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Insights into Editorial: At the high table: On India’s U.N. Security Council win

UN_security_council

 

Context:

India has been elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member from the Asia-Pacific category.

India has been elected as one of the non-permanent members to the UNSC with an overwhelming majority of 184 votes out of 192, where the minimum requirement was 128.

This was for the eighth time that India has been elected to UNSC. India has served seven times earlier: 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and 2011-2012.

India should work with all member countries to promote global peace, security, resilience and equity.

About United Nations Security Council:

  1. The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  2. Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  3. It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  4. 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.
  5. These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  6. 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.

UNSC Non-permanent membership: commitment to Multilateralism and Reforms:

India’s election to the U.N. Security Council as a non-permanent member is a significant diplomatic victory for the country, which has long been pushing for reforms at global institutions.

The victory wasn’t unexpected as India was the only contestant for the Asia Pacific seat. But the Indian foreign policy establishment took no chances as the election would be done by secret ballot at the UN General Assembly and two-thirds of the votes were needed for victory.

Mexico, Norway and Ireland were also elected as non-permanent members.

While Mexico won the Latin American seat uncontested, Norway and Ireland emerged victorious from a three-way contest for the Western Europe and Others Group seat. Canada failed to win enough votes in this group. Neither Kenya nor Djibouti, which were contesting the seat from Africa, won a two-thirds majority.

India sought the support of member countries by highlighting its commitment to multilateralism and reforms.

India’s overall objective ahead in its two year term:

  1. Ahead of the vote, India had launched a campaign brochure which highlighted its demand for transparency in mandates for UN peacekeeping missions and push for the India-led Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and called for joint efforts for UN reform and expansion of the Security Council.
  2. A “new orientation for a reformed multilateral system” (NORMS), as laid out by External Affairs Minister, would be India’s overall objective during the two-year tenure that will begin next year.
  3. Achieving this would depend on how India will conduct diplomacy in the global body, build alliances and raise issues that go beyond the interests of the big five.
  4. India has long been of the view that the structure of the UN Security Council doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.
  5. It has also got increasing support from member countries for its push for reforms. But the five permanent members of the Security Council have resisted these attempts.
  6. The COVID-19 pandemic has already shaken up the global order and sharpened the rivalry between the U.S. and China. It has also opened up fresh debates on strengthening multilateralism and multilateral institutions.

UNSC Working: most non-transparent and non-consultative way:

  1. In recent decades, India has been very vocal in demanding for a permanent seat in UNSC.
  2. It is also part of G-4, a group of 4 nations (India, Brazil, Germany and Japan) to lobby for permanent positions on the UNSC or at least to make the council more representative.
  3. Many member-states have been pledging support for our aspiration for permanent membership. Several P-5 countries have also announced their support. At present, China is the only P-5 member opposing India s bid.
  4. G-4 wants to expand the permanent seats in the UNSC to 10 to include 6 new members G-4 nations apart from one seat to Africa and one seat to Arabs.
  5. While the expansion of the Security Council has been hotly debated across the world, debate on the working methods of the Council, an equally important aspect of reform to many member states, has attracted less attention.
  6. It is true that UNSC has been functioning in the most non-transparent and non-consultative way.
  7. The undemocratic nature of UNSC within the supposedly democratic UN has compromised the overall credibility of the United Nations.

By any calculus, India qualifies for UNSC Permanent membership:

India in many ways is a sui generis country. It’s a country of a billion-plus, it’s a country which is a democracy, perhaps the only example in history of a billion-plus people working together in a democratic framework.

We will bring to it those values and strengths of being able to work cohesively among disparate entities.

One of the biggest issues that will confront all multilateral organisations and certainly the security council will be issues which are beyond borders.

Issues of the global commons, whether it is in cases of public health as we are now seeing in the current pandemic, but other issues, for example, cyber [issues]. There are no regulatory mechanisms or no rules on that, and that’s another.

A third one is issues of high seas. Again, beyond your EEZ [exclusive economic zone], there is very limited understanding of what states can do and what states can’t do.

Ungoverned spaces lead to opportunities for those who are inimical to global governance to breed, whether it is in states or it is beyond state boundaries, this has been the experience, and therefore, we as a country would like to focus on these things.

Another area of interest would obviously be technology with a human touch. Increasingly, resilience of human beings is an important factor that all of us have been confronted with where there are disasters, can we have a more humane approach to these, etc.

Conclusion:

In this context, the challenges before India are many. The Security Council is one of the most important multilateral decision-making bodies where the contours of global geopolitics are often drawn.

India should avoid the temptation of taking sides at a time when the Security Council is getting more and more polarised.

To serve its interests and push for its agenda of multilateralism and reforms, India should adopt value-based positions that are not transactional, aspire for the leadership of the non-permanent members of the Council and be the voice of the weaker nations.

 


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