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National Strategy Lecture - United Nations and India's National Strategy

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  • March 07, 2011
    National Strategy Lecture

    Chair: Lt Gen Satish C. Nambiar

    After Lt Gen Satish Nambiar welcomed Ambassador Muchkund Dubey by recalling their past association, Ambassador Dubey began his INSP lecture. He started by stating that the United Nations could be viewed only through an idealistic framework.

    Multilateralism is an evolutionary process of progress from a lower level to a higher level of management. The alternatives to multilateralism are either anarchy or hegemony. The highest form of multilateralism was reached with the formation of the United Nations based on two pillars. One is commonly shared human values and the other is the body of international laws. A retreat from these two pillars would mean a retreat to the dark ages. The UN at present is not perfect as there is a residual hegemony in the form of permanent powers. However, this hegemony was moderated in the very beginning by providing in the charter for nine positive votes in the UN Security Council which necessitates the permanent members to garner the support of non-permanent members while passing a resolution.

    Prevention of war and removal of its causes inform the charter as well as the Constitutions of different UN organizations and agencies. Harmonization of actions of nations is the purpose set out in the charter. However, starting with the 70s, organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund began functioning independently. Over time, UN became a forum for discussing and validating neo-liberal economic principles. Weaknesses have aggravated to a point where the UN is considered by some as redundant and irrelevant. Most of the criticisms are exaggerated, and they end up hiding real issues afflicting the body such as apathy of the developed countries and zero growth in contribution of funds.

    To address the dysfunctionalities, many reform proposals have been touted for more than a decade beginning with the seminal document put forward in 1992 namely, ‘An agenda for Peace’; this included proposals for creation of a rapid deployment force under Chapter VIII, an endowment fund for peacekeeping and a revolving fund and operationalisation of Article 43 under which the Secretary General would conduct negotiations. None of them were accepted. The last significant document on UN reform is the report of High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change that contained varied proposals such as R2P, peace-building etc. Since then there has not been much headway in reforms.

    The leadership of India’s independence movement had consistently supported the United Nations. Nehru’s speeches on UN are reflective of his vision of a World Government. Of late, however, India’s responses to UN reforms excepting the UNSC have been disappointing. It did not support proposals contained in the Agenda for Peace, and opposed Tobin tax on spurious grounds. Ambassador Dubey regretted that India had not presented a single proposal for reforming the UN. This is contradictory to India’s active role in the formative years of the UN as well as to its own desire for an equitable world order.

    In the discussion that followed, Lt Gen Nambiar began by pointing out the trend towards regional arrangements in resolving conflicts. To this, Ambassador Dubey pointed out that regional arrangements have been an integral part of the UN since the organization’s founding. This is reflected in issues related to security as well as economic development. However, existing incapacities in Latin America and Africa do not allow for absolute reliance on regional arrangements. He bemoaned the lack of vision that is crippling collective response to meet global challenges. To a question on a new blueprint, he stated that one should take into account the aspirations of the people as well as the relative decline of the State while preparing it. Pursuit of an idealistic path will be countered by immediate self-interests of nations. However, compromises are inevitable in the process of progress from a lower level to a higher level of international order.

    Lt Gen Nambiar concluded by expressing his doubts about meaningful reform in the near future. He concluded by encouraging the scholars to research on various themes elaborated by Ambassador Dubey in his lecture.

    Report prepared by Dr. Sundar M.S, Research Assistant at IDSA.