions. Currently, the UNSC comprises five permanent members and ten non-permanent members, elected for two-year terms by the UN General Assembly.
The five permanent members are Russia, the UK, China, France and the United States and these countries can veto any substantive resolution.
Discussing the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Project, Leterme dispelled the notion of competition with China's Belt and Road Initiative, stating, "I don't see it from a competing point of view. The new initiative is very much welcome, because it complements and completes the offer that is existing and the one that is designed by the Chinese."
Leterme emphasized the need for improved European Union (EU) connectivity with Asia, especially focusing on the existing disconnect between European economies and Asia.
He called for a better transport infrastructure to enhance connectivity.
The former prime minister underscored the importance of the connectivity partnership between the EU and India, proposing additional investment in infrastructure links for transporting energy goods and water to strengthen ties between the two regions.
Commenting on Modi's leadership, Leterme praised India's progress in becoming a trustworthy partner in geopolitics.
"I think the performance is there. This is a nation that makes progress, and India is growing in its role of being a trustworthy partner in geopolitics. And I think that's a very important dividend of the policy-making of the last years," he said.
Regarding the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the EU, Leterme emphasized the EU's interest in concluding the FTA with India, which he considers a powerhouse of the future.
"European Union has not been successful recently in striking trade deals. It is in interest of the EU to conclude the FTA with India. It should be a priority to work towards drafting a good balanced FTA with India," he said.
Leterme said there's a need for the European Union to invest more in the partnership with India.
"I think that we have to work with India to better coordinate our position in the G20 System in the multilateral framework. So the European Union should invest more in its privileged relation with India to be allies in geopolitical processes," he said.
He emphasized that it is in EU's interest that India play a non-aligned role, cooperating with all states rather than aligning exclusively with the United States or China.