August 13, 2015

What India needs to do to secure a seat in the UNSC

 Last month, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) circulated a long, even cumbersome document, on reform of the Security Council. It is meant to serve as a basis for the debate on long-awaited changes in the structure of the world body’s top chamber, which has the trappings of an exclusive power club with its five permanent members (P5). For more than a decade now, there has been a clamour for the expansion of the Security Council. India is keen to secure a seat in the Security Council as a permanent member. The others, making similar claims, include Japan, Germany, South Africa and Brazil. Along with India, they have come to be known as G4.

What is the IGN?

The Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) text addresses five important issues in connection with the reform of the Security Council. They are issues of the categories of membership, veto, regional representation, size and working of the expanded Security Council and its functioning, and finally the relationship between the General Assembly and the Security Council.
It appears that India was willing to use the text as the basis for debating the Security Council reform. It is even being said that India felt that the text-route was the best way for India to succeed in becoming a member of the council. The way forward for changes in the council seems to have been blocked with the United States, China and Russia, all of them permanent members, not willing to consider the IGN text as a basis for talks on reform.

This leaves India high and dry.

Prime Ministers and diplomats from 2000 onwards have been pursuing India’s claim to be a permanent member of the Security Council. Every visiting dignitary was made to declare support for India’s claim. In the last few years, China and the US have given indirect endorsement of the Indian bid. There was a false sense of jubilation because it was taken to mean that China and the US were firmly supporting the Indian case. But now there is a sense of disappointment in the Indian diplomatic circles.

Revamping India's approach

There is need now to reconsider the approach to the whole issue. It seems India had pursued the demand in a blinkered fashion. There was a feeling that after India had become a nuclear weapons State in the wake of the Pokhran II test explosions, it had earned the right to be part of the big power club. US President Barack Obama told India that it should shoulder greater responsibilities in global affairs in its capacity as an emergent power. But India was not willing to stick its neck out on the burning issues. Whether it was the case of Israel-Palestine, the government of Bashar Al Assad in Syria or the Russian annexation of Crimea, India was not able to give the vocal support that the US and other western powers demanded. In addition, India failed to speak its mind freely and boldly, aware of its new status in the world as a free market economy as well as a nuclear power.

Moral stand of the Nehruvian Era

The Indian miscalculation was that it thought that lobbying with the big powers for a permanent seat in the Security Council was the way to go about it. It turns out to be both wrong and ineffective. India has to stand up for the interests of the smaller and weaker countries and not just for its own — that is if it wants to be a world leader. During the Cold War, Asian and African countries did look to India as a leader. The country’s leaders and diplomats will have to restore India’s old moral stand of the Nehruvian era to make a headway in the new world order.


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