India to press for UNSC reform by next year

President Barack Obama's endorsement of India for a permanent seat on the reformed UN Security Council has led to speculation about when real change will happen since the reform process has been cranking on for nearly two decades.

India, which enters the Security Council as a non-permanent member on Jan 1, 2011, will be pushing to speed up the reform process during its two year term.

"We are entering the Security Council after a gap of 19 years... we have no intentions of leaving the Security Council," said India's envoy to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri.

"In other words before we complete our two year term we will be a permanent member... This is not going to take as long as people think...    it will be done more quickly," he told PTI.

Noting that India would be a permanent member of a reformed Security Council, a top US diplomat said that the "process in New York is slow."

"It is complicated by the fact that there are very different views among member states and so the reality is that this will continue to be a complex and potentially lengthy negotiations," said Susan Rice, US envoy to the UN.

"It is hard to conceive of a reformed security council that includes new permanent members that wouldn't include India as a permanent member," she told journalists.
"That is the significance of the President's statement and reflects the United States view," she said.

Despite President Obama endorsing India's bid, most analysts have reflected that real change in the UN Security Council could still be years away.

Describing Puri's remarks as "ambitious," Teresita C Schaffer, head of the South Asia Programme at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, described the endorsement as "an act of faith on part of President Obama."

"I can practically guarantee you that the people in the US government who work in the UN were not in favour of this," she said at the Asia Society yesterday.

Schaffer also pointed out the challenges the US and India would face working together at the UN.

"Our relationship with India at the UN has actually been very difficult," she said, pointing out that being a Security Council member would be a "challenge" for India.

"They will be repeatedly asked to vote on an issue where any vote they make is going to annoy someone they care about. This is an uncomfortable position and one they haven't face in 20 years," she said, referring to the last time India was on the Council as a non-permanent member.

Negotiations have shifted from the so called "Open Ended Working Group" of the nineties to a text based negotiations but basic questions still need to be resolved including how many new seats should be added and should the new permanent members have veto power.

Analysts have pointed out Obama did not commit to the India getting veto power.
There are currently five permanent - Britain, China, France, Russia, United States -- with veto power and 10 non-permanent members that are elected for a two year terms.

Responding to whether Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would push for expeditious reform, his spokesperson Farhan Haq underlined that the ultimately all the decisions had to be made by the member-states of the UN.

"We do want all member states to see it in their own interest to have a Security Council that can be viewed as broadly representative," he told journalists.

"But again how they do it, the formula to achieve this type of reform is up to them."
Another hurdle is presented by current permanent members who would not like to lose their monopoly over global affairs.

The US has also endorsed the candidacy of Japan on the Council, which China has opposed.

Although Beijing isn't happy with the new endorsement of India, it has conceded some ground. Schaffer suggested that China may not be totally opposed to India's presence on the Council.

"China does not like to be the only country to veto something," she said, noting that while Beijing lobbied against Civil Nuclear Deal with the US, it did not block the waiver for India during the voting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 in Vienna.

Pakistan, which is also against India entering the Security Council, can also be expected to raise the issue of Kashmir to drum up opposition against its neighbor.

While there is little chance of Islamabad being able to block India's place on the Council, experts pointed out that New Delhi would have more clout on the international scene if a peaceful solution could be found for Kashmir.

"India has to figure out a better way of handling Kashmir," said Ashutosh Varshney, who teaches political science at Brown University.

US Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Rosemary A DiCarlo said that President Obama's endorsement of India's bid does not mean the automatic award of such status and more work will have to be done develop consensus in this regard.

"Though President Obama has announced his support for UN Security Council membership status for India, we will have to evolve consensus among the 192 members of the UN," said. "The President's announcement does not mean award of the UN Security Council membership," she said yesterday.

The US administration believes that "wide scale" consensus will have to be developed on the issue of India's bid to gain permanent membership of the Security Council, she said.

On China and Pakistan's concern over the US support for India, DiCarlo said: "It is not the US that has to grant the UN Security Council membership to India. We are only supporting it."

In response to another question on why there are only five permanent members of the Security Council with veto powers, DiCarlo said there is a need to bring about reforms in the world body’s most important decision-making body.

"Such issues need to be addressed and the US is advocating early reforms," she said.

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