New York, Jan. 9: After more than a decade of idle talk about India's permanent membership of the Security Council, small steps at the UN headquarters here are taking India towards that goal.
On Friday, India broke into a preserve of developed countries at the UN when its additional director of military intelligence, Major General Randhir Kumar Mehta, was appointed by secretary-general Kofi Annan as the world body's military adviser for peacekeeping.
This is the first time that a nominee from a developing country has occupied the post. Also on Friday, the General Assembly voted to convene a three-day meeting of heads of state and government here in September to consider item-by-item the 101 recent recommendations of a high-level panel on 'threats, challenges and change' at the UN.
Among the recommendations is expansion of the Security Council to include new permanent members. Pakistan had strongly lobbied against Friday's resolution. Mehta's appointment was in the teeth of opposition from Islamabad, which had proposed its own candidate for the post.
Argentina, which is now allied to Pakistan at the UN in opposing the expansion of the Security Council and has formed the 'coffee club' of like-minded countries, also lobbied for a candidate of its own. Mehta will replace Dutch Major General Patrick Cammaert, whom Annan sent to the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as division commander in eastern Congo.
The choice of the Indian general was announced ahead of the arrival of the UN's under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, Jean Marie Guehenno, in New Delhi on Monday on a two-day visit. Mehta will advise the UN on peacekeeping policy as well as oversee the management of actual operations.
The appointment and the visit of Guehenno is a recognition by the UN of one of India's major strengths in the world body ' peacekeeping ' as New Delhi strengthens its case for a permanent Security Council seat. Annan would have discussed the appointment with at least some of the council members.
It is a signal of their growing acceptance of India at the UN's high table that the big powers agreed to give up a post at this stage.
Friday's resolution on the proposed meeting of heads of state and government is a victory for India because members of the 'coffee club' wanted the report of the high-level panel on 'threats, challenges and change' at the UN to be considered and adopted as a package by consensus.
Instead, it will now be taken up, recommendation-by-recommendation, and voted upon, if necessary. That means the proposal for Security Council expansion will receive an express approval of the world's heads of state and government in September. The high-level panel was chaired by Anand Panyarachun, former Prime Minister of Thailand. Lt Gen. Satish Nambiar, former deputy chief of staff of the Indian Army, was a member. Among other members were Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, Yevgeny Primakov, former Prime Minister of Russia and Brent Scowcroft, former US national security adviser.
The New York meeting from September 14 to 16 will also review the progress of the UN's Millennium Declaration, which among other goals sought to eradicate extreme poverty and achieve universal primary education.