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Mukerji’s efforts start negotiations in Security Council

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United Nations: Efforts of Asoke Kumar Mukerji, who worked constantly as India’s top diplomat at the UN, has helped in the start of serious negotiations in Security Council.

His peers at the UN acknowledge the leadership of Mukerji in mobilising support for the text-based negotiations to break decades of deadlock and standing up to last minute machinations against it during his tenure as India’s Permanent Representative that ended in December.

“Ambassador Mukerji is a formidable, professional diplomat, highly competent, highly respected by his peers,” said Antonio Patriota, a former Foreign Minister of Brazil.

“He played a specially significant role in coordinating the L-69, which is a coalition of developing countries, large and small, from Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Asia” that works for Council reform.

Brazil and Indiaconstitute along with Japan and Germany a group known as G-4, which works together for the expansion of the Council and mutually support each other for permanent seats on it.

“Brazil and India coordinated vigorously on this issue,” said Patriota, now his country’s UN Permanent Representative. Mukerji was a “very articulate spokesman for India, for its democratic and legitimate Security Council representation.”

The reform movement in the UN had been stifled for years mainly by China and a group of 13 countries known as Uniting for Consensus (UfC), which is led by Italy and includes Pakistan.

They created a Catch 22 situation by blocking the adoption of a negotiating text, saying it couldn’t be done unless there was a consensus while a consensus couldn’t be reached without a text on which to base the negotiations.

Sam Kutesa, the President of last General Assembly session, took the decisive step last year to create a negotiating text based on a survey of opinions of member nations on Council reform. Over 120 countries took part in the survey carried out by the Jamaican Permanent Representative, Courtenay Rattray, the former head of the reform process known as the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN).

On the final day of the last session of the General Assembly, Kutesa, who is also the foreign minister of Uganda, had the negotiating text adopted.

China and Pakistan and other members of the UfC, as well as Russia, were overcome by the breadth of the support for the negotiating text that they ended their opposition and it was adopted unanimously by the Assembly.

But there was a last minute attempt using some UN staffers to sabotage it. Under pressure from China and some other countries, they tried to change the wording of Kutesa’s agreed communication with the negotiating text drafted in July before sending it out.

Mukerji, who has the look of a gentle, grey-haired academic, went on the offensive and, backed by British, French and other diplomats, threatened a walkout from their meeting. The staffers backed down and the agreed text was sent out and eventually adopted.

Mukerji developed ties to key groups of nations, large and small, backed by initiatives in New Delhi like outreach to Pacific island nations, the India-Africa summit and development assistance to various nations.

Patriota noted that beyond his role in the L-69, Mukerji “also established a network of relationships with our colleagues, others the permanent representatives”. And he, along with the IGN, was able to call on this network to support the text-based negotiations.

Mukerji ascribed the success in this and other issues to India interacting in a more inclusive and open manner with other countries. “Inclusiveness gives India the strength,” he said. “That is why we get cooperation from other countries.”

Sylvie Lucas, the Luxembourg Permanent Representative who succeeded Rattray as the head of the IGN, is to convene this week the first meeting that will be based on the negotiating text.

India’s chances of getting a permanent seat on the Council hinge on the outcome of the negotiations.

In a twist to the often-quoted diplomatic dictum that nations have no permanent friends but only permanent interests, despite the unfriendly bout with Beijing on Council reforms, Mukerji turned first to China for getting the UN to declare the International Yoga Day.

Mukerji explained that getting China to endorse the proposal would be seen as a sign of the idea’s universality and get other countries to line up behind it. Even as some in India expressed misgivings about it, 177 nations cosponsored the Yoga Day resolution and Islamic nations supported its unanimous passage at the UN.

To get the Chinese interested, Mukerji told them about the joint yoga program that schools in New Delhi and Shanghai held during China’s First Lady Peng Liyuan’s visit to a south Delhi school.

During Mukerji’s UN tenure that started in April 2013, India won several elections to UN bodies, including a re-election to the UN Human Rights Council, and elections to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Executive Board of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The yardstick of a nation’s strength is in elections,” he said. And this can be measured by the fact that India has won every election it contested during his tenure.

Another high point of Mukerji’s term was India’s role in helping develop UN’s ambitious development goals for the next 15 years known as Agenda 2030. The earlier such agenda were top-down affairs, but this time, the developing nations that are most directly involved were actively involved in setting the goals.

“Eradication of poverty is the objective of Agenda 2030, and India spearheaded this issue in the negotiations,” Mukerji said. “The major takeaways for India are the inclusion of Economic Goals such as infrastructure, employment, Smart Cities, etc for the first time as Development Goals, and also the identification of energy as a goal.”

On the last day of 2015, the Council conceded a key demand by India in the area of peacekeeping operations. Mukerji had campaigned persistently for the troop-contributing countries to be consulted on peacekeeping mandates and operations.

US Permanent Representative Samantha Power, who presided over the Council in December, admitted the consultation process had been flawed and said on behalf of the Council that there should be full participation by the troop-contributing countries and that these should extend to other important areas beyond mandates.(IANS)(image: shabellenews)

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To Catch Up With China, India Needs To Focus on Improving Its Educational Outcomes

China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

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Children learning in a classroom, pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

Happy kids in School Uniform
China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

India
Schools in India

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

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The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)