External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has taken a dig at those opposing the UN reforms, saying those who are beneficiaries of the old system are resistant to that change as they feel it would "dilute" their positions of privilege.
Jaishankar, who is on a three-day visit to Sweden, interacted with the Indian community in this Scandinavian country on Sunday and highlighted the transformations underway in India during his visit to Stockholm for bilateral talks and the European Union (EU) Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum (EIPMF).
Responding to a question if he sees any potential for India to become a permanent member of the Security Council, Jaishankar said that the effectiveness of the United Nations has come under question with each passing year and for the good, it should be reformed.
"The UN was designed in the 1940s at a time when though India was an original signatory to the Charter, but India was not an independent country. And at that time the five countries who are still today permanent members of the Security Council, they kind of selected themselves," he said.
India has been at the forefront of the UN to push for an urgent long-pending reform of the Security Council. India has emphasised that it rightly deserves a place at the UN high table as a permanent member.
The five permanent members are Russia, the UK, China, France and the United States and these countries can veto any substantive resolution.
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There are also 10 elected non-permanent members who serve two-year terms. India completed its tenure as a non-permanent member of the Council in December last year.
"Now, the problem today is like any, any institution, those who are previous beneficiaries are resistant to that change, which they feel would in some way, dilute the positions of privilege. Now, some of them may be more so some of them less so I think the wiser ones will say okay, life is changing. Let me change with it," he said.
He said that during the reform process, some countries will say it is useful for them to have a country like India, and there would be others who may not oppose the country openly but through their actions and policy would try to ensure that the status quo is maintained. He said reforming an organisation which has more than 190 nations as members is very hard.
"So even sitting in the room to discuss it itself is a challenge," he said.
He said that reforms are needed as there is today no African country as a permanent member, there are no Latin American countries.
"So, even for the good of the UN, it is so I'm not even taking an Indian viewpoint, I would say globally...For the good of the UN should be reformed," he said.
"But, you know, it will be kind of a tussle between the reformers and those who are obstructionist. But I'm pretty confident that with each passing year, I've seen the sentiment for reform grow stronger. So when it will happen, I can't see but I can say the needle is moving in the direction of that," he said.
Speaking about the current geopolitical challenges facing the world, he said: "How the world looks depends in many ways where you're located."
He said the Ukraine conflict is the most important event.
The people in Asia to Latin America will experience different impacts.
"It's not like they, they are unaware of the seriousness of it. It is that it's manifested in their lives in a very different way. So if you ask, say in Africa today, what is it which is really like you consider the life and death issue? You know, people will tell you to look, debt is a big issue. We don't have the money to do education health, we are actually cutting back and in many ways, far from progressing," he said.
The Ukraine conflict has different impacts in different parts of the world. In some places it has expressed itself in food shortage, some countries found their energy bills shot up and there would be places where actually people would say they don't have a fertilizer supply. Russia is one of the biggest, probably the biggest exporter of fertilizer.
He said the disruptions caused by such events are one of the issues.
"We don't think of it as geopolitical, but it actually is," he said. He also spoke about the big risk that can arise if the production is not dispersed, that if there's a concentration in one area.
Talking about technology, Jaishankar said the new technology is actually very, very strategic.
"We are moving into a world where data, artificial intelligence, I mean, these are actually going to be the new expressions of power.
When asked about how India is going to balance the trade with China while maintaining the security of the country, Jaishankar said when India embarked on the path of reforms in 1991-92, it did not give the kind of encouragement and support to manufacturing as given by China and Korea.
"Now, what it did was, it actually put Indian industry, especially small industry, very much at a disadvantage, because, on the one hand, we were all exposing them to the world. But we were exposing them to economies where, in a sense, there are not a lot of non-market factors, subsidies at play, the scale was very different," he said.
Now the focus of the government is to motivate and encourage the revival of manufacturing.
"I don't want to be political abroad, but we have not always seen consistent support for industry and for manufacturing in India. But there is also the motivational factor. "There's a lot of infrastructure, but there's also that sense of having pride in being Indian of supporting your own or wanting your own companies to come. You know, that requires a certain I would say collective mindset," he added.
He said after the COVID pandemic and the disruptions caused by the Ukraine crisis, there is a sense in the world that there should be more sources of production.
"And we are trying to position ourselves and trying to capture that sentiment and tell global companies saying, Look, why don't you also look at India," he said.
On a question about India being less ambitious on its net zero targets, the minister said asking a society at USD 2,000 per capita income to even make a commitment, itself is a huge ask.
"We should actually today look at a vision in a way you cannot equate India and the timelines of India and the growth path of India with countries that host per capita income of five times or 10 times or 20 times that of India," he said, comparing it with China whose per capita income four and a half times of India.
When asked about Indian culture going global, he said Indians abroad have a role to play in this.
During his address, Jaishankar spoke about the transformations underway in India. He also spoke about India's ties with Sweden.
"Sweden has historically been an important partner. It has been an important partner when it comes to political relations," he said.
"When I say that political relations are good in practical terms, what it actually means is, you know, it could be the United Nations, it could be other international organisations. We tend to think along similar lines, we work together on important issues, we support each other..." he said.
Jaishankar said Sweden has always been very sympathetic to what we call the Global South, the developing world.
On the business part, almost 300 Swedish companies have a presence in India and there are several Indian firms operating in Sweden. He said this is not a good enough number given the growth rate in India.
"..My approach is to build on what is actually more than a century-old tradition of business presence in India," he said.
He said Sweden is a very crucial Member of the European Union.
The role and the weight of the influence of Sweden in the European Union is something which is of great value at a time when India is negotiating a free trade agreement with the bloc.
"The second is when I look at the kind of, you know, challenges that India would contract in its own growth and development. Again, Sweden and its capabilities and its strengths fit in very strongly with that.
He said the digital domain is the area where there are very strong possibilities of further collaboration between the two nations.
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