Swaraj has gruelling schedule at UNGA session

United Nations (IANS) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will see more action on the sidelines of the high-level UN General Assembly (UNGA) session this week than in its chamber, as she keeps up a gruelling schedule of one-on-one meetings with some 30 leaders and participation in several multilateral meetings.

Her formal address to the UNGA, at which she will lay out India’s worldview and its global agenda, is scheduled for Saturday during the morning session that will start at 9 a.m. (6.30 p.m. India time).

Listed as the fifth speaker, Sushma Swaraj was likely to speak after 7.15 p.m. India time.

Dinesh K. Patnaik, the Joint Secretary, UN Political, told reporters on Sunday that there have been 30 requests for bilateral meetings with Sushma Swaraj and she was scheduled to participate in eight meetings of groups.

In her roster of meetings in New York there would be one striking absence: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

India cancelled the meeting between them after terrorists killed three policemen in Kashmir and Pakistan issued stamps honouring terrorists including Burhan Wani — which New Delhi said raised doubts about its commitment to ending terrorism.

However, Sushma Swaraj and Qureshi will both be in the same room at the meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc); the Commonwealth; G77 (the group of developing countries), and the Heart of Asia (a 15-member group stretching from Central and South Asia to Turkey).

Her meetings with leaders kicked off on Sunday when she met with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organisation, to discuss global health issues, which will feature prominently during the UNGA at two high-level events on Ending Tuberculosis and on Non-Communicable Diseases.

Away from world affairs, she met on Sunday with members of the Indian community at a meeting organised by the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin.

Sushma Swaraj will start the week participating in US President Donald Trump’s Monday meeting on the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem. India is among 124 countries co-sponsoring it.

That would be followed by a set of bilateral meetings with foreign ministers Pradeep Kumar Gyawa of Nepal, Nasser Bourita of Morocco, Aurelia Frick of Lichtenstein, Josep Borrell of Spain, Tsogtbaatar Damdin of Mongolia, Marise Payne of Australia, Jose Valencia of Ecuador, and Carlos Holmes Trujillo of Colombia, and with Federica Mogherini, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs.

Sushma Swaraj is scheduled to participate in the afternoon in the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit honouring the birth centenary of the South African freedom fighter and president.

During the week, she will also participate in meetings of the G4, a group made up of India, Japan, Germany and Brazil to advocate for expanding the permanent membership of the UN Security Council; IBSA, the India, Brazil and South Africa forum for cooperation; and BRICS, the group of emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The Indian Foreign Minister will also attend Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s high-level meeting on Action for Peacekeeping.

India was among more than 130 countries that signed a declaration committing themselves to support peacekeeping that was drafted by Guterres ahead of the meeting.

Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda will represent the country at high-level events on Ending Tuberculosis and on Non-Communicable Diseases during the week.

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