NEW YORK: A new narrative of multilateralism appears to be emerging from the ongoing 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, with the US and Iran deciding to restart engagement and India robustly backing dialogue to resolve conflicted issues like the Syrian crisis.
Voicing deep concern over the future of West Asia, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned against the temptation to use military force to defuse the festering Syrian crisis.
Speaking at the 68th session of the UNGA in New York, Manmohan Singh exuded calm purposefulness and underlined that “the increasingly lethal conflict in Syria is not only a tragedy for the people of Syria, but also threatens stability and security in the region and beyond.”
Taking a calibrated stand, the Indian leader unequivocally supported “the elimination of chemical weapons material and equipment in Syria,” but in the same breath reiterated forcefully that “there is no military solution to this conflict.” “We must intensify efforts to end the conflict and seek a political settlement. It is essential that the Geneva-2 conference be convened at the earliest,” he said in New York September 28.
Alluding to the resumption of direct talks between Israel and Palestine, Manmohan Singh underlined the importance of peace and stability of West Asia, the region which contributes 70 per cent of India’s oil imports and is home to 6 million-strong Indian diaspora.
“India supports an early realisation of a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders side-by-side and at peace with Israel. We also remain committed to the Palestinian quest for full membership of the UN.”
The prime minister pointed to the growing scepticism about the relevance of the United Nations among some sections, but underscored the need to restore the UN to its pivotal role in resolving crises and in promoting an inclusive developmental agenda.
“Nearly seven decades of the work of the United Nations hold one simple lesson and that is this: we are most successful when we adhere to the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter, basing our decisions on the widest possible consent and balancing equitably the needs and responsibilities of nations at different stages of development,” he said.
The last few days at the 68th session of the UNGA, an annual jamboree of world leaders, have seen some dramatic and hopeful developments that seem to suggest a reaffirmation of diplomacy and retreat of military adventurism in addressing the world’s crisis spots.
The Syria crisis and the Iranian nuclear issue were among regional crises that also figured in discussions between Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama in Washington September 27.
In a potentially historic step that has major implications for peace in the Middle East, the US and Iran held their highest-level talks in New York September 26 in 36 years, kindling hopes for a lasting thaw between the arch antagonists. The Iran-US talks have vindicated the approach of India, which has relentlessly advocated dialogue to defuse the Iranian nuclear impasse.
US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for nearly an hour in the UN Security Council’s consultation chamber in New York.
Looking ahead, the talks could lead to a deal on the Iranian nuclear issue wherein the West would agree to ease sanctions on Iran in return for Tehran removing ambiguities about its nuclear programme, which has been suspected of pursuing atomic weapons. The contours of the deal are expected to be firmed up within one year and will be discussed in greater detail when diplomats of the US and Iran hold discussions in Geneva October 15-16.
The potential Iran-US thaw promises to open a new window of opportunity as it will clear a persistent source of discord in the growing strategic ties between Washington and New Delhi. A senior Indian official said that India welcomes the resumption of engagement between Washington and Tehran and underlined that India has all along backed the resolution of the Iranian issue through dialogue and diplomacy.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes, www.indiawrites.org, an online journal and magazine focused on international affairs. He is in New York to report and analyse proceedings of the UN General Assembly).
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.