Why India Has Cut It's Funding To The United Nations By Half

Ujjwal Shrotryia

Feb 23, 2024, 04:49 PM | Updated Feb 24, 2024, 10:41 AM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and EAM S Jaishankar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and EAM S Jaishankar.

India, in the interim budget announced on 1 February, cut its contribution to the United Nations (UN) by more than 50 per cent.

Last year (2023-24), India contributed Rs 382.54 crore ($47 million) to the UN's budget, while this year (2024-25), its contribution has been reduced to just Rs 175 crore ($21 million), a reduction of 54.25 per cent.

The Indian government, which has been advocating for reforms in the UN in general and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in particular for quite a while now, seems to be getting disappointed by the lack of forward movement.

The UNSC, one of the six groupings within the UN, comprises five permanent members — the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and France — and ten more non-permanent members selected for two-year terms on a rotational basis. The UNSC is responsible for peace and security in the world and can authorise sanctions and military actions.

India is miffed that despite all its efforts, the UNSC is unwilling to reform, so much so that the world's most populous country and the world's fifth largest economy (that is on path to become the third largest), does not have permanent representation in the UNSC.

India's stance on UN reform is not an isolated one. Several countries including Japan, Germany, and Brazil share similar frustrations with the UN's current structure.

The structure of the UN Security Council, established in the aftermath of World War-2, was intended to prevent future conflicts by granting veto power to its five permanent members.

Analysis reveals a growing consensus among these nations that the UN, especially the Security Council, must evolve to reflect the global power dynamics of the 21st century.

Although, this budget cut of $20 million by India, which is the largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations across 49 different missions (some 253,000 troops), is not likely to have a significant impact on the UN's working (it has a budget of close to $3.4 billion) and is more of a symbolic gesture.

However, this is a sign of India's frustration about the lack of forward movement in the direction of reforms.

In fact, India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, just yesterday (22 February) in the presence of multiple dignitaries at the Raisina Dialogue highlighted this.

He said, "When the UN came into being, it had approximately 50 members, and today there are four times the members. So, it was a common-sense proposition that you could not continue the same way when you have four times the members."

The UN has already become dysfunctional in managing the current crises of the world. It has failed quite spectacularly in diffusing multiple ongoing crises — the Russia-Ukraine war or the conflict in West Asia between Israel and Hamas, or even create a consensus or concrete actions about climate change.

Moreover, when the world needed it the most — during the trying times of Covid-19 — the UN was nowhere to be seen. In those times of crisis, India was the one that came forward with open arms to help smaller nations.

This showed how impotent the UN has become, while India, on the other hand demonstrated its ability to make do without the UN. India, a low to middle-income country by Western standards, donated millions of vaccines to smaller countries under its Vaccine Maitri programme, while the UN system displayed its effectiveness, or lack thereof.

Some of the bigger countries in the UN are also disinclined to change.

They do lip service to the need for reforms but back out at the moment of truth. EAM Jaishankar in his speech hinted at this, stating that some big powers have gamed the international system and used it to their advantage, subtly hinting at China.

Notably, Chinese diplomats head four of the 15 multilateral bodies of UN and have influence on multiple other bodies. It also exercises it control using its proxies — case in point, the World Health Organisation (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus — who was selected using Chinese influence in 2017.

China often uses this influence to change policies of these organisations to its advantage.

Jaishankar added, "A lot of the world’s problems today are a creation of the West, but it is also true that the biggest opposer of the UN Security Council reform today is not a Western country, (read China)."

Editorial Associate at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.

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Future of Indian politics and economy is closely linked to the politics and economy of Uttar Pradesh