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Following article on”India and UNSC Reforms” is part of our series on general awareness:
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the most important and powerful decision making body at United Nations. At the time of its formation, it was an 11 member body of which five members were permanent while six members were non permanent in nature. The Security Council held its first session on 17 January 1946 at Church House, Westminster, London. Since its first meeting, the Council, which exists in continuous session, has travelled widely, holding meetings in many cities, such as Paris and Addis Ababa, as well as at its current permanent home at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
Although the UN is a multilateral charter with various organs pertaining to different aspects of global development, peace and security, the UN Security Council (UNSC) is often referred to as the organ which was the direct product of World War II. The body is responsible for maintaining global peace and security, which was the primary reason for the formation of the UN. It strives to maintain international peace, investigates disputes, recommends solutions, calls members to apply economic sanctions and even take military action on aggressors.
Apart from this, the council has power to carry out peacekeeping operations. Along with UN general assembly, it also elects the judges of the International Court of Justice. The UN charter authorizes the Security Council to take action on behalf of the members. These powers are exercised through UNSC resolutions, which are decided by the votes of the members, and hence membership is important. While the other organs of the UN make recommendations to governments, the council alone has the power to take decisions which members are obliged to follow.
At the time of its formation, UNSC was a 11 member body of which five members were permanent and six members were non-permanent one elected by general Assembly every year for a two year term. The five permanent members (P-5) are US, UK, Russia, France and China. The five permanent members were given additional power of veto denied to rest of the members. The veto power is often criticized because it cripples the action of the council. Permanent members often use veto in issues crucial to their close allies. For instance, US has often used veto in council resolutions unfavorable to Israel.
Since the cold war, there has been a general decline in the use of the veto and the council has hence become a more effective decision-maker, but it is still criticized for being an exclusive club of the most powerful countries, which only take action to champion their own strategic interests. It is pointed out, for instance, that the UNSC took action to protect Kuwait, which had substantial oil reserves, while it dragged its feet on measures to protect thousands of Rwandans even when the genocide was anticipated. Also, 2003 US-led campaign against Iraq took place even without the permission of the Security Council. On a larger plane, it is felt that considering changes in the world over the last 50 years, the UNSC and the UN structure in general need reform.
At its founding, the UN had 51 members and the Security Council (SC) consisted of the
same five countries that serve as permanent members today, plus six nonpermanent members. In 1963, the number of nonpermanent members was increased to 10. Since then, the overall membership of the UN has nearly quadrupled to 192, but there has been no further expansion of the Security Council. There is general agreement that the Security Council should be enlarged, and that it is time to utilize this “momentum for reform”, but despite this there is no convergence of views on the modality of the reform package.
In 1963, when UNSC membership was increased to 15, the permanent membership of UNSC was left untouched, perhaps because P-5 countries don’t want to share the privilege of permanent membership with veto power with any other country in the highest decision making body of the world. However demand for the reform, of UNSC is as old as its formation. The structure of permanent membership of UNSC is too much influenced by the circumstances prevailing at the time of its formation which coincided with the Second World War. For instance all P-5 are part of coalition which fought against the allied powers which included Japan, Germany and Italy. Therefore these three countries which are part of the elite G-8 club were denied the permanent membership of UNSC. Regionally too the permanent membership of the UNSC is heavily distorted as no representation is found from Latin America, Oceania and Africa while Europe boasts of three members (UK, France and Russia). Further with the exception of China no member of P-5 is from the third world countries.
For the first time former Indian Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao put forward the candidature of India as a permanent member of UNSC on following grounds-
1.The largest democracy of the world
2.Second largest contributor to the UN Peace Keeping Mission
3.Unblemished track record for world peace
4.Support for nuclear disarmament
5.Representative of developing countries
Later, under the stewardship of Prime Minister A.V. Vajpayee, India aggressively pursued for permanent membership of UNSC all around the world and garnered huge support but fall short of the support of the two-third members of UN general Assembly. Further, it formed an alliance with the Brazil, Germany and Japan known as G-4 to push for SC reforms. But the G-4 effort was resisted by countries like Italy, opposing the candidature of Germany, South Korea opposing Japan, Pakistan opposing India and Argentina opposing Brazil. These nations along with some other countries formed an alliance known as Coffee Club to oppose UNSC reforms. South Africa also opposed the UNSC reforms as G-4 supports the permanent membership for Nigeria which is thee most populated and one of the least developed countries of Africa.
The existing permanent members, each holding the right of veto on Security Council reform, announced their positions reluctantly. The United States supported the permanent membership of Japan and India and a small number of additional non-permanent members.
The United Kingdom and France essentially supported the G4 position, with the expansion of permanent and non-permanent members and the accession of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan to permanent member status, as well as an increase the presence by African countries on the Council. China supported the stronger representation of developing countries, voicing support for the Republic of India. Russia, India's long time friend and ally has also endorsed the fast growing power's candidature to assume a seat of a permanent member on the Security Council
On April 15, 2011, China officially expressed its support for an increased Indian role at the United Nations, without explicitly endorsing India's Security Council ambitions. Countries that explicitly and openly support India for UNSC permanent seat are - Singapore, Israel, Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Belarus, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Romania, Norway, Finland,] Slovakia, Portugal, Kazakhstan, Bangladesh, Chile, Australia, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Belgium,] Armenia, Bulgaria, Greece, Denmark, Iceland, Oman, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Syria, Myanmar, Maldives, Qatar, Brunei, Palau, Micronesia, Tuvalu, Chile, Suriname, Bolivia, Guyana, Peru, Cuba, Belize, Bahamas , United Arab Emirates and Jamaica. The African Union also supports India's candidacy for permanent member of UNSC
Amid the lack of progress on the UNSC reforms, there is growing recognition of the fact that the widespread feeling of marginalization among the un-represented and under-represented is leading to a sharp sense of frustration, which has the potential to unravel the existing system. UNSC needs reforms according to the present realities which are quite different from 1945, the year of its formation and therefore a change had to be ushered. Change should usher in a new order. The new order has to assume responsibility. Once such responsibility is effectively discharged the Security Council will be taken seriously on all issues, and not merely on those in which by a conspiracy of factors unrelated to the maintenance of international peace and security some of the powerful are able to agree
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