India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

Opportunity for India to push for reforms at the UN


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various UN bodies

Mains level : Paper 2- Opportunity for India to push for institutional changes at the UN

The article analyses the changing geopolitical context against the background of the pandemic. China has been facing some challenges at the UN of late. Multilateralism faces an unprecedented crisis. This context provides an opportunity for India to push for reforms in international institutions. 

China facing difficulty in elections to UN bodies

  • Recently, India besting China in the elections for a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
  • Soon after the CSW vote, it lost another election, this time to tiny Samoa for a seat on the UN Statistical Commission.
  • And a couple of days ago, it just about managed to get elected to the UN High Rights Council, coming fourth out of five contestants for four vacancies.
  • Earlier, China’s candidate had lost to a Singaporean in the race for DG World Intellectual Property Organization.

China’s strengths

  • Taking advantage of its position as a member of the P-5 and as a huge aid giver, China made itself invincible in UN elections.
  • It won among others, the top positions at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Historical background on China’s rise at the UN

  • World War II saw strong U.S.-China collaboration against the Japanese, including U.S. operations conducted from India.
  • Their bilateral ties saw the U.S. include the Chinese in a group of the most important countries for ensuring world peace post- World War II, along with the U.S., the USSR and the U.K.
  • This enlarged into the P-5, with France being added by the UK at the San Francisco conference held in 1945 where the UN charter was finalised.
  • The pure multilateralism of the League of Nations was thus infused with a multipolarity, with the U.S. as the sheet anchor.

Challenges to multilateralism and the need for reform in the international institutions

  • Multilateralism is under stress due to COVID-19 pandemic and a certain disenchantment with globalisation.
  • At the root is the rise of China and its challenge to U.S. global hegemony.
  • But in the current scenario multilateralism backed by strong multipolarity in the need of the hour.
  • This demands institutional reform in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and at the Bretton Woods Institutions.
  • In this context, it is good that recently India, Germany, Japan and Brazil (G-4) have sought to refocus the UN on UNSC reform.
  • As proponents of reform, they must remain focused and determined even if these changes do not happen easily or come soon.
  • This is also the way forward for India which is not yet in the front row.

Way forward

  • Earlier in the year, India was elected as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for a two-year term.
  • India will also host the BRICS Summit next year and G-20 Summit in 2022.
  • These are openings for India in collaborating the world in critical areas that require global cooperation especially climate change, pandemics and counter-terrorism.
  • India also needs to invest in the UN with increased financial contributions in line with its share of the world economy and by placing its people in key multilateral positions.

Consider the question “The UN, which came into existence in different time fails to take into account the realities of the changing world. In light of this, examine the basis of India’s claim to a permanent seat at the UN. What are the challenges to India’s claim.”


Against the backdrop of pandemic and subsequent pushback against China at the UN, it is also an opportune moment for India and a Reformed Multilateralism.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments