Despite the fact that India has served as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) more often than any country other than Japan from the Asia-Pacific Group, it is a matter of satisfaction and a tribute to Indian diplomacy that the Group unanimously decided this year to support India for an eighth second-year term. The elections are to take place in June next year. This means that India’s election is assured and its term will run in the calendar years 2021 and 2022.
India believes that the United Nations (UN), especially the UN Security Council (UNSC), must reflect contemporary global realities. For this purpose the reform of the UN including the expansion of the UNSC in both permanent and non-permanent categories is essential. To this end, the Government of India has been actively working along with other like-minded countries for building support among the UN membership for a meaningful restructuring and expansion of the UNSC.
India will need the vote of two-thirds of the 193 UN General Assembly members to win a non-permanent seat on the UNSC.
ABOUT UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL (UNSC)
- Established by the United Nations charter in 1945, the Security Council has the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and secur
- The Security Council has 15 members.
- There are five permanent members: United States, Russian Federation, France, China and United Kingdom.
- The non-permanent members of the Security Council are elected for a term of two years.
- Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions of the Security Council on matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members. A “No” vote from one of the five permanent members blocks the passage of the resolution.
- Any member of the United Nations which is not a member of the Security Council may participate, without vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council whenever the latter considers that the interests of that member are specially affected.
Prime function of the UNSC should be to maintain international peace and security. It should also focus on shared goals, especially international social and economic cooperation
Need for UN Security Council Reforms
- UN represents a larger world and the irony is that it has only five permanent members in it’s such an important body.
- Current composition of the Security Council represents the post World War II realities and thus is not in pace with the changing balance of power in the world.
- At the time of the formation of UNSC, big powers were given privileges to make them part of the council. This was necessary for its proper functioning as well as to avoid the failure like that of the organization ‘League of Nations’.
- The regions like Far-East Asia, South America, South Asia and Africa have no representation in the permanent membership of the council.
- Rise of fora like G4 (India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan) as important economies and emerging world powers are pushing for quick UN Security Council reforms.
- The potential of UN reformin resolving armed conflicts and humanitarian crises, especially in the Middle East and Africa, should not be stifled at the cost of status quo bias.
- The present UNSC has failed miserably in preventing civil wars (like in Syria) and ethnic cleansing (like in Myanmar)
IMPEDIMENTS IN THE EXPANSION OF THE UNSC
- The five permanent membersthemselves don’t want anyone to come on board with them. The world has no evidence in the history where countries have given up such a status quo on their own.
- In the year 2005, when G4 came with a resolution for the expansion of the council, U.S. and China lobbied very hard with African countries to ensure that they do not vote for the resolution.
- One country opposing another country’s bidfor the permanent membership from a region. For example:
- Pakistan does not want India to be the permanent member of the council.
- China has serious objections to Japan being there in the Security Council.
- Italy trying to compete with Germany in Europe for a place in the Security Council.
- Argentina does not agree with the fact that Brazil should represent South America in the UNSC as a permanent representative.
- In Africa, there is still no consensuson which country should represent the region as a permanent member.
- There are no parametersin the UN Security Council for considering the countries for permanent membership.
- There is a concernthat expansion of the council may lead to a decline in its efficiency and functioning.
THE COFFEE CLUB
An informal “coffee club”, comprising 40-odd members states, has been instrumental in holding back reforms to the United Nations Security Council. Most members of the club are middle-sized states who oppose bigger regional powers grabbing permanent seats in the UN Security Council.
The prime movers of the club include Italy, Spain, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Argentina and Pakistan. While Italy and Spain are opposed to Germany’s bid for Security Council’s permanent membership, Pakistan is opposed to India’s bid.
Similarly, Argentina is against Brazil’s bid and Australia opposes Japan’s. Canada and South Korea are opposed to developing countries, often dependent on their aid, wielding more power than them at the UN.
INDIA AND ITS DEMAND FOR A PERMAMANENT SEAT AT THE UNSC
- For the first 40 years of the UN Security Council formation, India never asked for the permanent membership.
- Even in 1993 when India submitted its written proposal to the UN as response to the General Assembly resolution related to reforms, it did not specifically state that it wants permanent membership for itself.
- It is only from the last few years that India has started asking for a permanent membership in the council.
- India deserves a permanent place in the council considering the size of its economy, population and the fact that it is the largest democracy in the world.
- India has become a major player not only in the Asia but also in the world.
- The Security Council would be a more representative body if India would be there in it as a permanent member.
Objectives for Indian Foreign Policy in UNSC
Given the twin challenges of a rising China, and the U.S. receding from its UN responsibilities, India must consider how it will strengthen the multilateral world order amid frequent unilateral moves by both the world powers. India has been at the forefront of the years-long effort to reform the Security Council saying it rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the council, which, in its current form, does not represent the geopolitical realities of the 21st Century.
- India should aim to have its decisions in UNSC based on legal merit. This would be well respected by international community. Enhance its credentials as a constructive and responsible member of international society, which can be used in future to push for a permanent UNSC seat.
- India should emphasize and strengthening multilateralism in international politics to counter existing trends towards unilateralism, ethno-centrism, protectionism and racial intolerance.
- India should attempt to make progress on the non-discriminatory elimination of weapons of mass destruction, protection of the environment against global warming & and safeguarding outer space from weaponization
- India should underline the validity of Article 2 of the UN Charter that provides for state sovereignty and safeguards countries against outside interference in the domestic affairs of other states.
- India should seek to protect the World Trade Organisation from American attempts to undermine it, since the WTO’s dispute mechanism is a resource for developing countries.
- India should also work for the timely reforms in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the UN Human Rights Council and other UN bodies despite the U.S. and a few other countries withdrawing support to them.
- India could use its presence on the UNSC’s sanctions subcommittee to proscribe Pakistan-based militant groups and individuals.
- India needs to become the leader of the South Asian region, since India cannot be considered a global power if it does not lead its own region.
- In upholding respect for a rules-based order in international society, India should underline the sanctity of treaties such as the multilateral accord with Iran endorsed by the Security Council and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
In a highly significant diplomatic win for India and a testament to its growing global stature, India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council for a two-year term was unanimously endorsed by the Asia-Pacific group of the world body, including Pakistan and China.
Demosthenes in Fourth Century BC Athens stated that diplomats had “no battleships at their disposal, their weapons are words and opportunities”. India’s presence on the UNSC will present opportunities to enhance the country’s reputation. American policies in India’s near-neighbourhood towards West Asia, Russia and China present challenges that can be met only with great skill and delicate balance. By remaining silent on contentious issues, India has always remained in a safe zone.
India’s presence as a permanent member will 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. Once India becomes a permanent member, it has to give its views on every issue. As far as India’s membership is considered, all five permanent members including China are more or less on board. India just needs to prepare itself for the permanent position in the council.