United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who arrived in New Delhi Monday night on a four-day visit, will hold a series of meetings with Indian leaders on Wednesday with the focus on mending strained relations with India and push for the UN reform.
Ghana-born Annan met all the heads of the UN agencies here Tuesday and discussed with them various ways of making the UN a more germane and effective body in tune with the needs of the 21st century.
According to the schedule, Annan is expected to meet with Minister of External Affairs Natwar Singh, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and opposition party leader Advani, apart from a round-table meeting to discuss the aids.
He will deliver a lecture on UN reforms titled "In Larger Freedom -- the Changing Role of the United Nations" at the India International Center here Thursday before leaving the country the same day.
Local observers believe the UN chief will take care to steer clear of taking sides in the current controversy that has UN member nations pitted against each other for a seat in the UN Security Council. New Delhi will make a pitch for inclusion as a permanent member although Annan has been studiously maintaining a non-partisan profile with the proviso that a consensus by the member nations should be implemented by September.
The current visit to India shows Annan's relationship with India is improving. He visited India in 2001 but that trip had upset the Indian government by expressing his willingness to mediate between India and Pakistan on Kashmir. New Delhi had again refused to allow him to visit South India in the wake of the Tsunami disaster.
This visit, after the successful Bandung summit, becomes all the more significant as it is also being seen as part of a process by Annan to convince nations of the urgent need for reforms, and to ascertain their views. His India visit is also made ahead of the Millennium Review Summit in New York in September that will discuss proposed reforms of the UN.
"It's crucial for all those who work for the UN to believe in reforms," Annan, the seventh secretary general of the UN, who unveiled a set of radical proposals for reform of the UN early this year, told the assembled staff of UN offices in the capital.
Intense lobbying has overtaken the United Nations in recent days, particularly as most nations appear to prefer Annan's September deadline for the sweeping reforms.
The group of four nations, namely India, Japan, Brazil and Germany, who came together to support each other, held a meeting recently at the UN to lobby for their inclusion in the UN Security Council as permanent members. This was followed by a meeting of the "Coffee Club" of 40 countries which have come together to demand the implementation of providing eight semi-permanent members for four years each and one non-permanent seat.
During his stay in New Delhi, Annan will also meet Congress President and United Progressive Alliance Chair Sonia Gandhion Wednesday. India is likely to use Annan's visit to push its case for permanent membership of the all-powerful Security Council.
(Xinhua News Agency April 28, 2005)