Even as it aspires to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has been campaigning for the same,India is finding it difficult to plot its way back as a non-permanent member,with contenders unwilling to stand down,and in some cases,New Delhi not keen to upset bilateral ties through an election.
In fact,the government had taken an in-principle decision at the highest levels to announce its candidature for the 2019 elections,targeting the 2020-21 term. But that announcement has been delayed after Vietnam,the contender from Asia,turned down Indias request to stand down.
The issue,sources said,was taken up by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh but there was reluctance on the part of Vietnam,which has already announced its candidature,to give up its bid as the country has not been a member of the UNSC in a long time.
Instead,Vietnam has urged India to back its case and in return,reaffirmed its support to New Delhis larger effort to become a permanent member. It also agreed to sign on to the G-4 draft on UNSC expansion.That has put New Delhi in a spot because India-Vietnam relations are an important folder in New Delhis overall strategic approach in East and Southeast Asia. In fact,the two countries have undertaken a major overhaul in their relationship,intensified defence cooperation and shown solidarity against Chinas aggressive moves in the South China Sea.
The problem is that if India were to agree to Vietnam,then it runs into Afghanistan which has also conveyed its interest to UN authorities. Now again,there are bilateral compulsions and Kabul would want India to support its maiden aspiration to this slot. Asia-Pacific has two slots in the UNSC non-permanent category but only one falls vacant each year.
Afghanistan is among the few countries that has never had the opportunity to be on the UNSC and allowing its nascent democratic institutions maximum international recognition is in Indias interest. More importantly,South Block will have to take a call on how it would reflect on India were it to get Afghanistan to stand down in its debut effort or even worse,get into a contest.
The year after that,the 2021 elections for the 2022-23 term has United Arab Emirates as a candidate. The issue here is that there is convention to have an Arab country in the UNSC either from the Africa group or from the Asia group – a convention India would not want to break.
Moving beyond,in the 2022 elections,the candidate is Mongolia,which like Afghanistan has never been on the Council. This is also a country India has been cultivating strategically keeping China in mind. And in the year after that,Pakistan has already declared its candidature,which would mean it could return to the Council faster than India.
While all this has created enough bother in South Block,one line is that India should have announced its candidature earlier and now that most slots are taken,the government should back off and not let this issue affect important bilateral relationships.
The counter is that India made this mistake in 1993-94,when it did not make a bid for a long time after losing to Japan,and eventually,it took 18 years before New Delhi could find its way back as a non-permanent member.
Either way,sources said,this is not going to be an easy call to make because candidatures have been announced up to 2038,which means India will end up having to deal with a contender.