Can UN Security Council Make the Reform Happen in September?

India's seat in UN security council

India's seat in UN security councilWhen the 193-member United Nations meets in September 2015, India and several other countries are keeping their fingers crossed as they want the global body to reform in line with changing world situation. In fact, India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – all of them back each other’s bid for a permanent seat in United Nations Security Council (UNSC). They have also called on all five veto-wielding nations to put their seal of approval for the reform of the Security Council in 2015. On 28 February, representatives of these four nations met in Berlin. And after exchanging their views on current state of international affairs and how to move the reform issue decisively forward, they called for early action to make the Security Council more representative and fit for the 21st century. India was represented by Vikas Swarup, Joint Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs and Asoke Kumar Mukerji, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

China’s Muffled Opposition to India’s Bid for Permanent Seat in UNSC

It may be noted that though all five powerful members of the Security Council are unanimous in their stand over the issue of the UN’s reform, they are neither on the same page over its shape and character, nor do they have common stand on the issue of timing. For example, China reportedly doesn’t want UN to accommodate more than two countries in the Security Council in the permanent category. “About the Indian and Brazilian applications to become permanent members, China respects the willingness of the two countries to play a bigger role in the UN body,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had said. This statement was straightforward and for the first time China didn’t resort to convoluted sentences to express its support for India’s candidature for the Security Council. “This is a significant development. But we are worried as China is opposed to reform of the UN during this year’s meet of the body,” a senior MEA official said.
Talking to media persons in New York recently, China’s UN ambassador Jieyi Liu said, “I do not think that any timeline imposed by any member should guide the entirety of 193 members. It must be approached carefully, democratically by all the members of the General Assembly.” This created a sense of unease among the nations aspiring a seat in the UN Security Council. However, a philosophical undercurrent is there in the Indian camp. They liken the struggle for the Security Council seat to mountaineers’ efforts to reach the summit of Mount Everest. It is said that this issue would be raised by New Delhi when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits China in May.

India’s Efforts to Garner Support for Its Membership Bid

Meanwhile, India is in touch with its all-weather friend Russia to ensure that China further softens its stand on the timing factor. In the process to achieve its membership goal, what has given shot in the New Delhi’s arms is US government’s pledge to endorse the India’s candidature at the reformed Security Council. During the US President’s January visit, he had reportedly reiterated his promise to support India’s candidature.
New Delhi is also pursuing the matter through bilateral channels with its “interlocutors”. In fact, it is pursuing the UN reform issue with developing countries called the L69 Group the 54-member African Union, the Gulf nations, Latin America, Pacific nations, Western nations and the Central Asian nations. “Except for Pakistan, a large number of countries are supporting India’s bid for the Security Council seat,” an MEA official said, maintaining that India’s “enviable credentials” attract several nations to put their weight behind its candidature. India has served as non-permanent member of the UNSC for seven times (last time in 2011-2012). It is the prime contributor of peacekeeping operations in the world. Since 1950, it has sent as many as 1,80,000 troops for the UN-led peacekeeping operations in the world. Moreover, by any criteria such as territorial size, GDP, civilisational legacy and cultural diversity, it commands a respectable position among global community members.

Other Challenges Before India

Although India’s chance for the Security Council seat is bright, yet things are not transparent and easy as it looks on the surface. The UK, which appears more flexible, at least on the outside, has made it quite clear that it does not want veto rights to be extended to new permanent members. Some African countries have taken a similar stand. In fact, convergence is missing among African nations themselves on the issue of the UN reform. While some prefer longer-term rotating seats rather than new permanent seats, others want the African Union, instead of Nigeria and South Africa, to be accommodated in the expanded UN Security Council.
However, if reform takes place, it will take into account non-permanent category of the Security Council membership too. So far, there is no clear indication as to how many more could be accommodated in the present 10-member non-permanent category. But some UN members advance an argument that if the current position of permanent and non-permanent members is in the ratio of 5:10 then in the expanded version of this hallowed UN organ, the ratio should be 7:14 or 9:18.