India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India set to take over as President of the UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : United Nations Security Council

Mains level : UNSC reforms

India will take over the Presidency of the UN Security Council on August 1 and is set to host signature events in three major areas of maritime security, peacekeeping, and counterterrorism during the month.

Key agendas on the table

During its Presidency, India will be organizing high-level signature events in three major areas:

  • Maritime security
  • Peacekeeping and
  • Counterterrorism

About 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 (P5).
  • 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.

Issues with UNSC

(1) Non-representative

  • UNSC in its current form is not representative of the developing world and global needs — with the primacy of policy being a political tool in hands of P5.
  • By 1992, India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan (referred as G4) had put up their claims and logic for demanding inclusion as permanent members.
  • India has been part of UN since its inception and has contributed maximum peacekeepers to UN so far, has a strong case.
  • Brazil is the largest country in Latin America (unrepresented continent) and fifth-largest in the world. Japan and Germany are one of the largest financial donors to UN.

(2) Rivalry with G4

  • The pitch for reforms of G4 was lowered by their regional rivals like Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt.
  • They started formulation of another interest group, known to be “Uniting for Consensus” opposing G4 becoming permanent members with veto power.

(3) Rigid framework

  • Reforms in the UNSC also require an amendment to the UN charter, in accordance with Article 108.
  • This highlights that any reform of the Security Council not only requires the support of at least two-thirds of UN member states but also all the permanent members.

(4) Veto power

  • The stance of P5 members to expansion has been varying as per their national interest, like most P5 members agree to Indian inclusion, except China.
  • It becomes obvious that even if one member of P5 doesn’t agree to any reform, the UNSC cannot be reformed.
  • There have been many proposals since its inception from totally abolishing veto power to selectively using it for vital national security issues.

(5) No consensus

  • It has been seen in past that the UNSC, in some of the major global security issues, could not arrive at a consensus and interventions that happened by countries mainly from P5 without UNSC resolution.
  • US entry in Iraq war or Warsaw Pact war in Afghanistan are few cases in point.
  • The UNSC has thus become an organization, which can pass strong resolutions against weak countries, weak resolutions against strong countries and no resolution against P5 countries.

Suggested reforms

  • Expansion: Besides the existing P5 members, an expansion of UNSC from five to 10 permanent members, with the addition of G4 and South Africa. This will provide equitable regional representation besides balancing the developing and developed world to meet the aspirations of humanity.
  • Abolition of veto: The expansion of P5 without veto power makes very little impact on the problems, because of which the reforms are required. Ideally the veto power should be abolished.

Will UNSC reforms ever happen?

  • Under the given charter, articles and structures, there is very little hope for UNSC reforms in near future.
  • The lack of reforms can push the credibility crisis of UN to a degree that it becomes unsustainable for it to function, or incidences of side-lining the UN increase manifold.
  • If the UNSC does not appoint new permanent members then its primacy may be challenged by some of the new emerging countries.
  • There is also a possibility that if UN doesn’t reform itself, it may lose relevance and alternate global and regional groupings may assume greater importance.
  • No P5 member is likely to compromise this power in its own national interest, which is generally prioritized before global interest, thus making the reformation process a mirage.
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