United Nations: Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid was on Monday elected as President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, garnering 143 votes out of the 191 ballots cast.
Shahid's rival candidate Afghan foreign minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul who won 48 votes. The new president will preside over the upcoming session of the UN body that will commence in September.
India had been giving its strong endorsement for Maldives' Shahid's bid for UNGA Presidency, saying he is best equipped to preside over the General Assembly of 193 nations of the world.
India's congratulation to the new incumbent was conveyed by Permanent Mission to the UN in a tweet "Hearty congratulations to Maldives Foreign Minister @abdulla_shahid for the robust victory and for being elected as the 76th President of the UN General Assembly,".
"This is a crucial time for the United Nations and for the world. There's very little time to spare, so I intend to get to work right away. I intend to hit the ground running on day one in September as soon as I take my oath of office," Shahid, 59, said in his remarks to the press following his election.
The Maldivian minister said his "immediate priority" will be recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and working to ensure "vaccine equity" to restore hope from a year characterised by "disease, despair and devastation."
Shahil said about the challenges ahead mainly the global challenge from Covid, "we need to move to a different normal" and said that his "five rays of hope, my five priorities" are geared towards that.
Congratulating Shahid on his election, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres commended him for his selection of "hope" as the central theme in his vision statement.
The UN Chief said Shahid's long diplomatic experience has given him a deep understanding of the importance of multilateralism in addressing global challenges.
In his remarks to the press, Shahid added that his ultimate objective is to strengthen multilateralism, enhance cooperation, make the United Nations deliver, reign in a presidency of hope.
In response to a question on whether physical meetings will be held, he said "we have started with one plus one formula, which seems to be functioning so far so good. It would be prudent for us to make sure that we maintain our cautious approach to this so that we will be able to continue the function of the United Nations in the new normal." But he added that as soon as possible, the body may decide to meet in person after reviewing the situation.
According to the established rules of regional rotation, the President of the 76th session of the General Assembly was to be elected from the Group of Asia-Pacific States.
The President of the General Assembly is elected every year by a secret ballot and requires a simple majority vote of the General Assembly.
The Presidency of the General Assembly rotates among the five regional groups - the Group of Asian States, the Group of Eastern European States, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Group of African States, the Western European and other States Group.
Traditionally, a regional group agrees on one candidate and presents his or her candidature for election as President of the General Assembly, paving the way for election by acclamation. But this year the two candidates in fray were from the Maldives and Afghanistan, with both of whom India shares close ties.
In November last year, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, on a visit to Male, had said that the Maldives should play a more prominent role in the United Nations and had reiterated India's support to Shahid's candidature for the presidency of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.
Although Afghanistan had sought India's support to its candidature, India explained that since it had already committed its support to Maldives, it had to stand by that.
Shahid will succeed Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir who was UNGA President for the 75th session that came amid the unprecedented COVID19 pandemic. Bozkir congratulated Shahid on his election.
(With PTI input)