India At UNSC: Reforming The Un-Reformed

India At UNSC: Reforming The Un-Reformed

by Dr Mukesh Kumar Srivastava - Sunday, January 17, 2021 10:32 AM IST
India At UNSC: Reforming The Un-ReformedUNSC council chamber
  • Even though the geopolitical, strategic and economic realities have changed with the emergence of new power centres, persistent reservations by the P-5 to reform the UNSC have hampered its efficacy.

    However, as the voice for reform intensifies and new centres of power emerge, support for UN reform has gathered more steam across the world.

Multilateralism is at the heart of India’s foreign policy for a long time. As India starts as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the eighth time from January 2021, there is a need to contextualise the United Nations (UN) as a multilateral institution within the changing dynamics of world politics.

There is no denying the fact that a lot has changed since the UN came into existence in 1945. As such, it is important to reflect on the question as to what extent has the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) become representative on account of the changes in the power equations in world politics?

Given its commitment to multilateralism, will India be able to incentivise its term to successfully harmonise its national goals and international priorities in the next two years?

Breaking Down The Barriers

The UNSC was created as one of the nodal organs of the UN to maintain peace, security and stability. For a long time, the UNSC has been a site of power for a few developed countries to pursue their vested interests. It is a well-known fact that the UN was formed by the major powers after the Second World War to reflect their ideas and their interests.

Accordingly, the UN Charter was designed to entrust veto powers to the permanent members in the UNSC, popularly known as the P-5. The continued dominance of the permanent members in the UNSC since its inception and their reservations to expand the permanent membership have affected the very functioning of the UNSC over the years.

Even though the geopolitical, strategic and economic realities have changed with the emergence of new power centres, persistent reservations by the P-5 to reform the UNSC have hampered its efficacy.

However, as the voice for reform intensified and centres of power diversified, support for UN reform has gathered more steam across the world.

Even many in the UN, including the Secretary Generals, time and again, have been emphatic to make the UN more inclusive and representative. For instance, present UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has appreciated India's support to the proposal of reforming the UNSC.

In more recent times, a nuanced stand of the developed countries to reform the UN and to accommodate India’s demand for a permanent seat to the UNSC is also visible.

For instance, recently France, a P-5 member, has reiterated its support to include India as a permanent member in an expanded and reformed UNSC.

Another positive development is the growing support of member countries in the UN for greater role of India in the UNSC. For the reform-process to reach any logical conclusion, political support of the international community is of utmost importance.

The fact that India obtained 184 votes out of 192 exhibits profound confidence which the member countries in the UN have reposed in India.

Under these changed circumstances, India should leverage the international support to push for UNSC reform to make it truly equitable and representative.

Capitalizing Strengths

Over the years, and with the changing power dynamics in world politics, there is a clear shift in India’s approach in the UNSC from reactive to proactive.

Also, Indian interests over the years have expanded and simultaneously India’s engagement with countries has also broadened. As a result, there have been consistent efforts to synergise national goals with international priorities.

India’s strong commitment to a reformed UNSC and its proactive approach has been succinctly underlined by PM Modi in his address on 75th Anniversary of UN that ‘reform in the responses, processes and character of the United Nations is the need of the hour’.

To catapult the desired reform in the UNSC, India should leverage on three major strengths: First, India has an impeccable record as the largest democracy, representing one-sixth of the global population, and a strong commitment towards multilateralism.

Therefore, India needs to capitalise on these strengths to make a strong case for a permanent membership in the UNSC.

Second, as India continues to be a voice for the developing world at the UN, which forms bulk of the membership in the UN, India should revitalise its engagement with its traditional partners in the “global south” to push for reform.

It should also engage with other potential partners to ensure inclusiveness and greater representation at UNSC.

Third, India has been a regular and the largest contributor to the UN Peacekeeping Forces, entrusted with the responsibility to ensure peace and security.

In the next two years, India can further add to its contributions to the UN by proactively participating on myriad international issues to build a strong case for a greater role.

This will help garner support to give the final push for reform.

Undoubtedly, India’s election as a non-permanent member by an overwhelming support by member countries of UN is an indication of both the growing profile of India as well as enhanced confidence in the capability of India to bring in change and revive faith in the UN.

Being an ardent supporter of multilateralism, it will be interesting to see how India will build onto its strengths to arrive at a broader consensus of the international community to reform the UNSC and to restore faith in multilateralism by bringing the desired reform while balancing its own national interests.

(Views expressed are of the Author and not of the Council)

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