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The long and winding road

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday pitched for reform within the United Nations Security Council. In a speech that literally went into “overtime”, a word American sport enthusiasts use often, Modi said reform must take place within a strict “timeframe” and that the current arrangement in the UNSC does not reflect the need to tackle new concerns like climate change and terrorism. Earlier this month, New Delhi stated that in a “significant development”, the UN General Assembly decided to adopt text-based negotiations from UNSC reforms. In other words, such negotiations are likely to provide India the requisite platform to push for a permanent seat with veto powers. Without a shadow of a doubt, the UNSC needs to undergo some reform. Suffice to say, it has failed in its mandate of maintaining international peace and security.

The US ignored a UNSC resolution and invaded Iraq in 2002, leaving behind mass casualties and a war-ravaged country. Moreover, according to certain geostrategic experts, without the American invasion of Iraq, the Islamic State would have never seen the light of day. The same logic, they argue, can be applied to the current civil war in Syria, where the Islamic State has spread its tentacles. If one is inclined to go further with this point of view, a recent report in the New York Times has claimed that nearly 30,000 foreign recruits have now poured into Syria, many to join the Islamic State. According to the report, the number of foreign recruits in the country has doubled in the past year. Events in the Middle East are only examples of how far the UNSC has failed in its mandate.

Coming back to India and its desire for a permanent seat in the UNSC, the process has only begun with many obstacles in the way. The obvious incentive here is that it would provide India the requisite authority and gravitas to tackle human rights violations in our neighbouring countries. Moreover, with a permanent seat and veto power, India can represent those nations that want to stop Western powers from promoting their vested interests, the disastrous results of which we see in Iraq today. However, anyone who thought that a decision on India’s membership would arrive sometime during the 70th UN General Assembly session is living on an another planet. New Delhi is aware of the challenges that lie ahead. The announcement by the UN for text-based negotiations is only the start of a long and winding road.

For the uninitiated, the negotiating text is a 25-page document that contains the views of various blocks of nations on five key parameters for reform in the UNSC. According to former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, these five parameters include, “the size of the expansion in the permanent and non-permanent categories, regional distribution, the working methods of the Security Council, its relationship with the UNGA, and veto powers”. Negotiations on these complex issues could take decades to resolve, especially after the likes of China, Russia, Pakistan, Italy, Mexico, Egypt and South Korea, among others, have rejected the text outright. Any resolution to reform the UNSC will need two-thirds of votes in its favour to pass. Has India gathered the requisite support? Fortunately, the US and the G4, comprising of Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan, have supported India’s bid for a permanent seat. However, the US remains ambivalent on the question of larger reform, which may inadvertently hamper India’s bid for a permanent seat.
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