Towards a more equitable world order
Power is seldom shared. Absolute power – like the veto right of the Permanent 5 in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – is hoarded with all the comprehensive national capacities of the five big powers. The talk of India joining the ranks of the P-5 had been swirling around for more than a decade. Each time a Russian, US, and Chinese President visited New Delhi, they would be routinely asked whether they support India’s candidature.
A lot of diplomatic platitudes usually follow, but a firm promise on the veto-wielding membership of the high table is seldom promised without equivocation. But the pressure is rising in the 193 member-state international body to reform itself in keeping with the changing geopolitical realities.
The USA still maintains a globe-girdling military capacity, but there is a general acknowledgement that it is a declining power. China, being a neophyte in the league of big powers, however, has a growing capability commensurate with its Middle Kingdom notion of itself. Russia is holding up as a big power with Vladimir Putin, the President, proving to be a consummate power broker and someone who has the temerity to challenge the notion of the global order of the Anglo-American combine.
With this backdrop, India sought to catapult itself to the expanded P-5 club. Initially, it lobbied the major powers as a tactic. Their ambivalence had stymied the early effort. New Delhi finally realised that it needed to represent the developing world, with Latin American and African groups adding their numbers to the Indian bandwagon.
India’s candidature to the UNSC is somewhat favourably viewed by the African countries especially because it has for long been the largest provider of security through peacekeeping operations. In 30-odd years, the Indian military, paramilitary and police forces have been given the task of UN-mandated peacekeeping operations. And not in a single instance has there been a case where a controversy has erupted.
This impeccable record, its economic rise and the dexterity of its people have caught the attention of the world. Translating this as a support for a permanent UNSC seat would not particularly be an uphill task were it to go to the floor for an up and down vote.
But the journey to this stage is tortuous. For the past decade or so, especially after the 2005 global summit there have been airy fairy pronouncements by the likes of the USA, Russia, the UK, and France that UNSC certainly needed to be expanded to reflect the changed, new global scenario.
Unilateral hegemonic moves and its bandwagoning effect especially witnessed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria, have often shown that the UNSC is incapable of reflecting the views of smaller nations, and instead have just rubber stamped US State department or Pentagon’s worldview.
The same hegemony was witnessed about a week ago when for the first time; a concrete text-based proposal was circulated among the members of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
Though this has given a concrete shape to what each of the 193 member-states think about the global body, the text-based discussions also showed to the world the deeply held conservative views of China, the USA, or even Russia. The UK and France, however, broke ranks and supported the effort to expand the permanent members club and include countries like India.
But that India has not quite got its pieces together to push for its candidature was evident when the Group of Four (G-4) meeting on the issue was quite lackluster and failed to catch the attention of the “powers-that-be”. Interestingly, neither the G-4 countries like Brazil, Germany, Japan, nor India are on top of their myriad domestic problems to fully throw their weight behind their agenda.
The text-based proposal, however, will not get obliterated so easily. Hence, were the Big Powers to work through the problem of expanding the UNSC apex, they could seek changes in the proposal itself. That would be a far more democratic approach than any attempts to discredit the process.
For PM, Modi this will be the real test for his personal dynamism and all the goodwill he supposedly has gathered in his peripatetic moves. It will also be the test for the Indian diplomats about how they can pull their weight in the international arena. However, the biggest input to these exercises will be the rise in the general well-being of the people of the country. And that will only bolster the diplomatic moves to define Indian “exceptionalism”.
(The author is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal)