Hope UNSC reform will be accelerated: Ban

United Nations: Ahead of a visit to India, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon today expressed hope that the Security Council`s reform process will be accelerated to meet expectations of countries like India which are keen to play a bigger role as permanent members of the powerful UN body.

"I am very well aware of the aspiration of the Indian government to serve even in a bigger role as permanent member of the UNSC," Ban told PTI here in an interview on the eve of his three-day visit to India.

Ban will depart for his third visit to India as UN Chief tomorrow and would be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior political leaders in New Delhi.

The Secretary-General would receive an honorary doctorate degree from Jamia Islamia University. His itinerary also includes a trip to Mumbai where he would meet Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and attend an event hosted by Reliance Industries` Chairman Mukesh Ambani, who is member of the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy group, which Ban had established.

Ban said UNSC reforms has been one of the most important and most debated issues, particularly during the last 20 years and has picked up pace in the last three years.

He noted that UN member states have been working "very hard and accelerating" the pace of the reform process. "There is generally broad consensus of views that considering such dramatic situations which have been taking place in the international community, the UNSC should be reformed in a more representative, more democratic, transparent way," Ban said.

While there is "almost near consensus" that the UN`s powerful 15-nation body should be reformed, Ban said member states have not been able to find a clear formula which would satisfy and meet the expectations of all member states. "That is the core issue at this time. I hope such progress will be accelerated to meet the expectations of many member states including India," the UN Chief added.

India along with Japan, Germany, South Africa and Brazil is seeking permanent membership of the Security Council. India has been "showing great leadership" as a non- permanent member of the UNSC, Ban said commenting on India`s track record since it joined the Council for a two-year term in January last year.

As one of the leading non-aligned movement and G-77 nations as well as an emerging world economic power, Ban said India has been playing a "great role" in UNSC in addressing peace and security particularly on the issue of "democratisation" across the Middle East and North Africa.

Ban said he expects India, the largest democracy in the world, to "play a greater role" in international affairs. "India should speak out and also help those countries in transition in the Arab world. India can show and lead by example, share its experiences in the democratisation process," with the countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

In addition, India should also continue to promote south- south cooperation since such economic cooperation has taken a much important role in current times than the traditional "north-south" model.

As one of the emerging economic powers, "India has the capacity and has its own experience which will be used by many in the developing world. India has its own models which can be applied to many countries," the UN chief said.

Terming India as a "very valued and strong partner" of the UN, Ban said through his visit he is keen to reinforce the partnership. "All in all I am very happy with the current level of partnership between UN and India. But we are working (to have an) even better, even more and even stronger relationship. That is the main purpose (of the visit)," he said.

Ban also expressed appreciation for India`s troop contribution for peace and security around the world. "We are very grateful for such a great contribution and many such sacrifices by Indian men and women while discharging their duties. We hope to continue to receive greater support in peace and security and peace-keeping operations" from India.

Expressing gratitude for the leadership of Prime Minister Singh in addressing difficult issues around the world, Ban said he has discussed with the Indian leader ways to address global challenges like sustainable development, climate change and peace and security when he met Singh at various global forums.

In Mumbai, Ban said he is keen to "see for myself" the success stories in the field of health and sanitation adding that India has been making great strides in Millennium Development Goals, particularly in the health issues. "We are really showcasing the Indian success stories to other countries," he said.

Pointing out that there are challenges that India faces, Ban said the high rate of infant mortality in the country is a cause of concern and efforts have to be made to reduce the rate significantly.

Ban would also meet with a small group of key business leaders in Mumbai who are committed to utilizing their expertise to promote the health of women and children. He would visit health facilities where he will have the opportunity to witness first-hand the progress being made in communities through his discussions with women, children and health workers.

The visit will conclude with an event hosted by Ambani and Ray Chambers, who is the UN Secretary-General`s Special Envoy for Malaria. The event would also include participation of representatives from government, the private sector, civil society, the creative community and the United Nations.

Ban had established the MDG Advocacy Group, which comprises eminent personalities from across the world who have shown leadership in promoting the implementation of the Millennium Development goals.

Ban was also full of praise for India`s Ambassador to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri, who he described as one of the "very dynamic, influential and wise" persons within the Security Council as well as in the broader UN diplomatic community. "I really appreciate working with him," he said.