India and UNSC Reform

India and UNSC Reform


Basics and Background:
  • India has been actively pursuing its quest to be included in the reformed United Nations Security Council for many years.
  • The argument of including new members is that UNSC has to acknowledge the current geopolitical realities which are very different from the time when UNSC was formed.
  • The current permanent members of the Security Council are the five nations that were made permanent members in the charter when the United Nations was founded.
  • These countries were the victors in the World War II and China were their allies.


  • The UNSC is one of the six principal organsof the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action through Security Council resolutions.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • The Security Council consists of fifteen members. Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, and the United States—serve as the body’s five permanent members.
  • These permanent members can veto any substantive Security Council resolution, including those on the admission of new member states or candidates for Secretary-General.
  • The Security Council also has 10 non-permanent members, elected on a regional basis to serve two-year terms. The body’s presidency rotates monthly among its members.


UNSC Reform Agenda:
  • The current negotiation process is based on Decision 62/557 which was adopted in 2008.
  • It defines five key issues for reform:
    • Categories of membership,
    • The question of the veto,
    • Regional representation,
    • The size of an enlarged Security Council and its working methods, and
    • The relationship between the Security Council and the General Assembly.
  • Decision 62/557 also stipulates that any solution must garner “the widest possible political acceptance”, although in 1998 the UN General Assembly already agreed that thesupport of two-thirds of UN member states is sufficient.
  • Yet even if these conditions are met any of the P5 will still be able to veto the final resolution. For example, China and Russia have previously stated that reform should be based on a consensus and not on a majority vote.


Need of reforms in UNSC:
  • Reforms Long Overdue: It was expanded only once in 1963 to add 4 non-permanent members. Although the overall membership of the UN has increased from 113 to 193 but no change in the composition of the UNSC happened.
  • Crisis of legitimacy and credibility: various issues including its Interventions in Libya and Syria in the guise of responsibility have put the credibility of the institution in jeopardy.
  • Emerging issues: Issues such as transnational threats, deepening economic interdependence, worsening environmental degradation also call for effective multilateral negotiations for reforms yet all critical decisions are still being taken by the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council.
  • Changing geopolitics: UNSC still reflects the geopolitical architecture of the WW II despite the change in power relations in world. The developing nations, including India, now play a larger role in both the international economy and politics, yet are not represented in the forum.
  • Inequitable economic and geographical representation: Major economic and regional powers like Germany (Europe), Japan, & India (Asia) and Brazil (Latin America) are not yet a part of UNSC. Similarly, there is no permanent member from Africa, despite the fact that 75% of its work focused on Africa it has no permanent member from this region.
  • North South Divide: The permanent UNSC membership of P5 today only portrays the big North-South divide in the decision making of security measures.


Geopolitics that affected the UN over the years:
  • Realism at the core of UN System: UN, was meant, by design, to be a concert of great powers who had a permanent seat in the Security Council. Cooperation among the great powers was the precondition for its success in the security arena.
  • During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow were at each other’s throats and the UNSC was deadlocked.
  • During the brief unipolar moment of the 1990s, post-Soviet Russia was willing to acquiesce to the sweeping US agenda for global security. China was feeling its way around multilateral institutions and avoided any challenge to the US and West.
  • In 2000s, Russia and China began to offer resistance to US dominance.
  • Present Situation is that of Political Fragmentation:The conflict between the US on the one hand and China and Russia on the other has become full-blown. To make matters more complicated, the West itself is divided.


UNSC Committee 1267:
  • Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar was listed as a designated global terrorist by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee in May, 2019.
  • UNSC Committee 1267 was established in 1999, by Resolution 1267, which imposed a limited air embargo and asset freeze on the Taliban.
  • Over time, measures became a targeted asset freeze, travel ban and arms embargo against designated individuals and entities.
  • In 2011, after the adoption of resolution 1988, the Committee split into two.
  • The 1267 Committee was henceforth known as the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, mandated to oversee implementation of the measures against individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaida.
  • A separate Committee was established pursuant to resolution 1988 (2011) to oversee implementation of the measures against individuals and entities associated with the Taliban.


India and UNSC:
  • India has been spearheading decades-long efforts to reform the Security Council, saying a structure set up in 1945 does not reflect contemporary realities of the 21st century and is ill-equipped to handle current challenges.
  • There is widespread support, including by four of the five permanent members of the Security Council – US, UK, France and Russia – for a permanent seat for India at the Council.
  • China, part of the permanent five (P5) of the UNSC with veto power, has been stonewalling India’s efforts to become a member of the UN’s powerful body for years, pointing to lack of consensus even though the other four members have supported New Delhi’s membership.


India and UNSC Reform
  • Reformed Multilateralismguides India’s approach to the United Nations.
  • India has long sought a permanent seatat the Council.
  • It is also a proponent of other UNSC reforms — such as increasing the number of permanent (currently five) and non-permanent (currently 10) seatsand ensuring greater representation for Africa.
  • India is claiming a permanent seat at the UNSC on the basis of following arguments:
    • It’s a regular contributor to the UN’speacekeeping missions.
    • It’s one of the main financial backers of the UN.
    • It’s the world’s largest democracy.
    • It’s the world’s second most populous country.
    • It maintains one of the largest armies in the world.
    • It is responsible nuclear power despite being non-signatory to NPT.
    • India has been elected eight times to the UN Security Council, most recently from 2021 to 2022 after receiving 184 of 192 votes.
    • As a member of G4:The G4 consists of Germany, Japan, India and Brazil. The G4 mainly seek permanent seats for themselves, but are willing to forego their veto rights for fifteen years or possibly even longer.
    • They also demand that Africa should be represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categoriesof membership of a reformed and expanded Security Council to correct the historical injustice against this continent.


G-4 on UNSC Reform:
  • Ensuring greater representation for Africa: Africa needs to be represented in both the permanent and non-permanent categories of UNSC to correct the historical injustice against this continent with regard to its under-representation in the Security Council.
  • Enhanced role of developing countries and of major contributors to the UN: To make UNSC more legitimate, effective and representative, it is needed to increase the number of permanent (from 5 to 11) and non-permanent (from 10 to 14) seats.
  • The permanent seats shall be elected in the following manner: Two from African States; Two from Asian States; One from Latin American and Caribbean States ; One from Western European and Other States.
  • Non-permanent members shall be elected according to the following pattern : One from African States ; One from Asian States ; One from Eastern European States ; One from Latin American and Caribbean State
  • The UNSC reforms proposed earlier had been opposed by the five permanent members (P5) of UNSC as they demanded veto power for new members as well (Razali Plan). However, later the new countries decided to forego the veto power for new countries which was accepted by P5 countries (Razali Reform Plan).

Razali Reform Plan

Under the plan, the UNSC would have five new permanent members without veto powers, besides four more non-permanent members taking the council’s strength to 24.


Impact of India’s Permanent Membership:
  • New included members will get to say in the matters of war and peace, effectively UNSC move towards a democratic set up where nations like India can put up their matters more strongly and vehemently with support of their partner nations.
  • India can represent or lead other countries to stop western forces from promoting their vested interests. Invasion of Iraq, bombing of Libya, non-recognition of Palestine state are few examples.
  • Currently, veto power is a unique privilege of the permanent members, in the regional context China can exercise this power in matters of war and peace in its own interest. With India getting veto power it will dilute China’s elite status in Asia and will help India to put forward its interest in a better way.
  • With India’s background of continued support of UN’s peace keeping missions since 1945 India can assert more productively its stand on various international issues.
  • If India becomes a permanent member of UNSC it can shift focus on developing nation’s interest which is the current demand due to visible shift in focus from west to Asia in world dynamics.
  • Thus India will have leverage in geopolitics, military, economic and political groupings and negotiations as permanent member of UNSC.


India’s win on UNSC Non-Permanent Seat:
  • India has been elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member from the Asia-Pacific category.
  • India has been elected as one of the non-permanent members to the UNSC with an overwhelming majority of 184 votes out of 192, where the minimum requirement was 128.
  • This was for the eighth time that India has been elected to UNSC. India has served seven times earlier: 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and 2011-2012.
  • India should work with all member countries to promote global peace, security, resilience and equity.


India’s objective as a Non-Permanent Member in UNSC:
  • Ahead of the vote, India had launched a campaign brochurewhich highlighted its demand for transparency in mandates for UN peacekeeping missions and push for the India-led Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, and called for joint efforts for UN reform and expansion of the Security Council.
  • A “new orientation for a reformed multilateral system” (NORMS), as laid out by External Affairs Minister, would be India’s overall objective during the two-year tenure that will begin next year.
  • Achieving this would depend on how India will conduct diplomacy in the global body, build alliances and raise issuesthat go beyond the interests of the big five.
  • India has long been of the view that the structure of the UN Security Council doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.
  • It has also got increasing support from member countries for its push for reforms. But the five permanent members of the Security Council have resisted these attempts.
  • The COVID-19 pandemichas already shaken up the global order and sharpened the rivalry between the U.S. and China. It has also opened up fresh debates on strengthening multilateralism and multilateral institutions.


Significance of winning:
  • India’s winning of a non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council one of its best performances ever.
  • The strong support by almost the entire U.N. membership demonstrates the goodwill that India enjoys in the U.N. and the confidence that the international community has reposed in India.
  • India’s EAM gave India’s overall objective during its forthcoming UNSC tenure as an acronym ‘NORMS’ — New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.
  • NORMS includes the push for expanding the UNSC permanent membership.


Challenges Ahead:
  • Implementation hurdles:Achieving the objective laid out in NORMS, would depend on how India will conduct diplomacy in the global body, build alliances and raise issues that go beyond the interests of the big five
  • Declining Multilateralism: The COVID-19 pandemic has already shaken up the global order and sharpened the rivalry between the U.S. and China. This has opened up fresh debates on strengthening multilateralism and multilateral institutions.
  • Polarised world:India should avoid the temptation of taking sides at a time when the Security Council is getting more and more polarised, especially in the wake of US-China tensions


Way Forward:
  • India’s claim for permanent membership is a genuine demand in the changed geo politics of 21st century as we have discussed before. India is possibly the most obvious and least controversial option to add as a permanent member, and probably long overdue for a seat.
  • UNSC is mandated to keep international peace and security.
  • However it is under constant criticism for its plans and actions. It is said to be performing in unilateral way with unquestioned authority, working only for vested interests and not making non-permanent members inclusive in their decision making.
  • In this context, we can see that India’s demand is not illegitimate as India does wield a certain influence in world affairs today due to its impressive economic growth and strong military base.
  • South Asia being a victim of various repercussions of war, terrorism, and extremism India gains more say on its and neighbor’s problems and will have power to challenge the ethos and working style of permanent members of UNSC.
  • In the contemporary period, if India has to make a strong claim to permanent membership, it has to single mindedly focus on economic growth, with concomitant military might.
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