The Big Picture – UNSC Reforms: Can India find a place in the Council?
The reforms of the United Nations Security Council have been a subject of much debate for a long time. For years, countries outside the permanent council have been demanding both reforms and expansion. India has been one of the main countries, which has been seeking a permanent seat in the council. Through the years, however, this demand has remained unfulfilled even as India has joined three other countries Brazil, Germany and Japan, known as G4, to demand that all they be included. Recently, the United Nations general assembly adopted a negotiating text by consensus. This text will be the basis for negotiations after nearly two decades of attempts to come to this stage. This is the first time in the history of the intergovernmental negotiation process that a decision on UNSC reform has been adopted by means of an official document. This also indicates that most countries in the General Assembly support a restructuring of the UNSC. However, three countries – China, US and Russia – have not formally contributed to the text.
This move is significant because discussions so far were taking place on the basis of statements by different countries, reiterating their known positions, without any text. With the negotiating text in place, the positions of different countries are formally known. It is also true that this move is procedurally significant. However, this is substantially well below the media. Some people are of the opinion that the opposition to any kind of meaningful expansion of the UNSC along with veto seems low possibility. Although this is a positive development, it cannot be seen as a definitive development.
Experts say that the reform of the Security Council is overdue. UNSC, formed to meet the challenges of the post-War world, has struggled to cope with the dynamics of the new world. In the last two decades, the global order has seen massive changes. Various multilateral institutions like BRICS have been established. The developing nations, including India, are playing a larger role in both the international economy and politics. But these changes are not reflected in the UN, where all critical decisions are still being taken by the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council. Also, the geopolitical rivalry among the permanent members has prevented the UNSC from coming up with effective mechanisms to deal with global crises.
The road ahead is difficult. Three powerful members of the UNSC — Russia, China, and the U.S. — are opposed to any major restructuring of the Council. While Russia and the U.S. have said they would support India’s UNSC bid, when it comes to proceedings at the UN their positions differ from the promises they make at bilateral meeting. The U.S. has said that it favours only a modest expansion of the UNSC, and Russia is not in favour of any change in the veto arrangement. Even if the General Assembly members reach a consensus on reform, the permanent members could shoot it down. Hence, the permanent members should realise that a more democratic and representative Security Council would be better equipped to address global challenges.