NEW DELHI: India's foreign minister made a pitch yesterday for a coveted veto-wielding seat on the United Nations Security Council in talks with visiting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, an official said.
Foreign Minister Natwar Singh put forward India's case at a meeting in New Delhi with Annan, who last month outlined ambitious proposals for overhauling the 191-member world body, including expanding the Security Council.
Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters the "mechanics" of UN reforms came up for "extensive discussions" in the talks and both sides agreed on the need for reforms to be achieved at a UN summit in September.
Asked whether Annan backed India's bid for a Security Council seat, Sarna replied: "That part of the discussions is confidential."
India says its one-billion-plus population, its role as the world's biggest democracy and surging economy entitles it to a permanent place at the Security Council table with full veto powers.
Recently, New Delhi sent special envoys to Asian and African countries to garner support for its candidature, citing also its status as a founder member of the world body and its participation in UN peacekeeping efforts besides being a nuclear power.
India, which has participated in 42 of the 60 UN peacekeeping operations so far, says it has the backing of Britain, Russia, France and China for its quest for a permanent council berth while the US is non-committal.
Some 74,000 Indian troops have served in UN peacekeeping missions all over the world, with 109 killed in service under the UN flag, Sarna said.
"The Secretary General had very generous applause for the Indian Army's role in five-and-a-half decades of peacekeeping ... (as) the third largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping forces around the world," Sarna said.
Annan also met President Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the leader of the opposition, Lal Krishna Advani and was slated to cap a day of "extensive" discussions with a dinner meeting with the premier.
Annan, who arrived on Monday, set the agenda for his four-day visit, saying he hoped to discuss UN reforms with Indian leaders that also include debt forgiveness and a timetable for boosting aid.
India said the reform should reflect global realities and empower the 60-year-old global body to meet rising challenges posed by international terrorism, poverty and underdevelopment.
The expansion of the Security Council is by far the most sensitive reform of the sweeping changes Annan has outlined.
Annan's wife, Nane, who is accompanying him, meanwhile, appealed to Indian law enforcers during a visit to a police station to act as "torch-bearers" in the fight against HIV/Aids and treat infected people with dignity.