India on Monday described as a “significant development” the UN General Assembly’s decision to adopt text-based negotiations for the Security Council reforms that is expected to provide momentum to the talks on the long-pending process.
“This is a significant development as after more than two decades, we can now commence text-based negotiations so that the long-pending reforms of the UN Security Council can be achieved,” Vikas Swarup, who is the official spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said on Monday night, within minutes of the development.
Now, rewind to August end this year. When the UN General Assembly’s new President Mogens Lykketoft met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, the Indian leadership made a strong pitch for expansion of the UNSC in the forthcoming session, which will commemorate 70 years of its existence.
The intergovernmental negotiations on UNSC expansion began on September 15 ‘2008, when a UN decision 62/557 was taken. However, for last seven years, there have been no progress, as there was no “text” arrived at on which negotiations could have begun.
But, on July 31 this year, the Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the UN Courtenay Rattray – who is chair of the Intergovernmental negotiations process – came up with the text. “He was subjected to lot of pressure from those countries, which do not want to see any progress on the UNSC reforms. But, he stuck to his guns and put out the text in the 69th session of UN,” an Indian government official said.
Accordingly, the text has positions of all member countries on different aspects of the UN reforms – how many members of UNSC should be there, what is going to happen to the veto powers, what should be the working method and so on.
Now, the next step was to ratify the decision of the 69th session – which put out the negotiating text on the UNSC reforms — and make it an agenda item in the 70th session, which started on Monday.
That is what happened on Monday night.
“After seven years of intergovernmental negotiations, the international community has finally got a text. All these years, the member countries were just articulating their positions on the UNSC reforms, with no negotiating text in front of them. As a result, it was turning out to be an exercise in futility,” a South Block source said.
Now, with a text — in front of the UNGA — the challenge is to take it forward.
China, predictably, said that this was a “technical” or “roll-over” decision. Pakistan too joined the chorus. Italy too has made their opposition clear.
It is widely known that majority in the UN security Council do not want the council to be expanded. And they have been using their proxies to scuttle the process. And that will be the game in town in the months to come.
Now, it will be for India, to team up with other like-minded countries across continents (L-69 and G-4 groupings, to begin with), to get the UNGA to push the text-based negotiations towards conclusion in the coming months and years. There is no time to sit back and rejoice. The uphill task has just begun.