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IDSA COMMENT

Reorganisation of Security Council

January 28, 2005

A permanent seat in the United Nations (UN) Security Council seems well within India’s grasp. India’s long held aspirations of playing a more active role in the global affairs by acquiring a permanent seat at the UN Security Council has received a significant boost by the report submitted by the Secretary general’s high-level panel on threats, challenges and change. The report has recommended that all the organs of the UN including its most powerful organ – the Security Council, are in need of change and need to be made more representative of the broader membership especially of the developing world. It is widely accepted that the current composition of the Security Council is indicative of post World War II order. A new world order was established by creation of the UN with a veto for the five nations who won the Great War- the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China. This club of five sits in the Security Council today because it defines security as an extension of its interests. That is why these states consider their possession of nuclear arms as legitimate, and condemn any other nuclear power as ‘irresponsible’ or potentially ‘evil’. During the Cold War, their internal differences ensured a balance but by the early nineties one half of the post-1945 arrangements had collapsed. With the vanishing of the second world, unilateralism moved in to fill the strategic vacuum. Third world countries most of whom came into existence post 1945, have often felt left out in this global structure and have been insisting that the Security Council must reflect the geopolitical realities of the twenty first century. It was with the task of strengthening the UN to meet the new threats to international peace and security in the twenty first century that the panel of sixteen eminent personalities was set up by the Secretary General.

The panel has recommended the enlargement of the Security Council and has proposed two models for the enlargement. One of the two models termed ‘Model A’ in the report, has recommended addition of six new permanent members and three new non-permanent members, thereby increasing the number of permanent members to 11 and non-permanent members to 13. The other model termed as Model B recommends creation of eight four-year renewable term (semi permanent) members and one new two-year non renewable member thereby retaining the number of permanent members to 5, increasing the number of non permanent members to 11 and creating eight semi permanent (a new category of membership) members. The report also divides the world into four zones i.e. Africa, Asia and Pacific, Europe and Americas. Out of the six new permanent members, it recommends two each from Africa (currently unrepresented) and Asia and Pacific (currently under represented – only China) and one each from the Europe and the Americas. Based on most parameters India and Japan are the most likely candidates from Asia and Pacific, Brazil from Americas and Germany from Europe. The two representatives from Africa are likely to be selected from amongst South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria. The panel report has been acclaimed by the Secretary General, who would present a report of his own in March 2005. The decisions are likely to be taken by the world leaders in September 2005 when they meet for a special summit at UN Headquarters.

In keeping with its anti-India stance – recent peace proposals notwithstanding – the proposal to enlarge the Security Council has led to deep consternation in Pakistan, as the realisation has dawned that any expansion of the Security Council will invariably lead to India’s inclusion on account of its size, geo-strategic significance, military strength and economic might. Also the way the expansion is being mooted Pakistan stands no chance of making into the expanded Security Council. This has led to Pakistan drumming up support to stall any expansion by ganging up with the lot of disgruntled countries – who are unlikely to get a seat in the expanded Security Council like Argentina and Italy. It has also come up with proposals that the selection of members should be left to respective regions thereby hoping to block India’s entry into the Security Council. The issues regarding India’s poor human rights record and its poor relations with neighbours have been raised in Pakistani media on a number of occasions to try and mar India’s prospects of making it to the Security Council. They have also raised the issue of religion saying that the Islamic world should also get a place in the expanded Security Council, without probably realising that India has the second largest population of Muslims in the world.

The report by the Secretary general’s high-level panel does not recommend veto powers for the new permanent members of the Security Council. This has led to some dejection and the foreign minister, Natwar Singh, has gone to the extent of saying that India was not impressed by any second-class status offer. The loss of veto power may somewhat diminish the lure of a permanent membership of the UN Security Council but any strong reservations by India at this juncture may be counter productive as the other countries being offered the membership may tend to accept them. This may shut the door on India’s aspirations for a long time to come. The most effective step taken by India to attain the membership was its alliance with Japan, Germany and Brazil to collectively bid for the permanent membership and any unilateral action at this juncture might severely impede Indian chances. Some sort of belated realisation seems to have dawned and the joint press statement by Brazil, Germany, India and Japan has welcomed the report. The statement supports the expansion of permanent and non-permanent membership of the Security Council by inclusion of developing countries to reflect today’s realities. It also urges the international community to embrace the opportunity wholeheartedly to bring about the needed change.

India should first try to get the permanent membership of the Security Council and then bid for Veto Power in conjunction with all the new permanent members of the Security Council. It may be a good ploy to ask for the withdrawal of Veto Powers from existing members and then settle for some sort of parity with the existing members. There is definitely merit in the fact that proliferation of Veto Power will end up making the Security Council a debating club. An ideal compromise could be to convert the Veto into a Half Veto i.e. a resolution can only be blocked if two or more Veto holding members vote against it. In an enhanced Security Council of 11 permanent members, it would amount to only five and a half vetoes as against five at present. Another option may be to limit the number of resolutions that can be vetoed by a particular country during a fixed period of time. The via media can always be found the important thing is that India must grab the opportunity with both hands and get into the Security Council first, if need be without the Veto Power.