For a long time, this country has been striving to secure a permanent seat around the horseshoe table in the Security Council chamber at the United Nations at Turtle Bay in New York, but so far without any success. No fair-minded individual or country can question the legitimacy of the Indian demand, given the enormous changes since the foundation of the UN in 1945 in the aftermath of World War II, when its
total membership was barely a fraction of today’s 193.
Only the five victors of that war remain even now the veto-wielding members of the Security Council responsible for maintaining world peace and order. Others are elected regionally for a two-year period. The council consists of only 15 members. Although India is a founder-member of the UN, it was then still under British rule and economically poor. Today, it is the fourth largest (in terms of purchasing power parity) and fastest-growing economy, and a major power on the world stage. Most importantly, it is a democracy of a billion-plus people. No wonder then that India was in the lead when, after the end of the Cold War, a majority of countries started a movement for the reform of the UN, especially the expansion of the Security Council. But those dominating the world order did not want this to happen. So they let the talk go on, but saw to it that no decision or consensus was reached.
However, there are wheels within wheels. Even the movers and shakers of the world discovered that they had a serious problem on their hands in Europe. For though Britain and France were two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the most powerful country of the continent was Germany. Consequently, around 2005, the US and its allies seemed to indicate that, for the present, Germany
and Japan should be added to the Security Council, and that future additions should be decided after a consensus was reached. No one was prepared to buy this discriminatory and dubious idea. China, in any case, was determined to keep Japan out.
Italy and, even more effectively, Americans of Italian origin argued that since they, too, had lost in World War II, they wouldn’t allow only Germany to become a permanent member. Hence, critically important world issues, such as Iran’s nuclear programme, are discussed with the country concerned by the P5+1. The chosen one is Germany, of course.
In recent days, the UN General Assembly — which alone can elect new members to the Security Council by a two-thirds majority — has taken a decision that has started a frisson of hope and optimism in many places, including in this country, largely in official circles. The process of reforming and enlarging the UN Security Council has begun and might produce the desired result. The decision taken by the UN General Assembly is that a text-based discussion on the desired goal should begin in the current 70th session of the UN General Assembly. And to facilitate it, a text has been added to the decision.
It will perhaps be wrong to say that nothing has moved. But going by the rude reality on the ground, those who believe that the UN General Assembly’s move is a road map to an early consensus are being utterly unrealistic. This is so because the text on which the decision is to be based is nothing more than a catalogue of the various and highly conflicting views of different groups. The best that can happen is that the highly protracted and unproductive discussions that used to take place in different groups will now be repeated in the General Assembly. This is not all. China, Russia and the countries that are part of the “Uniting for Consensus” movement, including Pakistan, Italy, Egypt, Mexico and many more, have totally rejected the 25-page text and strongly opposed its introduction in the General Assembly. Nor should it be forgotten that China would never want either India or Japan to be seen as its equals. Rivalries and conflicts in Africa, Latin America and everywhere else are equally strong.
The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator.