A stepping stone

India’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council is no surprise as its candidature was widely supported and a division of votes from the Asian bloc was avoided after the withdrawal of  Kazhakhstan form the field. What is a pleasant surprise is the scale of support. India won with the highest number of votes secured by any country in the polling for the five vacant seats.

The support from 187 out of 192 countries, including Pakistan too, shows an overwhelming endorsement of India’s candidature by the world community. It is a major victory for Indian diplomacy and marks a recognition of India’s place in the world. The country is returning to the Security Council after a gap of 18 years and the win buries deep its defeat in 1996.

India has been canvassing support for a permanent seat on the Council and considers its membership as a stepping stone for permanent membership. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has said that India’s election is an expression of the expectations of the international community about India and gives an opportunity for the country to press its claim,  with a moderate voice and commitment to constructive engagement with the world.

India’s claim to permanent membership can be realised only as part of a reform and restructuring of the UN system,  which would include expansion of the Council membership.  The present system expresses the reality of power after the Second World War and there is agreement in principle that this should change. But India’s economic power alone will not ensure a permanent seat.

In that case Germany and Japan would have become permanent members long ago. China became a permanent member when it was a poor, backward country. Politics plays a bigger part in the matter. The positions of the US and China are the most crucial and both countries have not endorsed India’s claim.

Negotiations on proposals for UN reforms based on a discussion text prepared for the purpose are under way and it might take some years  for a consensus to emerge. New permanent members in an expanded Council may not also have all the powers now enjoyed by the present five members. India’s policies and profile in the region and the world will also have a major bearing on its claim. Its elected term which starts in January next and the coming years can well be utilised to buttress its position.

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