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An Interview with Hardeep Puri: Stories from the Real World

Feb 2017

An Interview with Hardeep Puri: Stories from the Real World

Hardeep Puri joined the IFS in 1974. During a career spanning 29 years, he served in senior positions at the Ministries of External affairs and Defense. With extensive experience in the multilateral diplomacy, he served on three occasions as a member of India’s Delegation to the GATT/UN in Geneva including as Ambassador and Permanent Representative from 2002 to 2005. He was President of the UNSC in August 2011 and November 2012 and Chairman of the UNSC Counter Terrorism Committee in 2011-2012. He retired from the IFS in February 2013 and joined the International Peace Institute, New York, a non-profit think tank with headquarters in New York and offices in Vienna and Manama and was Senior Advisor from June to December 2013. Presently he is the Vice-President of the IPI and Secretary General of the Independent Commission on Multilateralism.

  •   You were the President of the UNSC…

Yes, I was the Permanent Representative of India to the UN. If you look at the Presidency of the UNSC, you will find that it works on rotation, alphabetically. So I was the President on two separate occasions in 2011 and 2012. I was also Chairman of the UNSC Committee on Counter Terrorism.

  • Most of the work at the UN meetings is done behind the scenes in Arria-Formulae meetings, with the Open Debates just being there for putting things on record. What makes a diplomat in those behind the scenes scenarios?

When you look at the UN charter, there is a chapter 6 and a chapter 7. Chapter 7 is essentially one which talks about use of force. It does not specifically use that phrase, but rather says “any means necessary”, which indicates obviously use of force. That in itself tells us that diplomacy has failed. There are all kinds of situations when nations come to the UNSC asking for measures directly under chapter 7, sometimes even before peaceful measures have been attempted. For example, the case of USA in Iraq. Do you know how ISIS was formed? It was the USA who made all kinds of arguments in favor of an intervention. ISIS is a creation of the USA itself. And when I was in the UNSC, and even now I say that there were not enough arguments that were presented for the intervention on UN behalf. So diplomacy, it comes from multilateralism. Bilateral, Plurilateral, Multilateral. If you and I have a problem, you and i ought to talk it out first. That is diplomacy in action

  • Given your stint as UNSC-CTC, what is the difference between now and then when it comes to the ISIS scenario? What was lacking on the UN’s part with respect to measures taken that allowed it to blow out of proportion in today’s world?

There are all kinds of statements like how ISIS came from a deformed extremist form of the Al Qaeda and such. But in the end, like I said, another country is at fault, and that country acted without UN authorization. I’ve called it the ‘neglected child’ in my book – created by the countries that are now fighting it. Similar was the case of LTT being funded by India, which in turn led to the assassination of a political leader. So it is a lot on the intelligence services of the Nations acting out of turn.

  • Do we no longer take the opinions of experts at face value anymore, given that both Donald Trump not winning and Brexit not happening were predicted by experts across the world?

Just to be on the record, I predicted both the rise of Donald Trump and Brexit. In fact I recently gave a lecture at Nehru Memorial Museum in which I discussed the case of Trump. However there was another colleague of mine there who differed in his opinions. So as for experts not being able to predict such situations, it’s either that the person does not have sufficient knowledge on the topic, or is lying; because sometimes that is case as well.

  • What is the political instability in Europe currently, with the rise of 5 Star Movement, Syriza and National Front, and the economic instability as well with Deutsche Bank and Monte de Paschi leading to on a global scale and what does it mean for India?

Yes well before we come to what it’s for India, to look at these situations, one has to understand why they are happening in the first place. For example if Le Penn were to in fact win, or the other Eurosceptic parties that are on rise gain, it would signal further destabilization of the western liberal capitalistic world. But I don’t think it’s going to go that far. Donald Trump and Brexit are wake up calls to the situation, but does it mean the end of globalization in entirety? Of course, not. As for India, yes the country does need to watch out. We need to be on the look as to how it threatens us, and at the same time it does provide us with certain opportunities. So yes, we need to be on the watch out.

  • Talking of opportunities for India, what about permanent membership at the UNSC? How do we bypass the opposition faced from some countries to get that seat?

The opposition is in the minds of the people. I was at Jadavpur University a few days ago. Very bright minds- the students, but one of the professors stood up and said that India should not be on the permanent UNSC seat because then we would have to do a lot of work and take up more responsibilities. That is a defeatist belief in itself. What is needed is a draft proposal from one of the countries at the UN and it will be passed with overwhelming majority. We say that we are a civilized Nation, a country of 1.2 billion and we don’t deserve a seat at the UNSC?

  • What role would you say Model UNs have in impacting the current generation and making them diplomats of the future? Also, would India practically benefit from Youth Parliaments?

As far as MUNing goes, it is indeed important that the youth get such exposure. However as you mentioned that it is based on public speaking over diplomacy, even in life being articulate is very important in getting things done. Even you can speak well and get your points across well it of course has an impact. Not just at the UN but even in life. As for the Youth Parliament thing, I frankly do not know, and I do not like to comment on things that I do not properly know about (laughs). However yes I believe that the parties and the leaders would in fact benefit from the work done and the recommendations from the younger generation that would come across from their voices being heard.

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