India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

Explained: India at United Nations Security Council

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : India's agenda at UNSC

India is back as a non-permanent member on the United Nations Security Council.

Q.What objective India should pursue in its stint at the UNSC? What challenges India will face in achieving these objectives?

India at the UNSC

Take a look at its seven previous terms, and what its agenda will be amid events concerning China, Pakistan and the US:

  1. In 1950-51, India, as President of UNSC, presided over the adoption of resolutions calling for the cessation of hostilities during the Korean War and for assistance to the Republic of Korea.
  2. In 1967-68, India co-sponsored Resolution 238 extending mandate of UN mission in Cyprus.
  3. In 1972-73, India pushed strongly for admission of Bangladesh into the UN. The resolution was not adopted because of a veto by a permanent member.
  4. In 1977-78, India was a strong voice for Africa in the UNSC and spoke against apartheid. Then External Affairs Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke in UNSC for Namibia’s independence in 1978.
  5. In 1984-85, India was a leading voice in UNSC for resolution of conflicts in the Middle East, especially Palestine and Lebanon.
  6. In 1991-92, PM P V Narasimha Rao participated in the first-ever summit-level meeting of the UNSC and spoke on its role in the maintenance of peace and security.
  7. In 2011-2012, India was a strong voice for developing world, peacekeeping, counter-terrorism and Africa. The first statement on Syria was during India’s Presidency at the UNSC.

India’s diverse role-play

  • India played an active role in discussions on all issues related to international peace and security.
  • It included several new challenges which the UNSC was called upon to deal with in Afghanistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
  • In view of the threat posed to international trade and security by piracy off the coast of Somalia, India promoted international cooperation against the pirates.
  • At India’s initiative, the UNSC mandated international cooperation for release of hostages taken by pirates as well as for prosecution of those taking hostages and those aiding and abetting these acts.
  • India also worked for enhancing international cooperation in counter-terrorism, prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors, and the strengthening of UN peacekeeping efforts.

Issues at UNSC: The politics within

  • The seven previous terms have given Indian diplomats the experience of how diplomacy is conducted at the multilateral setting.
  • There have been instances where permanent members would like the non-permanent members to be “cooperative”, and no stand in the way of major resolutions.
  • Most non-permanent members get influenced by the P-5 members. They did not wish to irritate the permanent members and were keen to be perceived by them as ‘cooperative’.
  • This was precisely how the permanent members would like the non-permanent members to behave.

Walk-alone moves by India

  • The Indians took P5 work more seriously and consequently had to fight a lonely battle.
  • This was the time when the Gulf War erupted and India voted in favour of the US-sponsored resolution in April 1991.
  • India’s vote was dictated by pragmatic considerations.
  • The US had made it clear to India that failure to support the resolution would make it very difficult for them to help India in the World Bank and the IMF.
  • Back then, India was going through a severe balance-of-payment crisis and needed funds from these organisations.
  • Also, India needed the US on its side, if and when the Kashmir issue came up.

Twenty years later, when India again became a non-permanent member at the UNSC, it was stronger economically but still had to negotiate politics within the Council.

Ugly faces of the council

  • Most professional diplomats shed their innocence before they arrive at the horse-shoe table around which the Security Council meets.
  • In the real world of foreign and security policy, decision-makers are invariably confronted by cruel choices that are equally problematic and come in various shades.
  • Practitioners are acutely conscious that it is only diplomacy’s outward packaging that dwells in a commitment to a higher moral purpose.
  • The shameless pursuit of narrowly defined interests is most often the motivation and seldom raises eyebrows in the world of multilateral diplomacy.

Issues before India

(A) Long slated UN reforms

  • New Delhi has said it is essential that the Security Council is expanded in both the permanent and non-permanent categories.
  • It says India is eminently suited for permanent UNSC membership by any objective criteria, such as population, territorial size, GDP, economic potential and ongoing contributions to UN activities.

(B) Terrorism

  • The international effort against terrorism is a key priority for India in the UN.
  • With the objective of providing a comprehensive legal framework to combat terrorism, India took the initiative to pilot a draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in 1996.
  • A text of the Convention is being negotiated in the 6th Committee of the UN General Assembly.
  • India worked closely to ensure the listing of Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar under the UNSC’s 1267 Sanctions Committee (May 2019) concerning al-Qaida and ISIS terrorists.

(C) China challenge

  • India is entering the UNSC at a time when Beijing is asserting itself at the global stage much more vigorously than ever.
  • It heads at least six UN organisations — and has challenged the global rules.
  • China’s aggressive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific, as well as the India-China border, has been visible in all of 2020, and New Delhi will have to think on its feet to counter Beijing.
  • At Pakistan’s behest, China has tried to raise the issue of Kashmir at the UNSC — but has not found much support.
  • There is some discussion among the strategic community in New Delhi on raising the issues of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Tibet at the UNSC.

Conclusion

  • India will weigh the pros and cons with partners on what steps to take in this direction.
  • But, the polarizing politics inside India gives a window of opportunity to its rivals and opens up the possibility of criticism — especially on human rights issues.

Back2Basics: United Nations Security Council

  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.
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