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Posted at: Mar 27, 2015, 1:34 AM; last updated: Mar 26, 2015, 10:14 PM (IST)

Expansion of Security Council

Time for India to get real
Expansion of Security Council
If India is to be admitted to the Security Council it raises the question of the revision of the UN charter

Before writing this article I re-read Chinmaya Gharekhan's “The Horse Shoe Table: an Inside View of the U.N Security Council” to ensure that I do not commit any faux pas. On 22nd June 1955 Jawaharlal Nehru held talks with Nikolai Bulganin, Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, at the Kremlin. Nehru at the time was at the zenith of world influence. In a variety of ways he was setting the international agenda. The Soviet Prime Minister said to Nehru, “While we are discussing the general international situation and reducing tension, we propose suggesting at a later stage India’s inclusion as the sixth member of the Security Council”. 

Jawaharlal Nehru’s response was, somewhat condescending, combined with misplaced idealism. “Perhaps, Mr. Bulganin knows that some people in the United States have suggested that India should replace China in the Security Council. This is to create trouble between the US and China. We are of course, wholly opposed to it. Further we are opposed to pushing ourselves forward (this is precisely what we have been doing for the past three decades) to occupy because that may itself create difficulties and India might itself become a subject of controversy.  If India is to be admitted to the Security Council it raises the question of the revision of the charter of the United Nations. We feel that this should not be done till the question of China's admission and possibly others is first solved”. 

The last sentence makes little sense. China was already a permanent member. Bulganin did not propose the unseating of China. His proposal was for India becoming the sixth permanent member. Similarly the words “some others” was even more mystifying. Which countries did he have in mind?

During his recent visit to India, President Barack Obama declared that India should become a permanent member of the Security Council. In his 2010 visit he had said much of the same thing. This is distinguished verbalising. It is legitimate to ask, “Mr. President, what concrete steps did you take to in this regard?” If the President did take up the matter with the other permanent members of the Security Council, what was their response? Did he ask Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for his views? Surely we are entitled to know.

The 70th anniversary of the founding of the U.N provides a suitable opportunity to put this issue on the agenda of the UN/Security Council. At the 60th anniversary the foreign ministers of Brazil, Germany, Japan and India took valiant attempts for the enlargement and democratisation of the Security Council. Our proposals were placed before the President of Brazil, the Prime Ministers of India, Japan and the Deputy Chancellor of Germany. A press note was issued. There the matter ended. Alas! We were beaten by the sepulchral functioning of the U.N. The invisible stymieing was from permanent members USA, UK, France and China. Russia was the exception. The organisation suffers from congenital somnambulism. (This was not so when the UN took up colonial and racial issues. Here it led from the front.)

The UN charter has been amended three times. The amended Article 123 increased the membership of the Security Council from eleven to fifteen. The P-5 — USA, UK, Russia, China, France — were not touched. These five are the main stumbling block for the reform and enlargement of the Council. Gharekhan puts it succinctly, “…. none of the P-5 wants any addition to their category.” The P-5 are in division one, the rest in division two. Inequality was embedded in the UN charter. No level-playing field in the Security Council. In June 1945 when the charter was being drafted, U.S representative Cord Hull made it clear that the veto provision was not negotiable. (Incidentally, democracy was not a prerequisite for membership.)

India possibly could not make it to becoming a veto-wielding permanent member. Nehru unknowingly missed an opportunity. Today, the question of India becoming the sole new member is simply not possible. She will have to be part of a “package”.

Let us begin with China. Recently External Affairs Minister  Sushma Swaraj on her visit to China happily announced that China would support India becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. This really was a mixing of facts with hope. The truth is somewhat different. China has never been so specific. The language they use is, "India should play a more active and larger role at the UN (These may not be the exact words, but near enough).

The People's Republic of China is the only permanent member from Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is unlikely to give up that unique advantage. Certainly not to India. Thus a package will have many takers. Even on the package too there will be no unanimity. No conjunction of minds. Nationalism, not internationalism, will take precedent. This is the real UN crisis. The Muslim world will have to be represented. By whom — Egypt, Indonesia or Bangladesh? What if Iran, a Shia country, puts forward its claim? Turkey, a non-Arab Muslim country, will be in the running. Africa will prove to be a major hurdle. Should it be Nigeria or South Africa? Will the OAU agree on either of these. From Latin America Brazil is the obvious choice. Argentina's claim cannot be wished away. What about Mexico? Europe already has three members —UK, France and Russia. The European Union wants a seat. Germany is talked about. Japan too will be the serious contender but China will surely veto Japan coming in.

My package will be confined to the following new permanent members: Brazil, India, Nigeria, Egypt and the European Union. This will undoubtedly be challenged. The Council then will consist of 21 members. The number of non-permanent members in my view should increase to 25.

Every solution produces its own problem. Should the new permanent members have the veto? A pernicious theory is being floated by some Indian pundits. The new members should get the veto after ten years. As External Affairs Minister I dismissed this theory.   India could never accept a second-class membership in the expanded Council. That would be humiliating. 

The U.N General Assembly session begins in September. Let us see what it comes up with on reform or no reform. 

The writer is a former External Affairs Minister


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