India's UN envoy Syed Akbaruddin on Tuesday said that there was no mention of Article 370 in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) closed-door meeting and the fact that no collective statement was issued by 15 members is a victory for India.
Also read: Absence of collective statement after UNSC meeting is a victory for India, says Syed Akbaruddin
"Administrative changes anywhere in the world need not be translated into threats to international peace and security as they are by definition internal in nature and that is the message we conveyed and that is the understanding of the world," Akbaruddin said to CNBC-TV18 in the first episode of '
The Global Eye', a show that would exclusively look at India's foreign policy positions and big global headlines.
Q: Is it a point for concern that the UN Security Council (UNSC) is looking at the Kashmir situation, meeting in this manner on Kashmir for the first time since 1971? Would you also call this the biggest diplomatic challenge in recent times, perhaps since the Pokhran nuclear test?
A: This was a closed consultation. So, by definition, this was a discussion which does not figure in the rules of the procedure of the Security Council. The rules of procedure of the Security Council only provide for public meetings and private meetings. This is a step which is separate, which is an innovative effort by the member of the Security Council to discuss everything and anything. So, let us not try and equate it with what happened in 1965 or 1971 etc. because those were different times, the tools available to the Security Council were different and the options that now are available are different. So, it is totally incorrect to compare and contrast situations which are entirely different.
Coming back to your argument that is this important? Issues of Indian foreign policy which are impinging globally are always important. There are so many issues of nature which impinge on global platforms. For example, climate change. Climate change, what India does within our domestic boundaries has huge implications globally, both for the good of mankind and also concerns that others may raise. So, let us acknowledge that we live in a globalised world and we need to act differently than what was the issue previously. Living in a globalised world means interacting, discussing and convincing people. What you saw last Friday was a manifestation of that Indian effort, that we are confident, that we are certain of our approach, of our willingness to convince people in any format that is available and we have very broad support for our thinking.
Q: Ahead of this UNSC meeting, what was the message that you sent out to various UNSC members? What was the brief sent out to you by the foreign ministry?
A: In such matters, the brief is very simple. For example, the Security Council looks after international peace and security. Our brief is very simple that, issues which relate to adjustment of federal arrangements within India, how do they become a threat to international peace and security, somebody has to explain that to me. It is obvious that our brief which could be simple and cogent had broad resonance. Administrative changes anywhere in the world need not be translated into threats to international peace and security because they are by definition internal in nature and that is the message we conveyed and that is the understanding of the world.
Q: Was the issue specifically about the revocation of Article 370, 35(A), political detentions in Kashmir, was that discussed by UNSC partners because Pakistan has been trying to put the attention on that?
A: Obviously, nobody bought this. The word that you mentioned was never even mentioned in the entire discussion. There was a stray comment or so on that but the broad resonance is pretty clear, that this is not a matter that needs to be agitated in a forum like the Security Council.
Q: The fact that no collective statement was issued by all 15 participants, do you think that is a very telling development?
A: Diplomacy is the art of being nuanced. The lack of a statement is a statement by itself. It perhaps is the loudest statement. People have to understand that institutions and bodies like the Security Council act in a very deliberate manner, take into account everything and decide what they have to decide. So, as you said and I would like to repeat that lack of a statement is the loudest statement.
Q: You had done a briefing just after the closed-door meeting, you also went across and shook hands with the Pakistani journalists. What was going on in your mind at that point and what made you go across to the Pakistani journalists and shake hands with them?
A: I must confess that I had very little time for preparation as there were no plans for statements. Once the president of the Security Council in consultation with all its members decided that there should not be a statement, we did not anticipate a statement. However, for whatever reasons, there were some others who decided to make a statement or two. We, therefore, thought that we should also place our perspective in front of everyone.
As a representative of an open democracy, I was open not only to make my case but willing to answer any questions that the international media would like to ask us. There was a large contingent of Pakistani journalists there and I thought it was appropriate that I should respond to them.
As regards to going across and shaking hands with them, I think diplomats need to try and bridge differences rather than add to the divergences. So, this was my small effort at indicating that India stands ready to bridge differences and we are waiting for a response from the other side. For example, I had said that India is fully committed to the Simla agreement, I am still waiting for a response from the other side to that.
Q: If we speak about those closed-door consultations, were you surprised with the position taken by China especially after foreign minister Jaishankar had briefed his counterpart in China about the administrative changes in J&K? Also, the stand that was taken by the United Kingdom?
A: I will not get into what was said in the closed-door consultations as I always use this cricketing analogy that what goes on in the dressing room is left best in the dressing room and not brought on to the cricketing field. Similarly, confidential discussions of an informal nature in a conversational style, are best left there.
However, that said, what has been told in the public domain, we have answered in the public domain about that. We do not think that this issue needs to agitate anyone as it has no external ramifications. If there are any, if people would like to understand better, we stand ready to explain to them including to our colleagues from China.
Q: It seems that Pakistan is there for a long haul as today the foreign minister of Pakistan has made a statement that they could be taking India to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over this issue and on September 9 there is a meeting at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), would you also be preparing for that?
A: Let me say what you saw on last Friday was only a small element of our diplomatic effort. It is just that I am truly grateful that I had the opportunity to say in public what is part of a bigger response than we have to work through great diligence across the world. Many of our missions are involved and the strategy and the approach are worked out by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and our leadership in Delhi.
So, let me assure you that we stand prepared to respond to any effort that is made anywhere in the globe, in any manner. We are convinced of our views. We feel that there is a broad understanding of our views, and everybody has the right to decide what they feel best. I will leave it at that, but to assure you that India’s diplomatic efforts, you saw only a small part of that last Friday, they are much vaster, they are much broader, and they are working with a coherence that will only emerge when you see a response. For the present, it is better that it is subterranean, but what you cannot visualise or see, does not mean it is not underway.
Q: Does Pakistan have any claim on this issue at the ICJ at all?
A: I am not going to get into the legal dimensions. It is for the lawyers to answer, but I would just like to draw your attention to the rationale that was adopted by the ICJ in a past case relating to the Atlantic. I will rest my case there. The rest, we will see. These are speculative questions to be responded too. As and when these come into being, we will respond to them.
Q: This is an issue that is going to play out at the UN in the next few days, weeks and moths. How will India work towards restoring normalcy in relations vis-à-vis China and also with Pakistan on this issue?
A: Please understand that our interest in the UN is extremely broad. I just hinted in some manner to climate action. So, let us look at what the United Nations General Assembly High-Level week is focused on during the period of say, September 23-28. The Secretary General’s primary focus is on climate action and India is a key player in climate action. The efforts that we are putting in in terms of renewables, in terms of trying to address a whole host of climate change-related efforts, are going to be showcased there. That is the first effort.
Number two, the area that has been focused on at the United Nations General Assembly during that week is universal health coverage. There is no country which has a more ambitious plan for universal health coverage than India. You are aware of the efforts that we have taken in the last 12-18 months and the plans for universal health coverage for more than 500 million families. So, obviously, we have a primary role to play.
Number three, the focus will be on financing for development. If you see the efforts in the last decade or so that we are making, both internally to raise resources for development and externally to try and help our partners on development issues, it is just breath-taking. Everybody wants to know how is India is managing its development transitions.So there are a whole host of issues that are the focus of the United Nations General Assembly. However, if someone wants to raise an issue, they will come to do so. I have said this before, this is an annual itch for Pakistan, we know how to handle this and we will handle it in the way we have handled it in the past. We do not see that this will have resonance beyond what one delegation or a few others may say.