India’s UNSC presidency to mark arrival of Mahatma Gandhi’s bust at UNHQ

PTI, Dec 2, 2022, 10:30 AM IST

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will inaugurate a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the United Nations on December 14, marking the arrival of the Mahatma at UN’s headquarters during India’s Presidency of the powerful 15-nation Security Council for the month of December.

India on Thursday assumed the monthly rotating Presidency of the Security Council, the second after August 2021 that India is presiding over the Council during its two-year tenure as an elected UNSC member.

The bust of Mahatma Gandhi will be placed in the ”prestigious” North Lawn of the UN building, which is the first time that a sculpture of the Mahatma will be installed in the UNHQ here.

The simple ceremony will take place in the presence of UNSC members, including the five incoming new Council members – Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, and Switzerland.

The bust, made by renowned Indian sculptor Padma Shree awardee Ram Sutar, who has also designed the ‘Statue of Unity’, will be a gift from India and will be installed in the UN headquarters, which proudly displays gifts and artifacts from around the world.

India’s 2021-2022 term on the Council ends on December 31, with Kamboj, India’s first woman Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, sitting in the President’s seat at the powerful horseshoe table for the month.

Addressing reporters here on the Indian presidency and the monthly programme of work, Kamboj said that apart from two signature events chaired by Jaishankar in the Council on December 14 and 15 on reformed multilateralism and counter-terrorism, there will also be two side events coinciding with India’s presidency.

”The first will mark the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi at the United Nations,” Kamboj said.

The five new members, whose two-year tenure at the Council will begin on January 1, 2023, will replace India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, and Norway and join the five permanent members China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US as well as non-permanent members Albania, Brazil, Gabon, Ghana and the United Arab Emirates at the Security Council’s signature horseshoe table.

Notable works of art at the UNHQ include a section of the Berlin wall donated by Germany, the Soviet sculpture ‘Let Us Beat Swords into Ploughshares’, a life-size bronze statue of Nelson Mandela gifted by South Africa, and the ‘Guernica’ tapestry after the painting Guernica by Pablo Picasso.

The only other gift from India on display at the UN Headquarters is an 11th-century black-stone statue of ‘Surya’, the Sun God, donated on July 26, 1982. The statue, dating from the late Pala period and which is currently displayed in the Conference Building, was presented as a gift by then Prime Minister late Indira Gandhi to the UN.

Then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar accepted the sculpture on behalf of the United Nations.

Ahead of India’s UNSC presidency, Kamboj had told PTI in an exclusive interview that Gandhi’s legacy of non-violence and peace is enduring and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that “this is not an era of war” speaks to that very legacy and has been widely accepted by the world.

The second side event will see the launch of a ‘Group of Friends for accountability of crimes against UN peacekeepers’, Kamboj said adding that a ”more robust peacekeeping has been one of our priorities in the Security Council.” She said that following up on Resolution 2589, which had focused on the safety and security of peacekeepers, the Group of Friends will bring the spotlight on an issue that is ”fundamental, if I may say existential, to the task of peacekeepers.” As 2023 ushers in the ‘year of Millets’, India will also promote and highlight millets during the month.

The year 2023 has been designated as the ‘International Year of Millets’ after a proposal for the same was brought forward by the Government of India and endorsed by Members of FAO Governing Bodies, as well as by the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly.

”We will also be promoting millets”, which are ”very healthy and environment-friendly”, Kamboj said.

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