December 20, 2010

US to meet Indian team today on UNSC expansion

December 20, 2010 11:38 IST

Obviously in an effort to prove that President Barack Obama's [ Images ] endorsement of India's [ Images ] candidacy for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council during his address to a joint session of the Indian Parliament on November 8 was not simply a hollow symbolic gesture, the United States will host a team from India at the State Department over two days beginning on Monday to discuss strategy for a way forward toward UNSC expansion.

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The Indian team will be led by India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Hardeep Singh Puri -- the architect behind India's unanimous election in October as a non-permanent member of the UNSC -- and will comprise officials coming from India led by Harsh Shringla, Joint Secretary, United Nations, Political in the South Block, and senior officials from the Indian embassy in Washington, including Deputy Chief of Mission Arun Kumar Singh and Naveen Srivastava, Minister, political.

The host for the bilateral discussions will be US Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Esther Brimmer, and the US team will be led by Under Secretary of State William Burns, and comprise senior officials, including Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake [ Images ].

Both Burns and Blake accompanied Obama during his trip to India last month and were among the officials who were part of a State Department and National Security Council officials who convinced Obama to endorse India's bid for permanent membership in the UNSC.

Besides discussions over working luncheons hosted by Brimmer, India's Ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar will also host both the Indian and US delegations for dinner at her residence on Monday night.

Sources told rediff.com that since the latest round of negotiations for UNSC expansion in the General Assembly concluded on December 17 with a consensus for text-based negotiations from the hitherto open-ended negotiations, which has remained comatose for several years, the US apparently wants to be in the loop and part of the negotiating process.

Following the stalemate of the open-ended negotiations, the president of the UN General Assembly on the urging of a missive signed by 140 nations, including India, had acquiesced to move into a text-based negotiation and appointed Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations Zahir Tanin to chair this text-based negotiating group.

Although the US was not a signatory to the letter calling for a text-based negotiation, it now wants to get into the act and be a party to the negotiations. From an earlier position of being opposed to such a text-based negotiation, it has now endorsed such a negotiation.

However, the discussions at the State Department over the next two days will be exclusively with India, and according to sources, Washington does not want to be left out in terms of working out a modus vivendi with New Delhi [ Images ], especially since French President Nicolas Sarkozy [ Images ] and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visits to New Delhi last week where they strongly endorsed India's candidacy for the UNSC and agreed to launch a concerted effort for UNSC expansion.

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

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