Describing India as a ‘pillar of multilateralism’, UN Secretary-General urges it to play a bigger role in responding to the situation
India must support Bangladesh in dealing with the Rohingya crisis and put pressure on Myanmar for their return, Antonio Guterres, on his first official visit to India as the United Nations Secretary-General, said here on Tuesday.
Making a strong pitch for India to play a bigger role “according to its capacity” on the problems of nearly a million refugees who fled violence to live in camps in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, Mr. Guterres said the violence they faced from Myanmar security forces was “unacceptable”.
“What can India do now? First, support Bangladesh with the huge humanitarian problem it faces now. Second, India must put pressure on Myanmar, not just in reconstruction of Rohingya villages, but in creating the environment for these people to go back,” Mr. Guterres said at a “town hall event”, taking questions from students, journalists and officials from the United Nations and the NITI Aayog. He described India as a “fundamental pillar of multilateralism”.
Mr. Guterres, who visited the Cox’s Bazaar camps along with the World Bank chief in July, warned that terror groups trying to recruit Rohingya refugees could threaten the region, including India. “Fortunately, there aren’t many Rohingya who have been recruited, and we have been able to avoid the situation so far, but discrimination and unresolved problems facilitate [the aims of] terrorist groups,” he said.
Asked about the process of reform in the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Guterres spoke of India’s role in leading a new “multilateral architecture” for the world, and its work in countering terrorism. However, he said the world was “still far” from taking up India’s appeal for a permanent seat. The UN Secretary-General, who said his wife was born in Goa, praised India’s diversity, and called for its “inter-religious harmony” to be “preserved and cherished”.
Criticising the U.S. for backing out of its commitments in the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) while countries like India led the battle on climate change and renewable energy efforts, Mr. Guterres said “superpowers abuse their power” against other countries, and warned that the U.S. too would face the negative impact of global warming.
On Wednesday, the UN Secretary-General will attend the first assembly of the International Solar Alliance, as well as a conference of Energy Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) countries.
Mr. Guterres’s visit was timed with the beginning of the year-long celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019. October 2 was declared the International Day of Non-Violence by the United Nations in 2007. Paying his respects at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at Raj Ghat, he wrote that Gandhiji was the “greatest soul that has ever lived” and “our guide in our troubled world”.
He attended the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and held a bilateral discussion on the sidelines of the event held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In a tweet, Mr. Modi said the two leaders had discussed “a wide range of issues pertaining to global peace and prosperity”.