United Nations: Promising India’s unwavering support for UN’s development and peace ideals, Syed Akbaruddin presented his credentials Monday to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the 21st Permanent Representative of India to the world body. He succeeded Asoke Kumar Mukerji who retired at the end of last year.
Welcoming him, Moon said that he appreciated India’s significant role at the United Nations as a long-trusted partner of the multilateral system.
Reiterating India’s commitment to the UN, Akbaruddin assured Ban of his fullest support in helping fulfill the priorities Ban had set for this year, including the quest for peaceful political solutions for international problems and working towards the developmental goals of Agenda 2030.
Akbaruddin brings to the crucial diplomatic posting at the heart of the 193-member organisation a trove of rich experience and contacts from his stints at an international body, as the organiser of the recent India-Africa Summit and from serving as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s de facto spokesperson during his many foreign tours.
This is the second turn at the UN for Akbaruddin, who joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1985. He served in India’s UN Mission as a first secretary from 1995 to 1998, when he focused on Security Council reform, a matter that assumes urgency in his current role as the long-delayed process is finally gaining traction.
Another topic he specialised in the 1990s assignment was peacekeeping, which continues to be an area of major contribution to the UN by India. Currently 7,798 Indians are serving in UN peacekeeping operations. Historically India has been the biggest contributor to UN peacekeeping, having sent more than 180,000 Indian troops to 48 of the 69 UN missions so far.
Akbaruddin also brings an insider’s insight into the workings of international organisations from his work at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna from 2006 to 2011. He worked at the IAEA as the head of external relations and as the special assistant to the director-general.
His most recent position at the External Affairs Ministry was as Chief Coordinator of the India-Africa Forum Summit held last October in New Delhi with all 54 African nations participating. With Africa forming the largest single group at the UN, this experience gives him a rich Rolodex of contacts.
Before that he was the External Affairs Ministry’ official spokesperson from 2012 to 2015 when he attended several multilateral and bilateral meetings at the ministerial and prime ministerial levels. Since Modi does not have a prime ministerial spokesperson, Akbaruddin also served as his spokesperson during Modi’s hectic itinerary of international visits.
Akbaruddin’s diplomatic postings include Counsellor at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and various positions in missions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.