Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Is the seat on the UN Security Council a possibility or a pipe dream for India?

In this episode of Worldview, Suhasini Haidar details how the UN system works and India’s chances of getting a seat at the high table.

In this episode of Worldview, Suhasini Haidar details how the UN system works and India’s chances of getting a seat at the high table.

The UN General Assembly’s annual gathering of leaders from 193 member countries in New York is underway this week, and with it come annual calls for the 77-year-old body to consider reforming its structure and reviewing who should be at the high table. This year, the calls seem stronger, in large part because of the idea that Security Council leaders have provided blockage to any forward movement with their right to veto any resolution, mainly in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The first salvo was launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who did not visit the UN, but addressed his country on the first day of the UNGA – announcing that he was

1. Increase in the strength of the Russian army by partial mobilization of about 300,000 reserve soldiers

2. Order a referendum in the regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Zhaporozhiya and Kherson, on the model of its referendum in Crimea in 2014 which preceded its annexation

3. Warning those in the West who had suggested the use of weapons of mass destruction against Russia, that Russia would also use all weapons, suggesting the nuclear option.

US President Joseph Biden led the way, called for UN reform to counter what he called Russia’s violations of the UN system

A number of other leaders have spoken of the need for UNSC reform: Germany, Japan, Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Philippines, Mongolia, Marshall Islands and many others .

Reacting to Putin’s comments, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said: “This is what Ukraine is talking about. Have you ever heard such words from Russia? But it is a permanent member of the Security Council and for some reason Japan, Brazil, Turkey, India, Germany and Ukraine are not. The day will come when it will be resolved. »

Speaking at Columbia University, EAM S. Jaishankar said the world order needs a profound transformation that is long overdue.

1. He said he was designed 80 years ago

2. The number of countries has quadrupled during this period

3. That large parts of the globe are left out

4. That it is not good for the UNSC and for India to be left behind given its size and economy

5. And that there is growing support for India to become a member of the UNSC.

So what is the planned UNSC reform and what is India’s position?

– In 2005, India along with Brazil, Germany and Japan launched the G-4 movement for UNSC reform, and the G4 grouping meets at least once a year

– Their main demand is an extension of the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council for the G-4 countries

– They also require the representation of African countries in the UNSC – for two members of the grouping, possibly on a rotational basis

– The G-4 demands text-based, time-limited negotiations, rather than endless meetings where consensus is inclusive.

– The G-4 left the veto issue open, asking for serious consideration but not insisting on it

What are the biggest challenges for the G-4 and in particular for India?

– The biggest challenge comes from the P-5 countries, which only speak out on UNSC reforms, but have rarely contributed to the process

– In particular, P-5 will oppose any plan by new permanent members to obtain a veto.

– The next challenge comes from the regional rivals of the G-4 countries – India has China and Pakistan, Japan has China and North Korea, even South Korea, Brazil has Argentina and Colombia, and Germany from other European countries.

– Given that the UN was designed after WWII and gave the would-be victors seats in the UNSC, the question is what would be the underlying reason for the expansion

– The most organized opposition comes from a group called United For Consensus.

UfC countries include: Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Spain, Turkey

The UFC asks

1. A fair and equitable compromise solution

2. Equitable representation of African countries, but also of developing regions, small states and islands

3. Opposition to the creation of new permanent members in the UNSC – with exclusive national rights and unequal privileges, asserting that “Security Council reform must be for all”.

– Finally, many countries say that the UNGA should regularly elect the council of the UN Security Council – democratizing the UN system, but then a system of force is law could prevail rather than representation.

What is the process ahead?

– The reform of the Security Council implies the amendment of the Charter of the United Nations

– This requires adoption by a vote of at least 2/3 of the members of the General Assembly (129 countries)

– Ratification by at least 2/3 of the members including all the permanent members of the UNSC

Clearly, the road ahead could be as long as the 77-year road behind us when it comes to reforming the UNSC. After the Covid, the economic crisis and the wars and unilateral decision-making across the world, the United Nations system itself is being questioned… and the question is as much whether India wants to join a unequal system that exists, or building a new system, it could take an equally long time from scratch?

Reading recommendations:

There are a number of articles and reports online that you can access, including these:

1. Key Documents on UN Security Council Reform 1991-2019 – Edited by Bardo Fassbender

2. United Nations – Reform It or Build It Up From Scratch – by Blagovest Georgiev is a book I haven’t read, but would love to read – a look at future possibilities

3. Five to Rule Them All: The UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World by David L. Bosco, on the fascinating history of the UNSC

4. This by the leader of Turkey – arguably one of the authoritarian leaders of the world – who argues for a different world order, is very interesting reading – A fairer world is possible: a proposed model for the reform of the UN: by Recep Tayyip Erdogan So, a number of books by UN diplomats:

5. The UN Security Council: From the Cold War to the 21st Century by David M Malone

6. The New World Disorder And The Indian Imperative by Shashi Tharoor and Samir Saran, as well as Shashi Tharoor’s earlier work Pax Indica: India and the World of the Twenty-First Century

7. A Look at the Injustice of the System, But a Race India Won: India vs. UK: The Story of an Unprecedented Diplomatic Victory by Syed Akbaruddin, India’s former UN PR

8. Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos by another PR Hardeep Singh Puri, now Cabinet Minister

9. A History of the United Nations Security Council and How to Fix It: Intergovernmental Organizations Have Never Been So Exciting: A very short and hard-hitting book by Jason Cappelloni, Veer Juneja and Anthony Reynolds.

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