US Congressman pitches for India's inclusion in UNSC

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Washington, Feb 21 (UNI) A senior US Congressman has called upon his country and likeminded nations to actively advocate reform of the UN Security Council, beginning with permanent membership for the world's largest democracy, India.

''India is an important ally of the United States and the world community. Their enormous role in mediating and contributing to global peacekeeping missions combined with their ever-evolving economic prowess and democratic institutions, makes them a natural fit as a permanent member of the Security Council,'' Congressman Gus Bilirakis, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, wrote in an editorial for the Washington Times.

Congressman Bilirakis has introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the UN to amend Article 23 of the Charter to establish India as a permanent member of the Security Council.

''India's permanent membership must be embraced if we are to reform the United Nations and effectively address the global challenges of the 21st century,'' Mr Bilirakis said.

''In India, democracy and rule of law, protections for freedom of the press and respect for all religions are woven into the fabric of society. On a continent afflicted with violent extremism and markedly authoritarian, repressive government systems, India has created a peaceful and stable government that respects the human rights of its diverse citizens,'' the Congressman said.

Another important reason for the United States to advocate India's membership on the Security Council, he said, was that India was a crucial and proven partner in the global war on terror and is strategically located to combat growing Islamist extremism in South Asia.

''In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, India took the unprecedented step of offering full and immediate use of its bases for US-led operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Moreover, India's neighbor, Pakistan, is a nuclear-armed power beset by instability and radicalism. The Taliban and al Qaeda have made Pakistan's tribal regions their base of operations. As the security situation in Pakistan worsens, the chances of nuclear warheads falling into the hands of extremists will certainly increase. A strong Indo-US partnership is essential to confront this threat,'' he said.

''India's success is propelled by a trillion-dollar economy--the world's fifth largest with annual growth rates of nine per cent.

India provides once-inconceivable opportunities for prosperity throughout Asia and its society is comprised of one billion Hindus and 150 million Muslims--the second-largest Islamic population in the world-- reflecting the diverse religious tolerance that is critical in this often-radicalized region of Asia,'' he added.

India's million-troop army is one of the world's largest, it is well-trained in counter-terrorism and a strong participant in peacekeeping and civil-relief activities, he said adding that presently ranked as the second-largest contributor of peacekeepers to the UN, India was one of the few countries that have participated in all major peacekeeping operations undertaken by the Security Council to date.

Adding the voice of the world's largest democracy to the deliberations of the Security Council would be a major improvement to an organisation too often paralysed by the intransigence of anti-democratic members, the Congressman said.

UNI XC MS AT RN1748

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