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India's Off UNSC, Farewall to Hardeep Singh Puri, Big Democracy & Underdogs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 25 – With Indian ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri set to leave his country's foreign service, after 39 years, at the end of February, among his farewells was one for the UN press corps on Monday night at the Indian mission.

  The Mission's spokesman asked Inner City Press to say a few words; Hardeep's deputy Manjeev Singh Puri made the introduction as samosas were passed around.

  On the way to the Indian mission from the North Lawn building Inner City Press ran into two Permanent Representatives who had been to farewells for Hardeep. Both sang his praises.

  There are many farewell receptions in UN World, but the sentiments for Hardeep are genuine.

  Here is "as prepared" -- for "as delivered," see video, here

Ever since Hardeep Singh Puri told me he was retiring from the Indian Foreign Service after 39 years service, I've been angling for an exit interview, or to try to set up a talk show called “Deep Analysis with Hardeep.” It hasn't happened yet, but when I was asked by Prakash [Gupta] to put together a few lines for this event, I got to work on my handy Aakash Two.

Hardeep served in London, in Sri Lanka in 1987, again and again in New Delhi, and a time that must have been fun in Brazil. He's a man of the BRICS, and of IBSA. So what if his predictions on Security Council reform haven't happened yet? Hope springs eternal.

Most of us, I think, got to know Hardeep during India's two years on the Security Council, especially during his presidencies of the Council in August 2011 and November of last year. During the August presidency most of his colleagues were away on holiday. Last November saw fast moves by the M23 in Eastern Congo, where India has a major peacekeeping presence.

Among the biggest troop contributing countries -- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, for example -- Hardeep stood up to the Secretariat, on issues of pay and reimbursement, and also of peacekeeping mission's mandates. Now with India off the Council, there's approval for “peace enforcement” battalions and drones, and who know what next.

Even coming from, well, the world's largest democracy, Hardeep sides with the underdog. In the spirit, I'm seeing him off not only as Inner City Press but also for the new Free UN Coalition for Access. Others can do it under their own name. India is a land of many religions and beliefs.

And so even after he leaves, we'll need some straight talk from Hardeep. He served it up, along with this excellent food, here in the Mission. He offered to be even more honest over whiskey, and my Aakash research hints at why: in world trade negotiations, he was on a panel about alcoholic beverages. Diplomacy will take you everywhere, they say. And Hardeep, it's been a pleasure.

  As delivered, Hardeep broke in several times, to say he'd prefer a stand up comedy routine to a talk show called 'Deep Analysis with Hardeep. Inner City Press did not deliver the line about the Free UN Coalition for Access, not wanting to “brand” the reception.

  But quickly another speaker said, “on behalf of UNCA” -- why? Especially given recent events? This was followed by a heartfelt tribute from an Indian photograph (who is a FUNCA member), another Indian journalist, and Amir Dossal, who offered praise for support to the UN's Democracy Fund and monument to the memory of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

  Hardeep said he will be staying in New York, and that he is advising his successor “Max” -- Ashoke Makuherji -- to also interact with the press. But will he do so as well? Watch this site.

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