India’s Bid for Permanent Seat in UN Security Council Gets a Boost

India has always wanted a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and now it seems that its chances may have received a major boost. On 14 September, 2015 the UN General Assembly decided to go ahead with reforms for the Security Council by adopting a negotiating text by consensus. The said reforms had, incidentally, been in the anvil for a long time. These issues were also discussed when its 70th session started on 15 September, 2015. India has eulogized the adoption of the said document terming it a revolutionary and history-making moment. According to India, the change means that now on an official basis, the path of negotiations based on texts cannot be reversed and the discussions for bringing about reforms to the UNSC have seen a change in their dynamics as well.

Plenary Meeting

Sam Kutesa, the President of UN General Assembly (UNGA), had convened a plenary meeting in order to act on the draft decision. The decision deals with the issue of providing equitable representation on the Security Council and increasing the membership of the same. It will also deal with other related issues. Incidentally, important countries such as the US, China and Russia has decided not to be a part of the negotiating text.

At the meeting, Kutesa distributed letters that contained the position of important countries such as ones mentioned above. At the General Assembly’s 70th session, it was unanimously decided that the UNSC reforms will continue to be text-based. The said draft decision contains the negotiating text, which is where the UN member states make their stances clear on what reforms can be brought about in the Security Council and how its permanent and non-permanent members can be increased. At present, there are 15 members of the said body.

Importance of the Adoption

The adoption is being regarded as a major step in the context of initiating talks for the reforms process that have been pending for a long time. This is the first time in seven years that negotiations in the UN, which happen between the governments of various member countries, will be done on the basis of negotiating texts. Asoke Mukerji, the Indian Ambassador to the UN, states that the most critical part of the decision taken on 14th is the text that Kutesa has circulated. It has been agreed that the said text will form the basis for the deliberations for the ongoing General Assembly Session.

Mukerji has stated that the effort is even more memorable considering the difficulties and challenges that they had to put up with. He has mentioned how Kutesa’s office was asked to step back on an issue that had been on General Assembly’s agenda for 23 years. In fact, this circulation of text by the UNGA President has been described as a kind of breakthrough. The said draft has also revealed that if the UN member states want a Working Group – an open-ended one in nature, it will be convened to deal with the negotiating text. In another development, Courtenay Rattray, the Permanent Representative of Jamaica, has been entrusted with the responsibility of chairing the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) on the possible reforms to be made to the Security Council. This appointment too has received the stamp of approval of India.

Earlier Developments

During July 2015, Kutesa had sent letters to each member-state of the UN where he had circulated the text where the various countries had expressed their opinions regarding the changes that need to be made to the Security Council. He had also sent across letters where member-states and groups such as the US, Russia and China had stated that their proposals should not be included in the negotiating text body.

India’s Stance

Mukerji has said that it is essential that the international community comes together to ensure that the world is a safer and more peaceful place and it is the responsibility of the UNSC to make sure that millions of lives are not lost and activities such as trade, technology and investment can go on unabated. He termed all these necessities urgent. He also called for greater predictability and stability in global environment. He has also said that the decision to go ahead with reforms process is not a rollover one or a technical decision per se, but one that is highly important in the context of the present global climate.

He has termed the developments so far to be unique and positive. He has also cited how, in the last few years, the member-states have been making statements just for the sake of it or how they have been going at each other. The summaries during this term, he said, could be disputed or denied rather easily. According to the Indian UN Ambassador, India has been among the first few countries to have asked for a conclusion to the process of reforming the UNSC by the time its 70th anniversary took place.

He has congratulated Kutesa saying how he had prioritised the text-based negotiations for the IGN process. He stated that thanks to this decision now India has been able to achieve both its objectives – saving the work that had been done at the sixty-ninth UNGA and then taking it forward in a meaningful way. In his July letter, Kudesa stated that the text-based negotiations would provide a proper platform for the member-states to engage meaningfully during the ongoing IGN phase. Mukerji congratulated the UNGA President for making such a straight-cut and clear mandate and hoped that it would make matters easier during the 70th UNGA session.

During the World Summit staged in 2005, global leaders had unequivocally stated that the Security Council needed to be reformed as early as possible so that it could represent a broader cross-section of countries and be more efficient and transparent, which in the end would make its decisions more legitimate and better implemented. Mukerji feels that with the decision to adopt text-based negotiations, there would be a greater level of purpose during the 70th session. Kutesa had also sent a letter to all the Permanent Representatives on 10th September where they had been informed about the draft. In the meanwhile, India has been firm in its belief that a timeline, based on results, is needed for the results to be more tangible, and the process of expanding the UNSC cannot be regarded as an ad infinitum exercise. In a way, India can be optimistic to a certain extent considering the fact that Russia and the US, both the permanent members, have decided to throw their weight behind its claim for a permanent seat in the council.