Tough test for Modi
(Prof. International Politics, JMI)
India made yet another bid for becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj reinforced New Delhi’s initiative in revamping the premier world body in her speech at the 72nd UN General Assembly Session in New York this fortnight. Her plea for securing UNSC’s membership came on the heels of Prime Minister Modi’s diplomatic sojourns to major countries including the US lobbying for India’s membership.
Recall, in 1950, India was offered the UNSC’s membership by the US and others to represent the Asian region. But then Prime Minister Nehru declined it and instead suggested that it should be given to China then under Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorship.
Pertinently, India was preferred to China as the former was a democracy. Ever since, New Delhi has been courting permanent Council member Moscow for its veto on Kashmir whenever the Security Council threatens to pass any resolution indicting India. Undeniably, our foreign policy has been largely influenced by the Soviet veto in India’s favour on Kashmir. However, this is history.
Today, the UN clearly lacks legitimacy as the UNSC remains under-represented. A leading expert on world politics Columbia University’s Jeffery Sachs states, “Asia’s inadequate representation poses a serious threat to the UN’s legitimacy, which will only increase as the worlds’ most populous region assumes an increasingly important global role.”
He suggests that one possible way to resolve the problem would be to add at least four Asian seats: one permanent seat for India, another shared by Japan and Korea, perhaps on a two-year or one-year rotation basis, next for ASEAN countries representing the group as a single constituency and fourth rotation among other Asian nations.
Remember, over a decade ago on 21 March 2005 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on UN members to reach a consensus on expanding the Security Council to 24 members. He had devised a plan for expansion of the Council called “In Larger Freedom”.
In fact, Sushma Swaraj implored that the current Secretary General Antonio, Guterres, ex-Portugal Prime Minister should make this happen. Asserting, “We have high expectations from the new Secretary General. If he wants to reform the peace and security architecture he will also need to address reforms related to peace keeping that have been urged for long.”
Notably, UN’s reform requires two thirds support of its 193 members. Interestingly, in this session 160 members have expressed their concurrence for the long-pending reforms of this world body.
Indeed, India has been advocating UN reforms for long. On the UNGA fringe G-4 countries — India, Brazil, Germany and Japan — met to push for the change in UNSC by expanding the number of both permanent and non-permanent members. There was support for UN restructuring in general and for permanent membership of India in particular.
The Minister reminded the General Assembly that “there was a consensus in the 2005 Summit that early reform of the Security Council was an essential element for peace and security in the turbulent world.
From India’s eyes it makes the grade for UNSC’s permanent membership. Beginning with it being a UN founding member, notwithstanding the UNSC’s permanent membership being elusive, since Nehru declined the offer for some inexplicit reasons.
Further, India is the second most populous country with 1.3 billion people and is likely to overtake China in becoming the world’s most populated country. Consequently, it is incongruous that the largest country in terms of population representing one-sixth of world humanity remains unrepresented in the highest world body.
Two, it is the world’s largest democracy and one of the UN mission’s is to foster democracy in the world. As it stands, India has remained a beacon for Asian countries as an unflinching democracy. Three, it has been a non-permanent member of the UNSC for six terms spanning 12 years. Hence, it is time that it becomes a permanent member.
Four, India is the seventh largest economy in the world which is growing steadily barring minor hiccups, and is expected not only to contribute to world trade and economy in 20 years’ but also overtake Chinese economy. Besides, it is a member of various rich countries groups like G-4 and G-77 which produce goods and services for the entire world.
Five, India has the third largest army in the world and has contributed 160,000 soldiers to the UN Peace Keeping Forces in difficult conflict areas. Whereby, Indian soldiers have laid their lives for the freedom and security of the countries under domination or in war.
Undoubtedly, the UNSC membership will not be easy. True, New Delhi is diplomatically pushing its case with warmth and charisma of Prime Minister Modi efforts have to be taken to their logical end.
Moreover, there are a few road-blocks in India’s membership journey. The UNSC membership has to expand from 15 to 24, in order to accommodate Asia, Africa and Latin America. Alongside, all five permanent members have to agree to its expansion.
The US and Britain have openly endorsed India’s bid. France has also committed its support. Russia will not oppose it, given our long-standing friendship. China, makes occasional sounds in support of India’s membership, but is non-committal.
For instance, when Xi Jinping visited New Delhi in 2014, he averred that China supports India’s UNSC membership. This could have been mere rhetoric and a diplomatic statement, as Beijing has been displaying anti-India posturing. India’s growing partnership with Japan will further alienate China.
Clearly, New Delhi has to initiate a different method of expanding the UN with the help of its friends. Modi has been rubbing shoulders with the rest of the four permanent members and other important countries like Japan and Germany.
Can he pull a rabbit out his hat and secure the membership of UNSC for India before he goes to the polls in coming 18 months?
Looks unlikely, as with many of his initiatives he makes impressive beginnings with persuasive slogans and one-liner policy formulations etc but the end results are yet to be seen. In fact, it is typical of India’s foreign policy establishment from Nehru’s era to drag issues until they fizzle out naturally.
In sum, NaMo must ‘break the mould in India’s foreign policy without rocking the boat’. But the real and the toughest test would be the UNSC membership. Will he succeed? We would like to think so in India’s national interest. INFA