Amidst the recent nose-diving of Sino-Indian relations, China’s acceptance of Siddharth Chatterjee, a former Indian army Special Forces veteran, as the new UN Resident Coordinator to China indicates an attempt to dial down on differences and look at points of convergence between the two countries.

Appointments of such senior UN appointments in any country particularly China calls for a lot of negotiations, and the appointment of Siddharth Chatterjee who is not just an Indian citizen but a decorated Indian Army veteran is a positive step.

Mr Chatterjee is currently the Resident Coordinator in Kenya and headed 23 UN agencies and an acknowledged star campaigner for innovative SDG financing in developing countries. He has been with the UN for over twenty years, including in Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Darfur, Timor Leste and with the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan. He also worked with the Red Cross Movement in Geneva

His presence in Beijing presents an opportunity for China and India to foster joint leadership in the sustainable development agenda, specifically through South-to-South collaboration. China and India are two of the major global powers, boasting not just the two most populous countries but also the fastest growing economies in the world.

The two nations have sought economic cooperation with each other, but frequent border disputes and economic nationalism in both countries are a major point of contention. Collaboration instead of competition is vital not just for India and China’s stable growth, but for the sustainable development of the entire world. It is an agenda that cannot be achieved if developing countries are not given support.

The two countries have potential for driving the shift in world power dynamics and make themselves key players in the prospects of success for the UN-driven 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDG agenda is arguably the most ambitious undertaking by the community of nations, and it behoves global superpowers to forge partnerships to give a leg-up to the less endowed.

The other nexus between India, China and the developing world that relates to the SDGs of the UN is environmental stewardship. Air pollution is a major cause for concern to both Delhi and Beijing. The UN can provide coordination between the two governments and entrepreneurs in programmes for clean manufacturing and responsible production.

With their respective high rates of urbanization, the two countries can provide models for the rapidly urbanizing African cities in such areas as public transit and reduction of air pollution.

The new UN leadership in China under Mr. Chatterjee will have a unique opportunity as convenor in the emerging trust between China and India. The presence of an Indian national in the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office is of significant value, as it has the potential to enhance the fundamental interests of the two countries and their citizens, spur multilateralism, as well as contribute to regional and global development.