India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

Taking the lid off illicit financial flows

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pandora papers

Mains level : Paper 3- Tax evasion and tax avoidance

Context

The Pandora Papers, published on October 3, once again expose the illegal activities of the rich and the mighty across the world.

About the Pandora Papers investigation

  • It is “the world’s largest-ever journalistic collaboration, involving more than 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries”.
  • The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has researched and analysed the approximately 12 million documents in order to unravel the functioning of the global financial architecture.
  • The Pandora Papers, unlike the previous cases, are not from any one tax haven; they are leaked records from 14 offshore services firms. The data pertains to an estimated 29,000 beneficiaries.
  • The 2.94 terabytes of data have exposed the financial secrets of over 330 politicians and public officials, from more than 90 countries and territories.
  • These include 35 current and former country leaders.

Role of financial centres and banks

  • A large extent of the illicit financial flows have a link to New York City and London, the biggest financial centres in the world that allow financial institutions such as big banks to operate with ease.
  • The big financial entities operating from these cities have been prosecuted for committing illegalities.
  • In 2012, an investigation into the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR — crucial in calculating interest rates — led to the fining of leading banks such as Barclays, UBS, Rabobank and the Royal Bank of Scotland for manipulation.
  • These banks also operate a large number of subsidiaries in tax havens to help illicit financial flows.

Modus operandi

  • Tax havens enable the rich to hide the true ownership of assets by using: trusts, shell companies and the process of ‘layering’.
  • Financial firms offer their services to work this out for the rich.
  • They provide ready-made shell companies with directors, create trusts and ‘layer’ the movement of funds.
  • The process of layering involves moving funds from one shell-company in one tax haven to another in another tax haven and liquidating the previous company.
  • This way, money is moved through several tax havens to the ultimate destination.
  • Since the trail is erased at each step, it becomes difficult for authorities to track the flow of funds.
  • It appears that most of the rich in the world use such manipulations to lower their tax liability even if their income is legally earned.

Why funds are moved to the tax havens?

  • Even citizens of countries with low tax rates use tax havens.
  • Over the three decades, tax havens have enabled capital to become highly mobile, forcing nations to lower tax rates to attract capital.
  • This has led to the ‘race to the bottom’, resulting in a shortage of resources with governments to provide public goods, etc., in turn adversely impacting the poor.
  • Lowering tax liability: It appears that most of the rich in the world use such manipulations to lower their tax liability even if their income is legally earned.
  • Moving funds out of reach of creditors: Revelations suggest that funds are moved out of national jurisdiction to spirit them away from the reach of creditors and not just governments.
  • Many fraudsters are in jail but have not paid their creditors even though they have funds abroad.

Challenges in checking the illicit financial flows

  • The very powerful who need to be onboard to curb illicit financial flows (as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or the OECD is trying) are the beneficiaries of the system and would not want a foolproof system to be put in place to check it.
  • Strictly speaking, not all the activity being exposed by the Pandora Papers may be illegal due to tax evasion or the hiding of proceeds of crime.
  • The authorities will have to prove if the law of the land has been violated.
  • Operators outside the purview of tax authorities: Many Indians have become non-resident Indians or have made some relative into an NRI who can operate shell companies and trusts outside the purview of Indian tax authorities.
  • That is why prosecution has been difficult in the earlier cases of data leakage from tax havens.
  • The Supreme Court of India-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up in 2014 has not been able to make a dent.
  • Role of organised sector: The Government’s focus on the unorganised sector as the source of black income generation is also misplaced since data indicate that it is the organised sector that has been the real culprit and also spirits out a part of its black incomes.

Way forward

  • Global minimum tax: Recent development has been the agreement among almost 140 countries to levy a 15% minimum tax rate on corporates.
  • Though it is a long shot, this may dent the international financial architecture.
  • Ending banking secrecy: Other steps needed to tackle the curse of illicit financial flows are ending banking secrecy and a Tobin tax on transactions; neither of which the OECD countries are likely to agree to.

Consider the question “How illicits financial flows affect the economies of the nations? What are the challenges in curbing it?” 

Conclusion

To curb the illicit financial flows, the global community needs to reach a consensus on several issues and tackle the challege collectively.

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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.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) at UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IGN, UNSC

Mains level : India's agenda at UNSC

Seeking urgent reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), India has highlighted the failure of the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) since 13 years of its establishment.

Note various countries in the various groups.

What is the news?

  • India, along with Brazil, Japan and Germany are pressing for urgent reform of the UNSC and for a permanent seat in the reformed 15-member top organ of the world body.
  • India has said that the UNSC is finding itself unable to act effectively to address increasingly complex issues of international peace and security.
  • The UNSC lacks inclusivity of those who need to be members of the powerful organ of the world body.

What is IGN?

  • The Intergovernmental Negotiations framework or IGN is a group of nation-states working within the United Nations to further reform of the UNSC.
  • The IGN is composed of several different international organizations, namely:
  1. African Union (55 member states)
  2. G4 nations (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan)
  3. Uniting for Consensus Group (UfC), also known as the “Coffee Club” (it aims to counter the bids for permanent seats proposed by G4 nations, includes Pakistan, Turkey, Canada, Spain and Italy)
  4. L69 Group of Developing Countries ( it includes developing countries from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific)
  5. Arab League (six members: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Syria) and
  6. Caribbean Community ( a group of 15 member countries called CARICOM)

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.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India & UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC, Peace and Security Council of the African Union

Mains level : Paper 2- Objective for India as UNSC member

As India start its stint as UNSC member, it finds itself in a different world with a different set of problems. 

An overview of India’s stint at UNSC after Cold War

1) India’s 1991-1992 stint

  • During 1991-92, India saw the collapse of the Soviet Union and the new Russia’s turn to the US and the West.
  • China was opening its economy and keeping a low profile in the unipolar moment.
  • India, too, its own set of problems.
  • Delhi had to fix its broken economy and overhaul its foreign policy to cope with the post-Soviet world.
  • The West could not resist the temptations for geopolitical overreach [looking into the internal matters of other countries] at the UN.
  • For India, it was a moment to resist the external imposition of solutions to its manifold problems — especially on the Kashmir question and the nuclear issue.

2) India’s 2011-2012 stint

  • During 2011-2012 stint, revived Russia and a rising China began to resisting the sweeping Western agenda at the UN.
  • India’s own relative position improved in the first decade of the 21st century, thanks to rapid economic growth.
  • India was certainly less defensive than in the 1990s, but struggled to turn its new strengths into practical outcomes.

3) India’s current stint

  • India has walked into a far more contentious UNSC.
  • Differences between the US, China and Russia have become intractable.
  • China has risen to be a great power and is making expansive claims and trying to redeem them.
  • Russia has moved closer to China.
  • President Donald Trump’s questioning of America’s traditional alliances has sharpening disagreements between the U.S. and its European allies.

5 Objectives India should pursue at UNSC

1) Maintaining the effectiveness of UNSC

  • The UNSC is becoming less effective today due to the deep divisions among the major powers.
  • After a brief moment of great power cooperation in the 1990s, we are now back in an era of contestation.
  • But there will be enough opportunity for India to play a larger role amid renewed great power rivalry.
  • The UNSC offers room for sustained diplomatic interaction between the major powers, who could create new opportunities for cooperation.
  • The US and China could explore potential common ground even amidst their broad-based confrontation.
  • All other powers, including India, will, of course, want to be sure that the US-China cooperation is not at the expense of others.

2) Making UNSC more representative

  • Making the UNSC more representative has been one of India’s demands since the end of the Cold War.
  • China has no interest in letting two other Asian powers — India and Japan — join the UNSC as permanent members.
  • India’s campaign, in partnership with Brazil, Germany and Japan, to expand the UNSC must continue.
  • For the campaign will help highlight an important principle and reveal the nature of political resistance to it.

3) Dealing with hostile China and unipolar Asia

  • India, which was eager to build a multipolar world with Beijing, now finds itself in a unipolar Asia that is centred around China.
  • Meanwhile, the boundary dispute has worsened over the last decade.
  • China has repeatedly tried to get the UNSC to focus on India’s constitutional changes in Kashmir.
  • Beijing protects Pakistan from the international pressures that India has sought to mobilise at various fora.
  • On the nuclear front, China continues to block India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

4) Strengthening new coalitions

  • The engagement with peace and security issues at the UNSC will allow India to strengthen its new coalitions such as the Quad.
  • India could also use the UNSC tenure to deepen collaboration with its European partners like France and Germany in the security arena, and find common ground with the U.K.
  • India must also sustain an intensive dialogue with Moscow on all international issues, notwithstanding Russia’s worsening problems with the West and closer ties to China.

5) Revitalising engagement with partners in the “global south”

  • Two sub-groups of the global south should be of special interest for India.
  • 1) The numerous small island states face existential challenges from global warming and rising sea levels.
  • They also struggle to exercise control over their large maritime estates.
  • Supporting the sovereignty and survivability of the island states is a crucial political task for India.
  • 2) Africa is the other priority.
  • Nearly half of UNSC meetings, 60 per cent of its documents, and 70 per cent of its resolutions are about peace and security in Africa.
  • The continent has three seats in the UNSC (Kenya, Niger and Tunisia) and there is regular consultation between the UNSC and the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU).
  • The UNSC tenure is a good moment for Delhi to intensify India’s engagement on peace and security issues in Africa at bilateral, regional and global levels.

Consider the question “What objective India should pursue in its stint at the UNSC? What challenges India will face in achieving these objectives?”

Conclusion

As India start its stint at the UNSC, the world finds itself at a precipice with multiple problems. India should use this stint to achieve the objectives discussed here for the benefit of all.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

Opportunity for India to push for reforms at the UN

Note4Students

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.”

Conclusion

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.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

In an uncertain world a seat at the UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : Paper 2- India as non-permanent member of the UNSC

As a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the next two years, India will have to navigate through a tumultuous world. Anti-terrorism will be top priority for India.

India at UNSC

  • India will be back in the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2021.
  • Two-year term will be a critical time in the history of the UN.
  • It is hoped that by then COVID-19 will have subsided, a U.S. President will have been elected.
  • And the contours of a new world order may have emerged.

How elections take place

  • The basic contest for the non-permanent seats takes place in the respective regional groups and their sub-groups.
  • Voting in the General Assembly is to fulfil the requirement of countries having to secure a two-thirds majority of the member states.
  • But regional endorsement is becoming difficult.
  • Last time, it was Kazakhstan which vacated the place for India.
  • This time, it was Afghanistan. India could not have got the endorsement without such gestures from friendly countries.

What will be India’s priorities as a member of UNSC

  • India will continue to provide leadership and a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system.
  • How far the UN will be able to reform itself in the new situation remains uncertain.
  • The UN did not succeed in either defining terrorism or in adopting the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
  • Counter-terrorism will be one of the highest priorities for India at the UNSC.

Permanent member of India issue

  • India’s election as a non-permanent member has understandably ignited the hope that its quest for permanent membership.
  • Nothing is farther from the truth.
  • Seeking to amend the Charter to add new permanent members is difficult task.
  • None of the proposals has the possibility of securing two-thirds majority of the General Assembly and the votes of the five permanent members.
  • A majority of the UN members are against the privileges of the permanent members, particularly the veto.
  • India’s performance in the Council will not lead to its elevation to permanent membership as the opposition to any expansion is not India-specific.

Role of India as non-permanent member

  • The non-permanent members have a collective veto over every resolution in the Council.
  • As a part of collective veto, India will have a higher profile at the UN for the next two years
  • Permanent members can prevent the adoption of resolutions by themselves through veto.
  • But they need at least nine votes to get a resolution passed.
  • India will also have a rare peep into the consultations chamber of the UNSC, which is closed to non-members of the Council.
  • India will get involved in many issues in which it may not have any direct interest.
  • Since India does not have a veto, it shall have to proceed cautiously not to offend anyone.

Consider the question “India has been chosen as the non-permanent member of the UNSC and will be there at the critical time in the history of the UNSC. What should be India’s priority and approach as a member of the UNSC?”

Conclusion

India’s mission in New York has earned a reputation that it is next only to the permanent members in influence. But whether it will be able to deal with traditional challenges in novel ways will depend on the turns and twists in an uncertain world.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India gets re-elected as Non-permanent Member of UNSC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC, NORMS

Mains level : Significance of UNSC membership for India

India gets re-elected as Non-permanent Members of UNSC with 184 out of the 192 valid votes polled in its favour.

Practice question for mains:

Q. United Nations is in need of structural reforms suiting to the needs of present times. Discuss.

What are ‘non-permanent seats’ at the UNSC?

  • The UNSC is composed of 15 members: five permanent members — China, France, Russian Federation, the US, and the UK — and 10 non-permanent members who are elected by the General Assembly.
  • The non-permanent members are elected for two-year terms — so every year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members out of the total 10.
  • Even if a country is a “clean slate” candidate and has been endorsed by its group, it still needs to secure the votes of two-thirds of the members present and voting at the General Assembly session — which is a minimum of 129 votes, if all 193 member states participate.

Sharing of seats

  • These 10 seats are distributed among the regions of the world: five seats for African and Asian countries; one for Eastern European countries; two for Latin American and Caribbean countries; and two for Western European and Other Countries.
  • Of the five seats for Africa and Asia, three are for Africa and two for Asia.
  • Also, there is an informal understanding between the two groups to reserve one seat for an Arab country.
  • The Africa and Asia Pacific group takes turns every two years to put up an Arab candidate.
  • Elections for terms beginning in even-numbered years select two African members, and one each within Eastern Europe, the Asia Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Terms beginning in odd-numbered years consist of two West European and Other members, and one each from the Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Current members as on today

  • The current non-permanent members of the Security Council are Belgium, Dominican Republic, Germany, Indonesia, and South Africa, all of whose terms end this year; and Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Tunisia, and Vietnam, whose terms end in 2021.
  • India begins its term at the beginning of 2021 and will hold the position until the end of 2022.

Has India been in the UNSC earlier?

  • India’s term on the 15-member Council will be it’s eighth.
  • India has earlier been a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92 and 2011-12.
  • For the 2011-12 terms, India won 187 of 190 votes after Kazakhstan stood down from its candidacy.
  • Unlike Africa, which has formalized a system of rotation of its three seats, the Asia Pacific grouping has often seen contests for seats. In 2018, there was a contest between the Maldives and Indonesia.
  • On the occasions when there is a contest, the elections for non-permanent seats can go on for several rounds.
  • Back in 1975, there was a contest between India and Pakistan, which went into eight rounds, with Pakistan finally winning the seat. And in 1996, India lost a contest to Japan.

Significance

  • Terming India’s winning of a non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council one of its best performances” ever, the Union government said.
  • The strong support by almost the entire U.N. membership demonstrates the goodwill that India enjoys in the U.N. and the confidence that the international community has reposed in India.
  • India’s EAM gave India’s overall objective during its forthcoming UNSC tenure as an acronym ‘NORMS’ — New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.
  • NORMS includes the push for expanding the UNSC permanent membership.

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.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India launches campaign brochure for UNSC seat

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UNSC

Mains level : Significance of UNSC membership for India

India has launched its campaign brochure ahead of elections for five non-permanent members of UNSC.

Practice question for mains:

Q. By any calculus, India will qualify for UNSC permanent seat. Analyse.

India’s agenda for UNSC

The normal process of international governance has been under increasing strain as frictions have increased. Traditional and non-traditional security challenges continue to grow unchecked. India will highlight:

  • International terrorism
  • UN reforms and Security Council expansion, and
  • Streamlining the world body’s peacekeeping operations
  • Various technological initiatives

India and UNSC

  • India is guaranteed a place in the UNSC as it is the sole candidate for Asia-Pacific but needs two-thirds of the 193-member General Assembly to vote in its favour in a secret ballot scheduled this month in New York.
  • While India is expected to sail through with the 129 votes required for the seat, the government is setting its sights on much higher numbers than that ahead of the election.
  • In 2010, when India stood for the UNSC seat of 2011-2012, it won 187 of the 190 votes polled.

Streamlining new NORMS

  • This will be the eighth time India will occupy a non-permanent UNSC seat, with its last stint in 2011-2012.
  • India’s overall objective during this tenure in the UN Security Council will be the achievement of N.O.R.M.S: a New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.

Non-permanent membership  isn’t a cup of tea

  • The government launched its plan for the UNSC seat as far back as 2013, officials said, with a keen eye on 2021, and the year that will mark its 75th year of Independence.
  • To our good fortune, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan agreed, in a gesture to our friendship, to step aside for the 2021-22 seats.
  • The next big challenge was to pursue the Asia-Pacific grouping nomination without any last-minute contenders being propped up against India.
  • While diplomacy between capitals certainly helps, the vote had to be tied down by negotiations on the ground.
  • India was able to win a unanimous endorsement from the 55-nation grouping that included both China and Pakistan, in June 2019.

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.

Also read:

India’s Bid to United Nations Permanent Seat

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Permanent Missions to the UN

Mains level : Terms of reference for the mission

Syed Akbaruddin, a fiery spokesperson, who is credited with effectively presenting India’s position on a range of crucial issues at the UN headquarters in New York for the last several years, has retired. A 1985-batch IFS officer T S Tirumurti, currently serving as Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs will succeed him.

Permanent Missions to the United Nations

  • The Permanent Mission is the diplomatic mission that every member state deputies to the UN, and is headed by a Permanent Representative, who is also referred to as the “UN ambassador”.
  • Article 1 (7) of the Vienna Convention on the Representation of States provides for a permanent mission.
  • UN Permanent Representatives are assigned to the UN headquarters in New York City, and can also be appointed to other UN offices in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi.
  • The Mission in New York is housed in a 27-story building designed by the noted architect Charles Correa in 1993 and is decorated with MF Hussain paintings.

The Indian Permanent Mission at the UN

  • According to the website of the Permanent Mission of India in New York, there are currently eight Indians in senior leadership positions at the UN at the levels of Under-Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General.
  • The first Indian delegates at the UN included statesman Arcot Ramasamy Mudaliar, and freedom fighters Hansa Mehta, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, and Lakshmi Menon.
  • Mehta and Pandit were among the 15 women members of the Indian Constituent Assembly.
  • India was among the select members of the United Nations that signed the United Nations Declaration at Washington on January 1, 1942.
  • India also participated in the historic UN Conference of International Organization at San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945.

India’s Bid to a Permanent Seat at United Nations

[op-ed snap] About time India got a seat at the high table

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India's entry to UNSC

Context

Prime Minister called upon all like-minded nations to push for an overhaul of the United Nations (UN) structure. 

Need for reforms

    • Misused by some members – The UN is being used by some members as a tool rather than an institution to resolve global conflicts. 
    • Losing relevance – It formed in 1945 after World War II with that war’s victors, the US, Russia, the UK, France, and China, as permanent members of its Security Council. For decades afterward, the Big Five exercised disproportionate clout in world affairs due to their nuclear arsenals. This is no longer so. 
    • Need other veto holders – If contemporary geopolitical realities are to be taken into account, then the Council needs to induct other countries as veto holders as well. 
    • The power matrix remains the same – the UN’s apex decision-making unit has remained stuck in time. Such structural deficiencies have rendered the UN largely ineffective on matters of war and peace. 

Signs of losing authority

    • 2003 Iraq war – The most glaring sign of the UN’s lost authority was the US’s 2003 offensive against Iraq in response to the 9/11 attacks. This campaign did not have any UN sanctions, nor was it sought, unlike America’s previous strikes. 
    • Unilateral powers – Since then, unilateral military actions by major world powers gained a measure of legitimacy. The idea of the Council working out solutions to international problems has turned anachronistic.
    • Reduced multilateralism – open disregard for multilateral deliberations has reduced the UN to a talk shop. 
    • Asian century – As the American century gives way to an Asian one, it’s more crucial that the UN regains the stature needed to act as a force for peace.

A strong case for India

    • Economy – India is a rapidly emerging economy. It provides large numbers of soldiers to the UN for peacekeeping missions and is armed with nuclear weapons, for which it has a clear no-first-use policy stated upfront. 
    • Population – India accounts for almost one-fifth of all humanity. 

Challenges to entry

    • Nuclear power – Nuclear hyphenation with Pakistan has been a stumbling block. Pakistan’s ties with Beijing make this hyphenation hard to remove. 

Way ahead

    • India’s market potential could change how strongly other nations rally to India’s cause. 
    • Realpolitik may determine the eventual outcome of structural reform.
    • India could do with a better record of conflict resolution.
    • A country of our strength and diversity simply cannot be left out of the power matrix for much longer.
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