By Maithili Parikh:
This summer, after much chaos and failed attempts, I finally managed to squeeze in on an oddly timed United Nations Headquarters Visitor’s Tour in New York. I set high standards for the tour as I had heard good reviews of it. The tour turned out to be more enriching than what I expected it to be. The overwhelming sense of awe of its assembly rooms, intricate décor and attention to detail and the mere thought of the power that a single room of the building relinquished over the world filled me with a sense of euphoria. However, along with this sense of wonder, I left the international territory of the United Nations Headquarters with a recurring thought: Why was India not a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, despite being elected as a non-permanent member 7 times? When will she be represented in the inner circle of chairs, which are reserved for the permanent members of the UNSC in the assembly room I had seen minutes ago?
In recent times with the ushering in of India’s new government, Prime Minister Modi has been gregariously travelling the globe to make strategic contacts that would shape Indian foreign policy. With his extraordinary press play, live wire personality, efficacious oratory skills, whether while addressing packed stadiums in the United States of America or articulating India’s external policies at UN Summits, has been drawing all sorts of attention, good and bad.
While most of the areas have found little tangible result, the area of foreign policy has been an exception. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has made a statement to the Russian media that since Africa, Asia and Latin America are under-represented at the UNSC, Russia supports Brazil and India’s application to be included among the ranks of its permanent members. He further stated that the developing countries required fair representation. While the Russians seem to be warming up to this idea, the other permanent members of the UNSC too seem keen for India to join their ranks.
Official records of the United States of America too suggest a dual stand; while the official statement of the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest states that President Obama would support India’s inclusion, a leaked report suggests that Prime Ministerial candidate Hillary Clinton ridicules such a prospect. Visibly, the only permanent member that has been ambiguous and non-committal to this prospect has been China, possibly due to their close ties with India’s neighbour, Pakistan. Since reform of the Security Council can only be undertaken once the entire body of permanent members votes in the affirmative along with 2/3 of its non-permanent members, the road seems rather uphill at least until China decides to support India. Leading the non-permanent members opposing India’s permanent membership, is India’s nuclear arms rival, Pakistan and an interest group called the ‘United for Consensus’ or colloquially ‘The Coffee Club‘. Pakistan is bound to raise the apprehension of regional imbalance, drawing special attention to the ongoing Kashmir conflict between the two countries, which could definitely impede India’s campaign.
Determined in the face of challenges, India’s case for permanent membership seems to be strengthening every year. One of the foremost is that the membership of the UNSC today does not reflect the geo-political realities and the development of the multi-polar world order majorly due to the role of countries such as Brazil and India. India ranks amongst the world’s largest UN Peacekeeping Operations contributors, with nearly 180,000 troops serving in 44 missions. She definitely makes a compelling case for herself on the topic of population; currently India boasts of a population of 1.28 billion and reckons to be the most populous country by the year 2022. By denying India permanent membership, the UNSC is virtually acquiescing to having a large chunk of the world population remain unrepresented. Incidentally, India is also the second largest growing economy in the world, possibly making it an excellent hub for foreign investments and growth, especially in light of the economic breakdown in traditionally booming economies such as China and the United States of America. Above all, the most cogent argument in India’s case is the liberalism, democratic principles and secularism it boasts of, overlapping with the UN core principles.
An obscure barrier to India’s permanent membership is also the stiff competition it faces from Japan, Brazil and Germany, all of which enjoy a greater economic size and per capita income. India’s meager financial contributions to the United Nations Peacekeeping Operation could also work against her pitch as a permanent member. The difficulty lies in India’s conspicuously dismal numbers of per capital income, despite its seemingly progressing economy.
In light the arduousness of the task, the United States’ multiplicity, Pakistan’s enmity and China’s hostility, will India make it to the elite clout? Time will tell, but if Prime Minister Modi manages to pull this off, I will definitely take to yoga and so should you!