The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, charged with the maintenance of international peace & security as well as accepting new members to the UN and approving any changes to its UN Charter. It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
India and other countries of the UN general assembly (UNGA) have been asking for the reforms in United nations since late 1970s.
Need For UNSC Reforms:
- UNSC still reflects the geopolitical architecture of the Second World War.
- It was expanded only once in 1963 to add 4 non-permanent members (In 1971 PRC replaced ROC as a permanent member of the UN Security Council).
- No permanent member from Africa, despite 75% of work of the UNSC focused on Africa.
- Ever growing threat of Nuclear War & Terrorism needs deeper understanding & collective decision.
- Unable to respond effectively to present situations of international conflict.
- India and a large number of countries believe that the current UN and its powerful Security Council does not reflect the ground realities of the 21st century.
Reform of the UNSC encompasses five key issues:
- Categories of membership,
- The question of the veto held by the five permanent members,
- Regional representation,
- The size of an enlarged Council and its working methods, and
- The Security Council-General Assembly relationship.
Hindrances in implementation of reforms:
- China is reluctant to see its stature diminished. (Though it has supported India’s bid as a permanent member, with a rider that India does not associate its bid with Japan).
- USA is conscious that a larger body would be more unwieldy and a bigger collection of permanent members more difficult to manage.
- Failure to name the possible African representatives because of intense rivalry amongst them and severe criticism of their candidature within Africa.
- Opposition from “Coffee Club” (Italy, Mexico and Pakistan) as well as the reluctance of existing members that has stalled the reform.
- Any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states, and that of all the permanent members of the UNSC enjoying the veto right.
- Kishore Mahbubani, a diplomat, advocates a 7-7-7 formula for UNSC reform (7 permanent members, 7 semi-permanent members and 7 non-permanent members).
- Apart from Permanent & Non-permanent membership, a new category of “semi-permanent” seats is intriguing as, if properly structured, it could ensure legitimacy without preventing flexibility for a changing world.
Options available to India if a permanent Security Council seat is unavailable for India at UNSC:
Today, One of the major demand in the reform process is acceptance of more members in the “Security council” and equivalent representation of all the regions in this body.
But the permanent seat for India at security council seems impossible at the moment. But, there are many other options on table for India to strengthen it’s position in the council:
-> Semi-permanent seat: The provision of semi-permanent seats in the security council for long periods of 6-8 years with re-election provisions is one such option. As India have adequate support in the General Assembly this provision looks good for India.
-> Representation in other bodies: India could look for election or nomination to other important bodies like ICJ, Human rights council, committee on contribution etc. of UN to increase it’s influence in the UN body.
-> Admission without veto power: The P5 members will be more willing to include India in the security council with their veto power protected.
-> Reform of Veto power: The provision of “Double Veto“, where two votes are needed to veto any provision can help India push important provisions that are rejected due to veto by only China.
If the UNSC permanent membership increases, it will infuse the council with a deeper understanding and enable a wiser response to the world’s cascading political crises, and not hasty and excessive militarism.
With all the available options, India’s approach needs to be pragmatic and work towards enhancing global peace and security as enshrined in Article 51 of Indian Constitution as a directive principle of state policy.