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Monday Morning Meeting on Assessing India's Non-Permanent Membership at the UN Security Council

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  • August 29, 2022
    Monday Morning Meeting
    Only by Invitation
    1000 hrs

    Dr. Rajeesh Kumar, Associate Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), spoke on "Assessing India's Non-Permanent Membership at the UN Security Council” at the Monday Morning Meeting held on 29 August 2022. The session was chaired by Ms. Ruchita Beri, Senior Research Associate, MP-IDSA. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA, and scholars of the Institute were in attendance.

    Executive Summary

    The discussion centred on two issues. The first is India's presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and how India contributed to expanding the UNSC agenda. The second theme emphasised was India's voting response in the United Nations Security Council on a variety of issues, including peacekeeping, terrorism, peace and security, and conflicts in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa.

    Detailed Report

    The speaker focused much of his remarks on India's one-and-a-half-year tenure (India joined the UNSC in January 2021) as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). He highlighted that India's membership comes at a time of rising tensions between superpowers within and outside the Security Council, posing a significant challenge to India. The speaker emphasised the significance of India's performance in the UNSC by offering an outline of India's previous UNSC terms.

    For the 2021–22 UNSC term, India's primary objective in the UNSC was to implement a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system. This approach was guided by Prime Minister Modi's five ‘S’s- samman (respect), samvad (dialogue), sahyog (cooperation), shanti (peace), and samriddhi (prosperity). India had also identified five priorities for the term: seeking responsible and inclusive solutions, result-oriented measures to counter international terrorism, reforming multilateralism to reflect contemporary realities of global politics, streamlining peacekeeping operations, and technology with a human touch. 

    India held three signature events after it acceded to the UNSC presidency in August 2021. The open debate on maritime security was followed by debates on peacekeeping operations and counterterrorism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over the high-level discussion on maritime security, making him the first Indian Prime Minister to do so. It was the first standalone discussion on maritime security in the UNSC and the meeting adopted the first presidential statement on this issue. During the discussion, India also proposed five principles for discussion.

    The open debate on counterterrorism was chaired by India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar. The Minister reiterated that counter-terrorism is a priority for India, which has been the victim of major terror attacks. He also emphasised the need for the early adoption of a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism for future global counter-terrorism efforts. The open debate on peacekeeping produced a presidential statement and a resolution on accountability for crimes against peacekeepers. The statement recognised the role of technology in peacekeeping and proposed using operationally proven cost-effective, and environment-friendly technologies. 

    Dr. Kumar added that an important issue that coincided with the Indian presidency was the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. As Council President, India organised a briefing, released two press statements condemning the terrorist attacks, and introduced a resolution to address the Afghan problem. Resolution 2593 was passed, according to which, Afghan territory should not be used to threaten or attack any country, to house or train terrorists, or to support a terrorist organisation. India has also urged for an inclusive regime that represents all sections of Afghan society. 

    Ukraine was another important issue which came to the UNSC during India’s current stint. Dr. Kumar argued that India’s approach to the Ukrainian crisis showed its independent and neutral foreign policy. Since February 2022, the UNSC convened 13 meetings on the Ukraine issue and in all these meetings India has consistently called for restraint on all sides. On February 25, when the UN Security Council considered a draft resolution tabled by Albania and the US, demanding Russia's immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine, India, along with China and the United Arab Emirates, abstained. India called for an immediate de-escalation of violence and hostility and requested the opposing parties to return to the path of diplomacy. On February 27, India again abstained from voting on a UNSC resolution to refer the Ukraine crisis to the General Assembly. Later in March, India, along with 12 other UN Security Council members, abstained on a resolution by Russia on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. On August 24, Russia called for a procedural vote on whether to allow Ukraine’s President to address the UNSC, via video conferencing. At the procedural vote, India once again abstained.

    Dr. Kumar noted that 88 UN resolutions have been enacted since 2021, with India voting in favour of 81 of them. In other words, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, India backed more than 90% of the resolution. In 2021, 57 resolutions were passed, with India supporting 54 of them. Two proposed resolutions were not adopted by the Council. One was on Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which India abstained, and the other was on climate and security, in which India voted against. In 2022, 31 resolutions were adopted, 27 of which India supported, and 5 of which India did not support. Almost half of the resolutions during the term were related to Africa (42 resolutions) and India has supported 40 out of these 42 and abstained from two that were related to conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan. On Ukraine, four resolutions were adopted where India supported one and abstained from the remaining three resolutions.

    Dr. Kumar also stated that India's voting history demonstrates that the country has always opted to be part of the democratic majority, assisting in the adoption of broadly acceptable decisions and resolutions. It has only used abstentions to express its reservations regarding a specific issue. India has endeavoured to prioritise a political approach to crisis resolution through dialogue and negotiation. Finally, as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, India has always demonstrated maturity, flexibility, principles, and pragmatism. So India's approach, together with its presidency and working responses on various issues, demonstrated some level of maturity in the UNSC, and India also pushed for its permanent membership in the UNSC.

    Comments and Questions

    Ms. Ruchita Beri asked the speaker about the current and future relevance of the UN Security Council as the global body dealing with international security. Ambassador Sujan Chinoy, during the discussion, explicated the archaic and undemocratic nature of the UNSC. There have also been concerns raised about UN Security Council reforms, India's position on women, peace, and the security agenda, and the draft resolution that linked climate change to global security challenges.

    The discussion ended with a vote of thanks by the Chair.

    The report was prepared by Ms. Bulbul Prakash, Intern, ALACUN Centre, MP-IDSA.

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