Please take your seats

Reforming the UN Security Council

India, Japan, Brazil and Germany have closed ranks to collectively lobby for seats for each other at the (expanded) UN Security Council. They have also called for an African member to join their ranks.

Pakistan opposes India, but could not care less if the others get in. China is uncomfortable with both India and Japan, and seems to have tried to divide the two by suggesting that it would be willing to support India if India were to stop backing Japan’s candidature. Italy opposes Germany. Brazil is not the unequivocal representative from Latin America. The Africans are unable to decide between South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria. But opposition from other countries is not a good criteria for selection – it is hard to see how the current permanent members will fare in a popularity contest.

Getting a two-thirds majority in the fractious 191-member General Assembly is no easy task, but it is not as important as support from the existing members of the UN Security Council. Apart from Britain, no other permanent member has expressed support for India’s bid.

The UN is clearly in a dilemma – the current composition of the UN Security Council is bound to become an albatross around the UN quest for greater relevance, but reforming it is near impossible due to its fractious membership. As is its practice, the UN may solve this by adopting half-measures – a semi-permanent five-year membership has been mooted.

There is some debate as to whether India should indeed lobby for a seat on the Security Council. The debate should really be about what India intends to do with a permanent seat, because there are no really good reasons why it should not have one.

Related Links: Vijay Dandapani’s guest column on Rediff. Previous posts on The Acorn.

Islamic countries who support India’s bid and have agreed to impress Pakistan are Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Algeria, Oman, Qatar, Iran, and Indonesia.

India decided to approach them after Pakistan’s representative to the UN opposed India’s permanent membership in the Security Council.

Officials said that foreign minister Natwar Singh has advised prime minister Manmohan Singh to conduct more meetings with these countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session.

In Manmohan’s one-to-one meeting with Pakistan’s General Parvez Musharraf, this subject is unlikely to come up, and India does not wish to speak directly to Pakistan on this, but officials said the PM would drop broad hints in return for deeper friendship. (sic)

While the Arab League and OIC have no objection to India’s permanent entry into the Security Council, Islamic states are pushing for either Malaysia or Nigeria in place of India, but they are implacably opposed to Turkey’s bid. [News Insight]

13 thoughts on “Please take your seats”

  1. The question is – what do we do with a permanent seat at the table. India is unlikely to get veto power, so is all the hype really worth it? The flouting of UN resolutions by Saddam in the 90s followed by the US-led invasion of Iraq in the face of overwhelming disapproval of the world at large have really driven home the point that the UNSC and the UN at large is an organization with very little clout.

  2. In the midst of all this UNSC clamor, everyone should remember that India was offered a permanent seat, replete with veto power, 50 years ago. But India’s Marxist-pacifist dolt of a Prime Minister turned it down, so as not to offend a totalitarian mass murderer who would invade the country a few years later.

    I suspect it’s going to take three more decades for India to undo all of the socieconomic and foreign policy damage that Nehru and his successors wrought over the years.

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  4. The permanent seat at the UNSC has far more clout than a not having one! For instance look at all the clamouring that even a country like Japan goes through just to get a rotating seat. If nothing else, it would enhance the value of India as a brand with the resultant benefits in all other spheres of public and private life.
    With regards to Eric’s post, I vaguely recall hearing about the seat being offered to India a long time back but am not sure that info is really correct. Eric, it would be great if you could provide some links that elaborate on this.

  5. Kiran, here’s one source. There are a lot of others.

    “However, China has not yet voiced distinct opposition to India’s claim. There are many reasons for this. One is also a historic debt – the red China got its own permanent seat only due to India’s declining it in favour of China. India was invited in 1955 at San Francisco, at the tenth anniversary of the U N, to join the Security Council, as a permanent member.

    On his return prime Minister Nehru informed the country’s various chief ministers, “informally, suggestions have been made that China would be taken in the UN but not in the Security Council, and that India should take her (China’s) place in the Security Council. We cannot of course accept this as it means falling out with China and it would be very unfair for a great country like China not to be in the Security Council. We have therefore made it clear to those who suggested this that we cannot agree to the suggestion. We have gone a little further and said that India is not anxious to enter the Security Council at this stage even though as a great country she ought to be there. The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place, and then the question of India might be discussed separately.” (2 August 1955. Letter to the Chief Ministers).”

  6. Nehru was a stupid dolt. His genes infected the body politic of this country negatively long after his (belated) demise in 1964. I can’t help but wish Godse had taken this schmuck along with mahatma back in ’48 and saved my beloved country a loooong spell of cursed destiny.

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  10. It think it is very inmportant to note that the representation of china in the UN is quite different at that time than now. At that time it was represented by the Taiwan Government not the Communist China. It was only in the 70’s when the US came to an understanding with china that the communist government or the Peoples republic of china was given a representation. The US offered the premanent membership to India because it did not want a communist china.

    The UN sure has very less clout, it depends on money and man power on its members and if the members dont cooperate there is nothing much it can do.

    Should we become a permanent member? Yes because we represent 1\6 th of the population. But the veto power has to be rechecked, one of the main reasons that the UN has been not taken serioulsy is beacuse the security council is undemocratic where one country’s view point can hold to ransom the others. Make it democratic and the US will struggle with keeping pace at this change.
    So Kalam was right in saying that the veto system should be removed.

  11. I am also surprised at the comment that no other permanent member except Britain supported India. Of the Five Russia, Britain and France openly said that they support India’s claim while US and china are mum about it not saying openly what they wish. China surely is not comfortable with it, while US is probably weighing out the pros and cons. I dont think that lack of US Support is because of Pakistan as some people with strong Anti-pakistan sentiment wnat to think.

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