Indian foreign secretary says free, fair polls need of the hour in Libya

India on Thursday called upon the international community once again to “speak in one voice” against terrorism as it sought to draw the attention of the UN Security Council (UNSC) towards continuing presence of Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Libya and their increasing influence in the region.

During a UNSC briefing on UN support mission on Libya, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla raised concern over the failure of political parties in Libya to agree to a constitutional and legal basis for elections scheduled in December, which, he insisted, needs to be held as planned and in free and fair manner.

“The next six months will be critical for Libya, as it embarks on a journey towards peace and stability,” the foreign secretary said, adding, “It is incumbent upon the international community and the Security Council, in particular, to continue to provide support to Libya in this critical phase.”

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a 75-member body comprising people from sectors, concluded five days of UN-brokered deliberations earlier this month without agreeing to the legal basis for the presidential and parliamentary elections that are considered critical to returning the warn-torn country back to peace and stability.

Shringla stressed the need for all parties to “continue consultations” and for preparation to remain on course for the election, among key steps needed to be taken over the next six months.

He also called for ending foreign interference in Libya and to ensure the “peace process must be fully Libyan-led and Libyan-owned with no imposition or external interference”. And, he added, provisions of the ceasefire agreement must be implemented, such as the “withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries”.

As one of the worst victims of terrorism, India has relentlessly called on the international community to pay special attention to the scourge of violence by non-state actors. And, Shringla took the opportunity to press the Security Council on the need to prevent terrorist groups from operating unchallenged in Libya.

The continued presence and activities of Islamic State in Libya, as attested to by a UN report, Shringla said, “is of serious concern”.

The report indicates spread of such activities into the adjoining Sahel region – western and north-central Africa.

“Libya has become a logistics platform for al-Qaeda affiliates in Mali,” the foreign secretary said, adding, “This is a matter of grave concern due the potential cascading effect it could have throughout the Sahel region. It is unfortunate that the issue is not drawing the attention it deserves. The international community must speak in one voice against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”

Efforts must be made to also for the “disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed groups and non-state armed actors and, finally India would recommend an “inclusive and comprehensive national reconciliation process is the need of the hour”.