India to spearhead reform push at the UNSC

India to spearhead reform push at the UNSC

by India Global Business Staff

India joins the UNSC as a non-permanent member for two years in January. It promises to be a very feisty stint.

India to spearhead reform push at the UNSCCome January next year, India will take its place in the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member for two years. It is not a first for India, which is one of the founding members of the UNSC. It has been a non-permanent member on seven occasions so far–most recently in 2011-12.

While non-permanent members do not have veto rights of the 5 permanent members, it does give them the chance to chair and preside over the many subsidiary groups of the organization and to initiate discussions on specific topics of interest. In this context, the timing of India’s membership this time, unlike say 2011-12, is important.

India to spearhead reform push at the UNSCA fractious world

An increasingly fractious world order where multilateralism is under threat, differences between nations expanding and in the aftermath of the pandemic, fault lines glaringly exposed even among the permanent members of the UNSC, the next couple of years will go a long way in deciding the future of multilateralism in the world. India will have the opportunity to not only play an active role in the process but also push a few things of its own.

It has already begun back-channel deliberations to that end. Earlier this month, a delegation led by external affairs secretary Vikas Swarup met a delegation in Russia comprising deputy minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Vasilyevich Vershinin to discuss issues on the UNSC agenda and recent developments around the world.

India to spearhead reform push at the UNSC

Indian PM Narendra Modi with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other officials. India has been at the forefront of calling for a reform of the UNSC including but not restricted to expanding the number of permanent members.
Credit: Getty Image

“The Indian delegation briefed Russia on its priorities during its upcoming UNSC tenure and they decided to work closely together, given the common challenges faced and in keeping with their long-standing special and strategic privileged partnership,” said a statement by the ministry of external affairs.

While more details were not forthcoming, it is not difficult to see what these priorities would be. India has been at the forefront of calling for a reform of the UNSC including but not restricted to expanding the number of permanent members. Currently, the 5 members–US, UK, France, Russia and China–is more a reflection of the global power structure of the post World War II era of 1945 when the UNSC was founded, and does not represent the many changes that have taken place ever since. For years, countries like India, Germany, Brazil and Japan have been knocking in vain on the doors for a permanent membership.

In 2009, a group within the UN–Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) framework, was formed to look into possible reforms in the UNSC but very little progress has been made so far. In recent times, India has openly expressed its frustrations on the rigidity of the structure. Some of it has come from the absolute top levels of the government.

UN reform is crucial

India to spearhead reform push at the UNSC

Indian PM Narendra Modi with President Emmanuel Macron. For years, countries like India, Germany, Brazil and Japan have been knocking in vain on the doors of the UNSC for a permanent membership.

“Reform in the responses, in the processes, in the character of the United Nations is the need of the hour. It is a fact that the faith and respect that the United Nations enjoys in India are unparalleled. But it is also true that the people of India have been waiting for a long time for the completion of the reforms of the United Nations,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in his address to the UN General Assembly in September. “The requirements and challenges of our present and future are vastly different from those of the past. The question is whether the character of the institution, constituted in 1945, is relevant even today? If century changes and we don’t, then strength to bring changes becomes weak. Today, people of India are concerned whether this reform-process will ever reach its logical conclusion?”

The main roadblock in the reform process is obvious–China. Given the UN’s constitution where a permanent member can single-handedly stall any process using its veto power, China has delayed deliberations in the IGN. It has also stalled India’s promotion as a permanent member even as the other four countries are in support of its candidature. Post Modi’s address, India launched a scathing attack on IGN in the UN General Assembly last month.

UNSC an impaired organ

“Today’s Security Council is an impaired organ. It has been unable to act with credibility essentially due to its unrepresentative nature. It has become like a platform for debate in a University rather than a serious result-oriented process in the United Nations consisting of sovereign member states,” said T S Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN, at the UNGA last month. “Just a handful of countries don’t want us to proceed. They have stopped the IGN from progressing. They are using the IGN as a smoke-screen to stop themselves from being identified by paying lip-service to Security Council reform. The conditions they are laying out are impossible to fulfil which is a full consensus of all member states.”

Traditional ties remain strong for India

India to spearhead reform push at the UNSCIndia has played its cards deftly all along maintaining an equidistance with Russia on one side and the US on the other. At a time when relations with China have soured, its traditionally strong ties with Russia holds India in good stead in multilateral forums bridging the gap between US, UK and France on one side and Russia and China on the other. Something it is looking to leverage going forward.

“Without decisive movement, those who support real reform and wish to deliver on the commitment made by our leaders, will be forced to look beyond the IGN for results. If that happens, we must not hesitate in taking a relook at the IGN process itself,” Tirumurti added.

Caught in a time wrap, perhaps the UN has been most unfair to the world’s largest democracy. India under Modi is determined to correct that, which may also pave the way for the survival of the UN itself.

About the Author: India Global Business Staff