India’s quest for Permanent seat at UN Security Council
India has been seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council as a member of the G4, an organisation composed of Brazil, Germany, Japan, and India, all seeking permanent representation. According to their proposal, the UN Security Council should be expanded beyond the current 15 members to include 25 members. This issue arouses considerable interest despite wide acceptance of the fact nothing is likely to change in the near future. This blog analyzes the subject.
Relevance of UN Security Council
- The UN Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has failed to do so.
- The idea of the UN being able to maintain peace and security was based on an assumption that ‘international relations would be conducted in the spirit of fairness and morality’. This assumption was wrong. ‘International relations in reality are conducted in the spirit of pursuance of perceived narrow national interests’.
- For most of the history of the UN, the Security Council was paralysed by the Cold War. Thus UN Security Council remained largely irrelevant till 1991.
- Only twice in the history of the United Nations has the Security Council acted against an aggressor to restore peace. The occasions were Korea in 1950 and Kuwait in 1990-1991. Each time the UN Security Council acted not under the provisions of the UN Charter for enforcing peace but under Article 51, the provision of the Charter designed for cases in which the council is unable to act or fails to do so and which reserves to the members the right of self-defence. These were cases of UN endorsement of desires of US.
- In the case of Serbian attack on Bosnia in 1992 the UN failed by slapping an arms embargo on both sides resulting in the well armed Serbia killing a quarter million in Bosnia.
- Use of the veto power by one or more of the permanent members has had a crippling effect on actions by the UN. Examples:
- Since 1982 US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel.
- Russia had vetoed condemnation of own annexation of Crimea in 2014.
- Attempts to impose sanctions on Syria during the ongoing civil war have been vetoed by Russia.
- The recent air strikes on Syria and Iraq have not been endorsed by the UN Security Council.
- China has completely rejected international arbitration on territorial disputes with her maritime neighbours.
- The above points clearly show that the UN Security Council has been of little relevance in the world affairs.
Is UN Security Council Representative of the Current World ?
The UN Security Council has a total of 15 members. Of these, the five permanent members wield veto powers: U.S., Russia, UK, and France—the victors of World War II—and late entrant China.
Since 1945, the UN Security Council has been reformed only once, in 1963, to expand the number of non-permanent non-veto empowered members from six to ten. This does not reflect even the most basic realities of a world in which the population has grown from 2.3 billion, when the UN was established, to over 7 billion now, and the number of UN member countries has almost quadrupled from 51 to 193.
The current global realities relevant to composition of UN Security Council are:
- India, with a population of 1.2 billion is the third largest economy, a nuclear power with the third largest standing army in the world and a major contributor to the UN’s peacekeeping missions.
- Japan and Germany are the second and third largest financial contributors to the UN.
- Africa is poorly represented and so also South America and Asia.
- UK and France have declined in their economic and military power since World War II.
The UN Security Council does not represent the current world power status. There is a definite need to make the UN Security Council representative of the current global situation.
Difficulties in Changing Status quo
- The three most militarily powerful nations in the world, US, China and Russia are comfortable with the status quo because it does not hamper their unilateral military actions.
- Any reform of the UN Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of the UN member states, and that of all the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
- The claims of G4 countries becoming permanent members, including India are legitimate. Their regional rivals- Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt oppose their claim and demand permanent membership as well.
- The above reasons are enough to prevent any expansion of the UN Security Council.
How will getting Permanent seat in UN Security Council help India?
From the above discussion it would be quite apparent that though India’s demand for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council is justified, it is unlikely to materialize in the near future. In any case the body is of little relevance today. Our clamour to gain a permanent seat in the UN Security Council is futile. The country would do well to focus on becoming an economic and military power. We should also seek expansion of our soft power to influence world opinion. Focus on these aspects will give India the rightful place in the world.