India's focus at UNGA: Development, peacekeeping, Security Council reform

United Nations: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi joins a summit next week of presidents, prime ministers, kings and princes celebrating the 70th year of the world body that rose from the ashes of the World War II, the focus will be on global development, a push to end poverty by 2030 and face the dangers of climate change.

Modi is scheduled to address the summit at its opening session next Friday when the world leaders will pledge their commitment to Agenda 2030 as the set of 17 sustainable developmental goals for the next 15 years are called. These pick up from the Millennium Development Goals that wrap up this year.

After a quick trip to the Silicon Valley on the West Coast to meet with leaders of the digital economy and address a gathering of the Indian community in San Jose, he will return to New York to participate in a high-level meeting convened by President Barack Obama at the UN on September 28. During his short stays at UN, Modi is expected to have a whirlwind of bilateral meetings with leaders at the summit.

When the General Assembly starts its 70th session in earnest on September 28, it will pick up on the development agenda as well as Security Council reform. With Modi returning to India on that day, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will address the regular Assembly session on October 1.

Briefing reporters Thursday, Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said that in the Assembly session India wold work for an "inclusive and holistic approach" to probems facing the world. He added, "We do not want to go down the road of confrontations or (working in) silos."

Mukerji highlighted the importance of India for meeting the Agenda 2030 goals and why it will work to preserve the mandate and keep it from being diverted. "India is the biggest canvas" for the developmental goals of Agenda 2030 and given the nation's size its contribution will impact the program's success, he said.

Agend 2030's 17 goals range from eradicating poverty and hunger to ensuring clean water and sanitation for all, and from providing clean energy to achieving gender equality.

Mukerji said that India had already set targets for some of the goals as part of its national programs. India planned to provide universal access to sanitation and clean water by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. New Delhi had also set a national target of producing 175 gigawatts of clean renewable energy, of that 100 gigawatts of solar powerr. This will make a "qualitative difference," Mukerji said while noting that the world's solar power capacity now was only 100 gigawatts.

With the last session of the Assembly removing a major hurdle to Council reforms by endorsing a negotiating text, Mukerji said "We are very upbeat." The Assembly has Council reform on its agenda in November. Meanwhils, Mukerji said, India will be convening a meeting of G-4, the group comprising it, Brazil, Germany and Japan who support each other's candidacy for permanent seats on the Council and jointly campaign for its expansion.

As the largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations, India welcomed the report of the high-level panel headed by Jose Ramos-Horta on peacekeeping. India will seek to have it "constructively implemented," he said.

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