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India, Africa demand ‘rightful place’ in UN Security Council

New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS) India on Tuesday made a strong pitch for early reforms of the United Nations Security Council before a gathering of Africa’s leaders, saying both India and and Africa can no longer be excluded from their “rightful place” in the world body.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who addressed the ministerial meeting of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) here, also referred to the scourge of terrorism faced by India and Africa and said the menace of non-state actors and cross-border terrorism has acquired a new dimension.

She said India was committed to a people-centric approach for cooperation with African countries which focuses on capacity building, human resource development and technical and financial support for mutually agreed priorities.

The minister said that unless there were more democratic global governance structures, a more equitable international security and development framework will continue to elude the world.

“Although Indians and Africans comprise nearly 2.5 billion people, our nations continue to be excluded from appropriate representation in the institutions of global governance,” she said.

“India and Africa can no longer be excluded from their rightful place of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. How can we expect legitimacy from a governance structure that excludes the entire African continent and a country, which represents one-sixth of humanity?”

“The 70th session of the UN General Assembly is an opportune moment to achieve concrete results on this long pending issue,” she added.

The minister said India welcomed the progress achieved during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly under the leadership of Sam Kutesa of Uganda towards commencing text-based negotiations.

“We look forward to working together in an active negotiating process to take this forward,” she said.

The minister suggested putting in place a regular review mechanism to evaluate implementation of the various cooperation initiatives between India and Africa at the bilateral, regional and pan-African levels.

“In the past, the solidarity between India and Africa was vital to defeat the forces of colonialism. Today, India and Africa are engaged in an equally vital struggle – the struggle to eliminate poverty and uplift our people,” Sushma Swaraj said.

She said India and countries from Africa were working to ensure provision of healthcare, education, employment, access to modern energy services, infrastructure, and connectivity between resources and markets. “The similarity of our priorities and shared purpose provide special strength and context to our partnership. Providing universal access to primary healthcare and battling diseases are particularly urgent priorities for both India and Africa,” she said.

She said “all our nations” find themselves faced with the growing scourge of terrorism.

“The menace of non-state actors and cross-border terrorism has acquired a new dimension. The scale of this challenge is huge and undermines the peace and stability in our countries, which is essential for our development efforts,” she said.

India last week accused Pakistan of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy and said that international community was “deeply concerned about its support to and sponsorship of terrorism”.

Some countries in Africa are also countering threats of violence from local and international extremist outfits. Swaraj said there was need to step up cooperation through intelligence exchange and called for adoption of convention against terrorism.

The minister said that Indian credit lines totalling nearly $9 billion were fostering the economic and infrastructural development of Africa.

“We have utilised the vehicle of lines of credit to foster economic and infrastructural development in Africa. In the last decade, a total of almost $9 billion in concessional credit has been approved for nearly 140 projects in more than 40 African countries and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) by India. So far, nearly 60 projects have been completed,” she said.

She said India was among the first emerging economies to unilaterally put in place a duty-free market access scheme for least developed countries (LDCs).

She also pointed out at how Indian companies were increasingly investing in Africa and referred to the strong cooperation between India and Africa on global trade issues.

The minister said that over 180,000 Indian troops have participated in UN peacekeeping missions – more than from any other country – and pitched for greater involvement of troops from contributing countries in the decision making process.

Tuesday is the second day of the third IAFS. The summit meeting to be attended by nearly 40 heads of state and government and high representatives of the remaining 54 African countries will be held on Thursday.