M A I N   N E W S

Putin wants UN seat with veto power for India
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4
The visiting Russian President today put an end to an unnecessary controversy over the wrong interpretation of his yesterday’s remarks when he described the published media reports as “absolutely incorrect understanding of (Russia’s) views.

“I am convinced that India should have veto power otherwise it will be a one-sided reform of the United Nations,” Mr Putin said in his brief interaction with reporters at Delhi Cantonment after inaugurating the BrahMos Joint Venture Complex.

The plethora of media reports today on Mr Putin’s remarks on India’s case for permanent membership in the to-be-expanded United Nations Security Council — which suggested that Mr Putin was for India getting a place on the high table of UNSC without the veto power — raised eyebrows of South Block mandarins. The Russians also quickly realised that the wrong reports threatened to put a dampener on his otherwise successful visit.

Mr Putin himself realised it when Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat called on him at 11 this morning. Sources told The Tribune that Mr Shekhawat bluntly told Mr Putin that his statement on the Indian case for UNSC had not sent the right signal for the time-tested friendship between New Delhi and Moscow.

“Who told you so,” Mr Putin asked Mr Shekhawat. The Vice-President replied that this news was all over in today’s newspapers.

At this, Mr Putin consulted his aides and officials and told Mr Shekhawat: “This news is wrong. I will myself deny it.”

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and India’s Ambassador in Russia, Mr Kanwal Sibal, were among those present during the Putin-Shekhawat meeting. The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mr L.K. Advani, also raised the issue when he called on Mr Putin an hour later.

In the afternoon, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Navtej Sarna also rejected the interpretation of some Indian newspapers. The spokesman said: “In his meeting today with the Vice-President of India and later with the Leader of the Opposition, President Putin categorically rejected the interpretation given by some newspaper reports on his remarks yesterday about veto powers in an expanded Security Council.

“He (Mr Putin) said that he had emphasized the need of retaining the instrument of veto as a means of ensuring the effectiveness of the UN Security Council. In extending full support to India’s candidature, he felt that India as a new member should have the full rights of permanent membership, including the right of veto. He (Mr Putin) said that if India achieves a permanent seat in the Security Council, it cannot be a permanent member of a second rank.”

Interestingly, Commodore Uday Bhaskar, Director of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, told The Tribune today that in the post Cold War era, veto power had been used just 19 times, of which the US used it 14 times. The Soviet Union used veto thrice and China only twice. In the post Cold War period, Commodore Bhaskar said Britain never used a veto independently — whenever it did it was on the initiative of the US — and France never used veto power at all.

In his a news conference which he addressed jointly with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Hyderabad House yesterday, Mr Putin had said that he was convinced beyond doubt that there should be no impact on the rights of the existing members of the Security Council in the event of its expansion.

“About the veto power and other tools that are present in the UN organisation, we feel that it would be absolutely unacceptable to erode such existing tools of the UN because then the UN will lose its weight and its role changing into some discussion club — some new additions in the league of nations,” Mr Putin had said.

Earlier this week, External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh had told the Rajya Sabha that India would not settle for a diluted UNSC membership without veto powers.

MEA spokesman has already gone on record saying that India would study the recommendations on institutional changes outlined in the report of the UN Secretary-General’s panel.

“The necessity and the urgency of UN reforms, including that of the UN Security Council, is widely accepted. The panel has supported the idea of the UNSC expansion but has stopped short of a definitive recommendation on new permanent members,” he said.

The MEA view is that it is now for the member-states of the UN to take this idea forward in the coming year.

The international panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave two options in its report. The panel on “Threats, Challenges and Change” has called for increasing the strength of the Security Council from 15 to 24 members and offers two options for the expansion.

The first one provides for increasing the number of permanent seats, without veto power, by six and non-permanent seats by three, while the second option provides for creating a new category of “eight four-year renewable term” permanent seats besides increasing the number of members in the non-permanent category by just one.

Four major aspirants of the UNSC permanent seat — India, Japan, Germany and Brazil — have already loosely formed a Group of Four to lobby for the purpose. These countries have welcomed the panel’s report to the extent that it would stimulate debate and for its focus on “right” issues.

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today called on Mr Putin and is understood to have discussed defence cooperation between the two countries. The two countries had yesterday signed a series of defence protocols including on the key issue of protecting Intellectual Property Rights of weapon systems produced jointly.

India and Russia have jointly developed the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile which they have inducted in their respective defence forces and are jointly marketing it in the world. The inauguration of the BrahMos Joint Venture Complex by the Russian President was his last engagement here before he left for Bangalore.

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