The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal seeks a UN of his vision

New York, Sept. 25: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today urged world leaders gathered here for the 58th General Assembly to take a realistic view of the UN’s limits and called their attention to the “misplaced notion” after the Cold War that “the UN could solve every problem anywhere”.

As one of senior-most leaders at the General Assembly who has been attending its sessions year after year for decades as an MP, as external affairs minister and as Prime Minister, Vajpayee said “we need to introspect on some of the assumptions that have been made over the years on the will and reach of the UN.”

He said the world body’s enthusiasm and pro-active stance after the end of the Cold War reflected laudable intentions.

“But we soon realised that the UN does not possess magical powers to solve every crisis in all parts of the globe or to change overnight the motivation of leaders and communities around the world.”

Vajpayee did some plain-speaking on Iraq, describing it as a major challenge to the UN. “It is imperative that the people of Iraq should be empowered to determine their own future, to rebuild their nation.”

At the same time, he cautioned the international community, including those who opposed the war against Saddam Hussein, that “it is not very productive to linger on the past”.

For the first time, he comprehensively outlined the priorities in Iraq as New Delhi saw it. Vajpayee listed these as “ensuring security and stability, restoration of basic facilities and infrastructure and a roadmap of political processes for a representative Iraqi government”.

He underlined the view that the UN has a “crucial role” in this process of political and economic reconstruction.

Referring to General Pervez Musharraf’s attack on India yesterday in his address to the UN, Vajpayee stopped short of calling off any talks with Pakistan.

“We totally refuse to let terrorism become a tool of blackmail. Just as the world did not negotiate with al Qaida or the Taliban, we shall not negotiate with terrorism”.

The Prime Minister said a dialogue with Pakistan can begin when cross-border terrorism stops “or when we eradicate it”.

He said spiritedly that to talk to Pakistan before that milestone would be to betray the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who “defied a most ferocious campaign of violence and intimidation sponsored from across our borders and participated in an election which has been universally hailed as free and fair”.

Vajpayee did not mention by name India’s claim to a permanent seat in the Security Council.

But he drew the attention of world leaders to the growing assessment that “changes of form and function” were required if the UN was to play an effective role.

“The permanent members guard their exclusivity,” he lamented. But most members of the UN today recognise the need for an enlarged and restructured Security Council with more developing countries as permanent and non-permanent members.

Vajpayee urged heads of state and government gathered here to learn from UN’s experience during the crisis in Iraq.

He pointed out that the five permanent members of the Security Council could not agree on action in Iraq even though they were in complete agreement on the basic objectives of any action there.

Until the Security Council is “reformed and restructured, its decisions cannot reflect truly the collective will of the community of nations”.

With the air of a head of government whose repeated warnings about global terrorism were vindicated by the tragedy of September 11, Vajpayee urged the UN’s recently-created committee on counter-terrorism to ensure the compliance by member states of their obligations to fight terrorism.

Without naming Pakistan, he said: “We should have credible multilateral instruments to identify states that contravene” resolutions that reflect the common will of the world community on terrorism.

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