The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is going to conduct elections for 5 non-permanent seats of the powerful UN body, and India’s candidacy for the Asia Pacific seat is set to go unopposed. This is bound to renew the decades old debate over one major issue with the United Nations- India’s legitimate and largely uncontested claim for a Permanent UNSC seat.
While the demand for UNSC reforms itself is quite old with Japan and Germany demanding a Permanent Seat since 1992, India has itself been in the reckoning for quite some time and has been expressly demanding a Permanent Seat in the UNSC since 2005. India’s claim gets substantially stronger in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic and an objectionable China tilt within the UN.
The Coronavirus Pandemic has not just infected millions and killed thousands across the world, but it has also eroded the credibility of intergovernmental institutions- the most discredited of all being the United Nations. The biggest takeaway from the Pandemic is that the World Health Organisation (WHO)- a UN specialised agency has failed the world due to its biased approach following its partisan approach favouring China.
But the rot is deeper and WHO just the tip of the iceberg, as many as four out of 15 specialised UN agencies are headed by Chinese officials. No other country, including the United States, leads more than one. To top it all, China occupies a Permanent Seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and is avoiding reforms with the veto power it enjoys. There was never a time as desperate as this Pandemic to implement UNSC reforms and give India a long overdue Permanent Seat in the UN body.
The United Nations has become grossly China-centric and is using its powers to advance the country’s interest, and this is particularly dangerous given that the country has a dubious human rights track record, apart from being an irresponsible world power.
China occupies key positions in the United Nations which allow it to underplay its domestic and international misadventures. The United Nations, in turn, has come looking like a meekly organisation compromising dangerously on the liberal values of accountability, equality, and transparency that it claims it strongly espouses.
China is, for example, a member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Consultative Group. Therefore, Beijing which runs concentration camps in the far western province of Xinjiang and commits brutalities upon pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong, apart from mysteriously disappearing whistle-blowers and civil rights activists gets to decide the selection of at least 17 UN human rights mandate-holders over the next one year.
But this is not it, the UN Human Rights body has actually had the dubious distinction of endangering the lives of human rights activists in China. In 2017, the failed UN agency had handed over the names of four human rights activists who were to attend a Human Rights Council session. China is known to mysteriously disappear such activists and the UN has never really cared to explain this indiscretion.
Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic, India has however shown what it stands for- liberal values, unhindered flow of information, accountability and responsibility towards the larger global security issues. While China doesn’t fit into even one of such parameters, India stands for every single value that the United Nations claims to espouse.
During the Pandemic, India has been evacuating the citizens of other countries, donating Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) that is being touted as a possible cure for the Wuhan virus to other countries and supplying other medical equipment. Why shouldn’t the United Nations recognise India’s efforts?
Even before the Pandemic, it has been largely accepted that India has a legitimate claim given that it is the fifth largest economy in the world, the second largest population with 1.3 billion people, it has the world’s second-largest military force with nuclear capability and finally it is the biggest contributor in terms of the number of troops to the UN Peacekeeping Missions.
It is in this context that India’s ex- Permanent Representative at the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin recently said, One of those aspirational goals was, is and will remain permanent membership of the Security Council, because we feel by any present-day calculus, we would qualify.”
India’s stronger presence is indispensable if an irresponsible giant like China has to be counteracted. It is absurd that the United Nations should allow a responsible power like India to be irked at the multilateral platform by an irresponsible belligerent power like China.
While stonewalling India’s claim to a UNSC Permanent Seat, Beijing has misused its position to hamper India’s interests by supporting Pakistan-backed terrorists like Jaish-e-Mohammed head Maulana Masood Azar. The Dragon also abused the UNSC by trying to internationalise the abrogation of Article 370 by India last year.
The issue of expansion and reform of the United Nations itself is not an India-centric issue, but India’s claim to a Permanent Seat figures prominently in this issue. Take for instance Akbaruddin’s latest observations- “Now, the issue of the expansion and reform of the Security Council is not an India-centric issue. It is an issue which entails a whole host of teams, because, as I told you, everybody acknowledges that India is sui generic.”
The current composition of the UNSC is actually rooted in the outdated geopolitical context of post-World War II realities, and it needs to be synced with the present-day context. But the United Nations, 1,115 positions of which are occupied by Chinese nationals, is blocking such reforms because Chinese cronies within the intergovernmental organisation fear that new entrants like Japan and India will eventually become American allies and counter Chinese belligerence.
The G4 nations comprising Brazil, India, Japan and Germany which support each other’s claims for permanent UNSC seats have a historically strong bid to make in the COVID context. All of them barring Brazil have been phenomenal in tackling the Chinese virus Pandemic.
The Uniting for Consensus (UFC), known as the Coffee Club, that opposes the expansion of Permanent Seats, stands on a weak footing. While Pakistan is struggling to get out of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey-list, Italy is struggling with a battered post-Coronavirus economy.
As India will most certainly take the non-Permanent UNSC seat for the eighth time, New Delhi will have a strong case to make for itself- the credibility of the United Nations is at an all-time low and it must fulfill India’s legitimate bid for a Permanent UNSC seat if it wants to rescue itself from the credibility crisis.