UN Security Council: A Permanent Seat for India

30 Aug, 2000    ·   410

Wg Cdr NK Pant argues that India should be given a permanent seat in the UN Security Council

Tne of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s missions during his forthcoming visit to the US in September, 2000 may be lobbying India ’s case for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council. Reconstitution of the Security Council could be on the agenda of the UN General Assembly for deliberation. New Delhi will have to marshal all the resources at its disposal, including Uncle Sam’s blessings, to muster the requisite votes in the General Assembly.



The Security Council is an important UN organ with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It originally consisted of 11 countries--five permanent members -- China , France , Russia , United Kingdom and United States , besides six non permanent members elected by the UN General Assembly. In 1965, the Charter was amended the Council became a 15-member entity consisting of the original 5permanent members and 10 non permanent members elected for  two-year terms.



The UN General Assembly considered the expansion and equitable representation of the Security Council during preceding sessions and decided  that reform of the Council would require a two-thirds majority vote of the General Assembly. For these member nations reform of the Security Council became a central issue for the revitalization of the United Nations. These nations strongly feel that the composition of the Council needs to reflect the changing needs of the international community and current realities in the world.



Members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) have opined that its expansion should be based on equitable geographical representation.  A number of countries have supported proposals for an additional five permanent seats, with one each going to developing countries in the regions of Africa , Asia , Latin America and the Caribbean , and two seats reserved for industrialized countries, like Japan and Germany .  Along with China and Japan , only India can justifiably represent Asia , hence it has rightly asserted its claim to a permanent seat.



The credit for strongly articulating India ’s case  must go to former Prime Minister IK Gujral who, while addressing the UN General Assembly in September 1997, staked its claim  for a permanent seat on the Security Council. According to him the aim of UN reforms should be the creation of a structure which can effectively respond to the priorities of by the developing world. India , with its ancient civilization, rich heritage, deep rooted democratic system and growing economic potential has the credentials to champion the cause of developing nations.



Following President Clinton’s successful visit to India , mixed signals have emanated from Washington on this issue. US ambassador  Richard Celeste’s recent remarks that New Delhi ’s case for permanent membership in the Security Council would receive serious consideration is indicative of change in an earlier unhelpful American stance. While Russian backing can be taken for granted, the French have reiterated their support to India stating that it will contribute to the construction of a harmonious multipolar world. The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook , during his recent visit to India recognized New Delhi to be a natural contender for the UN Security Council seat. It is only China that will remain cool, as it will not like to bestow parity on New Delhi in a reconstituted Security Council.



India , if accepted as a  new permanent member, must enjoy the same powers and prerogatives as the existing members. The most critical and controversial issue remains the use of the veto power should be permanent members, described by some member nations as anachronistic and inconsistent with the principles of democracy and equality of member nations. Either the right to exercise the veto power should be completely abolished or all the permanent members, old and new, should be vested with it. There have been  suggestions that new permanent entrants to the Council should not have veto rights. Such mischievous ideas will shake the very foundations of the Security Council putting its restructuring in jeopardy.



The world body must take note that a large geographical entity like India cannot just be ignored anymore.  It must be conceded its rightful place to play a larger role in world affairs for the benefit of mankind.