Jaishankar at UN session: Calls out double standards; speaks of challenges for India’s G20 presidency

Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar called out the “double standards” still very much prevalent in global politics while delivering his address at a ministerial session hosted in New York this weekend. Also, during an event that he hosted on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, the minister spoke of the challenges India faced during its G20 presidency, arising from “a very sharp” East-West polarisation and “a very deep” North-South divide.

Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) Dr S Jaishankar addressing the special ‘India-UN for Global South: Delivering for Development’ event in New York, hosted on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. Photo courtesy: X/DrSJaishankar

In his address at the ministerial session, titled ‘South Rising: Partnerships, Institutions and Ideas’, hosted by the Observer Research Foundation, in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations and the Reliance Foundation, the Indian external affairs minister said, “I think more than political will, there is political pressure for change. There is a growing sentiment in the world and the global South in a way embodies it. [But] those who are occupying positions of influence, we see this in the UN Security Council most of all, are resisting the pressure to change.”

Without mincing his words, Jaishankar said, “Those who are economically dominant today are leveraging their production capabilities, and those who have institutional influence or historical influence have actually weaponised a lot of those capabilities as well.”

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar with the United Kingdom Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations Tariq Ahmad, talking in New York. Photo courtesy: X/DrSJaishankar

There was a disparity between what these countries said and did, Jaishankar pointed out. “They will all mouth the right things, but the reality is [that] still today, it’s a world very much of double standards,” he said.

Cultural rebalancing, added the minister, really meant recognising the diversity of the world and respecting that diversity.

The event was also addressed by India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj, Reliance Foundation CEO Jagannatha Kumar, UN Resident Coordinator in India Shombi Sharp and ORF President Samir Saran.

Jaishankar added that the main issues troubling the entire world included debt, SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) resourcing, climate action resourcing, digital access, nutrition and gender. He said that partly because of COVID and partly due to the focus on Ukraine, “these subjects were driven out of the global conversations” and “to get the G20 to talk about what the world wanted it to talk about — that was a real problem in the G20”.

The EAM asserted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had put it very well when he said that “first let’s talk to the people who are not going to be [at] the table; let’s find out what they have to say”.

Continuing to address what the world needed for truly global development, Jaishankar spoke of the existing polarisation and divide while addressing the special ‘India-UN for Global South: Delivering for Development’ event that he hosted yesterday in New York. This event saw participation from dignitaries at the UN as well as foreign ministers from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Small Island States.

“We meet just a few weeks after the New Delhi G20 Summit, a summit which took place on the theme of ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’. Now, it was a challenging summit. It was actually a challenging presidency,” said the EAM.

“It was challenging because we were confronting a very sharp East-West polarisation as well as a very deep North-South divide.” But, he added, India was determined to make G20 get back to its core agenda of global growth and development.

“We do believe that the New Delhi Summit of the G20 has, in many ways, laid the foundation for the international community really to look at its development prospects, hopefully with greater optimism, [and] certainly — in our expectation — with more resources, and that the decade ahead would allow us really to overcome the challenges that we have all experienced over the last few years,” he said.

The minister emphasised that while India had a few more months of its G20 presidency left, “both before the G20 presidency and certainly after it, we will remain very much a partner, a contributor, a collaborator, in our own way perhaps an inspiration to others, on how to address developmental challenges”.

World Health Organization Direction General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (left) with Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. Photo courtesy: X/UN GA President

At this event, Dennis Francis, President of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, said that India’s G20 presidency marked a historic milestone, being the first to usher the African Union into the group as a permanent member — this was a strong symbol of solidarity and co-operation across the Global South.

“India’s legacy of contributions serves as a guiding light, encompassing endeavours such as championing democracy, promoting women-led development, and being among the pioneers in adopting the UN’s Global Goals.

“Indeed, it is a matter of great honour for me to follow in the footsteps of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, the first-ever female President of the General Assembly, whom India proudly entrusted to the United Nations,” said Francis.

“India’s recent lunar mission, landing on the moon’s south pole, showcases the power of science and technology and what can be achieved when all countries have access to them,” he added.