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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Permanent membership of the UNSC is another story

Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, International organizations(UNSC, UNGA, P5) etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora-their structures, mandate



  • There is a buzz in India about the prospects of the country becoming a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.





United Nations Security Council(UNSC):

  • The Security Council was established by the UN Charter in 1945.
  • It is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations.
  • Its primary responsibility is to work to maintain international peace and security.
  • The council is headquartered at NewYork.
  • The council has 15 members:
    • Five(5) permanent members
    • Ten(10) non-permanent members elected for two-year terms
  • Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term.
  • The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.
  • The council’s presidency is a capacity that rotates every month among its 15 members.
  • Permanent members: United States, the Russian Federation, France, China and the United Kingdom


Nuclear weapon club:

  • Five members, the same five as the P-5.
  • India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel have since joined the club.


UNSC membership used by P5 countries?

  • Russia: As the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, has cast vetoes (estimated to be 120 times) to protect its acts.
  • Protect Israel: Western members have used their privileged position any number of times to protect Israel when the Palestinian question was being discussed.
  • Protect apartheid regime: Western countries also used veto to prevent sanctions being imposed on the apartheid regime of South Africa.


How can India use UNSC to  protect its interests?

  • Veto: India needs to be circumspect about vetoes.
  • Support to Russia: Russians have bailed India out on many occasions on the question of Kashmir.
    • Russia helped India by vetoing unfavourable resolutions during the war of Bangladesh liberation in 1971.
  • Negative vote: We must rule out either Britain or America from casting a negative vote against Pakistan
  • Chinese hostility: India can be sure of Chinese hostility towards India for a long time.


Present scenario of UNSC membership:

  • G4: There are four declared candidates for permanent membership: India, Japan, Brazil and Germany, called the G-4.
  • Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean are unrepresented in the permanent category at present.
  • Africa’s claim for two permanent seats: It has wide understanding and support
    • Africans are yet to decide which two countries these are to be.
  • India:
    • India can discount Pakistan’s opposition.
    • China will not support India nor will it ever support Japan.
    • India will have to be a package deal involving countries from other groups.
  • Brazil: It has regional opponents and claimants.
  • Germany: Italy is firmly opposed to its claim.
  • Germany and Japan: Both Axis powers during the Second World War, that would leave out only Italy, the third founding member of the Axis group.


Veto power:

  • Opposition from P5: P5 firmly opposed conferring the veto power to any prospective new permanent member.
  • Veto-wielding: The vast majority of members do not want any more veto-wielding members in the Council.
  • Negative vote: There is a proposal to the effect that a resolution can be defeated only by a negative vote of at least two permanent members.
  • Privileged positions of P5: The P-5 are firmly opposed to any dilution of their privileged position.


How will membership change?

  • Amendment: Changing the membership of the Council requires amending the Charter.
  • Two-third of total membership: It involves consent of two-thirds of the total membership of the U N, including the concurring votes of P-5.
  • Veto power: Each of the five has a veto.
  • Non-permanent seats: The Charter was amended once in the 1960s to enlarge the Council by additional non-permanent seats.
  • Consensus: Even if the proposal to add a few non-permanent seats only, it would be adopted with near unanimity or even by consensus.



Way Forward

  • Semi-permanent members: A distinguished group of experts suggested that a new category of semi-permanent members should be created.
    • Countries would be elected for a period of eight to 10 years and would be eligible for re-election.
    • India ought to give serious consideration to this idea.
  • Membership without veto: If India is offered or manages to obtain permanent membership without veto, we must grab it.
    • Even a permanent membership without veto will be tremendously helpful in protecting our interests.



  1. Critically examine the role of WHO in providing global health security during the COVID-19 Pandemic (UPSC 2020)

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