India’s Bid to United Nations Permanent Seat

What exactly is United Nations Security Council (UNSC)?

  1. UN Security Council was created following World War II to address the failings of another international organisation, the League of Nations, in maintaining world peace.
  2. It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.

Then, who holds UNSC’s power?

  1. As of now, there are 15 members on the UNSC. Five of those (mostly powers who emerged victorious in the World War II), including the US, UK, France, China and Russia are permanent members.
  2. These members have the all-important veto power which would mean that a resolution or decision would not be approved. Many a times, veto has been used for their own interests.
  3. The remaining 10 non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms, starting 1 January.
  4. Five members are replaced each year. India has been elected as a non-permanent member to the UNSC for 7 such terms, the last of which was in 2011-12.

Okay, so where does India stands in all ?

India want a permanent membership to the UNSC for two reasons.

  1. First, the veto power, which India could use to defend its interests, say against Pakistan (just like Russia did last year over the civil war in Ukraine).
  2. Second, the sheer prestige associated with permanent membership of a multilateral forum. India’s elevation will also be an acknowledgment of its rise as a global power, ready to play a key role in the council’s objectives of international peace and security.
  3. India also believes that the UNSC, which was constituted in 1945 after the World War II, does not reflect the geopolitical realities—the emergence of a multipolar world order largely thanks to the rise of developing economies like China, Brazil and India.
  4. Also, India is the largest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO), with nearly 180,000 troops serving in 44 missions since it was established.
  5. India is also among the highest financial contributors to the UN, with the country making regular donations to several UN organs like the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).

Sounds like a fair ask! So who all support India for this?

  1. Four of the five permanent members have supported India’s bid. China is the only permanent member that has been ambiguous in its support for India, owing to its close ties with Pakistan.
  2. Other member states, like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Singapore, Malaysia and the whole of the African Union have also endorsed India’s bid.

And who opposes?

  1. India’s nuclear-armed rival Pakistan has been leading the opposition to its inclusion in the UNSC’s list of permanent members.
  2. Other countries, part of an interest group called the “Uniting for Consensus” (UfC), also curiously called “The Coffee Club”, formed in 1995, are opposed to India (and the G4’s bid) for permanent seats.
  3. Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt were founder members of the UFC. The list also includes Argentina, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and Indonesia.

Anyway, What’s the process to get into permanent membership?

  1. The reform of the Security Council can only take place if two-thirds of UN member states vote in favour, along with an affirmative vote from all the permanent members, who enjoy the veto power.
  2. Effectively, even if India secures the support of two-thirds of UN members, who are present and voting, it would still need the five permanent members to not use the veto and thereby, prevent the adoption of the reform process.

So far, what’s the progress from India’s side?

  1. Recently, the UN General Assembly adopted a negotiating text by consensus for the long- pending Security Council reforms, setting the stage for talks on the issue at its 70th session, boosting India’s bid for a permanent seat in the revamped world body.
  2. India termed as “historic” and “path-breaking” the adoption of the document, saying the decision puts the Inter- Governmental Process formally on an “irreversible text-based negotiations path” and changes the “dynamics” of the negotiations on achieving UNSC reforms.
  3. China, predictably, said that this was a “technical” or “roll-over” decision. Pakistan too joined the chorus. Italy too has made their opposition clear.
  4. It is widely known that majority in the UN security Council do not want the council to be expanded. And they have been using their proxies to scuttle the process. And that will be the game in town in the months to come.
  5. Now, it will be for India, to team up with other like-minded countries across continents (L-69 and G-4 groupings, to begin with), to get the UNGA to push the text-based negotiations towards conclusion in the coming months and years.

There is no time to sit back and rejoice. The uphill task has just begun. Now, with a text in front of the UNGA, the challenge is to take it forward with optimism.


Published with inputs from Arun
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