Explained India and the UN Security Council

India’s goal of becoming a permanent member of the UN security council took a significant step forward. Amid protests from China, Russia and Pakistan, the UN general assembly on Monday agreed to adopt a negotiating text for security council reforms.

The UNGA concluded its 69th session on Monday and is on track to build the stage for talks to revamp the 15 member world body. It adopted a negotiating text by consensus for the long- pending Security Council reforms.

“We have got something after 23 years which is a document on the table. From now it is going to be much more in terms of what they are used to doing at the UN which is to negotiate with a text in front of us,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Asoke Mukerji said.

“Now the decision today puts the paper on the table and it is now for every country to negotiate on that paper giving their national positions,” Mukerjee told PTI.

India has termed the adoption of the document as “historic” and “path-breaking”.  India said the decision has put the Inter-Governmental Process formally on an “irreversible text-based negotiations path” and changed the “dynamics” of the negotiations on achieving UNSC reforms.

Here’s an explainer on what a seat in the UNSC could mean for India:

What does Monday’s decision mean?

While it is significant, Monday’s decision simply means that for the first time in “more than two decades of discussions”, as the ministry of external affairs statement said, “we can now commence text-based negotiations”. The next phase of negotiations on the text will take place next year, in the 70th session that commences on 15 September, with Jamaican ambassador Courtenay Rattray as the chair of the IGN process.

What does the UNSC currently look like?

As of now, there are 15 members on the UNSC. Five of those (mostly powers who emerged victorious in the World War II), including the US, UK, France, China and Russia are permanent members. These members have the all-important veto power (essentially a negative vote) which would mean that a “resolution or decision would not be approved”.

The remaining 10 non-permanent members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms, starting 1 January. Five members are replaced each year. India has been elected as a non-permanent member to the UNSC for seven such terms, the last of which was in 2011-12.

What is India’s case for a permanent membership?

India (or any other country for that matter) would want a permanent membership to the UNSC for two reasons. First, the veto power, which India could use to defend its interests, say against Pakistan (just like Russia did last year over the civil war in Ukraine). Second, the sheer prestige associated with permanent membership of a multilateral forum. India’s elevation will also be an acknowledgment of its rise as a global power, ready to play a key role in the council’s objectives of international peace and security.

India also believes that the UNSC, which was constituted in 1945 after the World War II, does not reflect the geopolitical realities—the emergence of a multipolar world order largely thanks to the rise of developing economies like China, Brazil and India.

Also, India is the largest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO), with nearly 180,000 troops serving in 44 missions since it was established. India is also among the highest financial contributors to the UN, with the country making regular donations to several UN organs like the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).

Who supports India’s bid to become a permanent member?

India’s candidature as a potential permanent UNSC member has received support from a vast majority of nations. At several public occasions, four of the five permanent members have supported India’s bid. China is the only permanent member that has been ambiguous in its support for India, owing to its close ties with Pakistan. Other member states, like the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Singapore, Malaysia and the whole of the African Union have also endorsed India’s bid.

And who opposes?

India’s nuclear-armed rival Pakistan has been leading the opposition to its inclusion in the UNSC’s list of permanent members. Other countries, part of an interest group called the “Uniting for Consensus” (UfC), also curiously called “The Coffee Club”, formed in 1995, are opposed to India (and the

G4’s bid) for permanent seats. Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt were founder members of the UfC. The list also includes Argentina, South Korea, Spain, Turkey and Indonesia.

How can India become a permanent member?

For now, it seems like an uphill task (unless China comes on board soon). The reform of the Security Council can only take place if two-thirds of UN member states vote in favour, along with an affirmative vote from all the permanent members, who enjoy the veto power. Effectively, even if India secures the support of two-thirds of UN members, who are present and voting, it would still need the five permanent members to not use the veto and thereby, prevent the adoption of the reform process.

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