India’s fresh bid for UN Security Council (UNSC) membership seems to have started off well. The so-called IBSA forum — comprising India, Brazil, and South Africa — tabled a resolution in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) last week, calling for greater representation of developing countries in the UNSC and for reforms in its method of working. New Delhi has made several attempts in the past to become a permanent member of the UNSC, but they were all thwarted by the US that’s obviously not keen to alter the Council’s status quo by allowing additional membership requests from countries like Japan, Brazil and Germany. In fact, the nearest India got to sitting at the UNSC high table was a couple of years ago when New Delhi walked away from a potential membership offer that came with a rider: a UNSC seat without veto power.
The IBSA resolution, however, is likely to fare better, considering its sponsorship by key African nations. For this potentially ensures the support of the 53-nation African Union bloc for the resolution during the UNGA’s next session in New York. At the very least, the IBSA forum could rekindle the debate over UN reforms, especially in the Council, which is still presided over by the ‘P5’ comprising the US, Russia, China, Britain and France. This same quintet — the Council’s permanent, veto-bearing members — has shaped every major international peace and security decision since World War II, imposing their strategic agenda by using vetos to override motions by the second tier of rotating members. Such a lopsided composition of the UNSC reflects the balance of political and economic power in the post-WWII reconstruction period — which is clearly out of sync with current realities. Why should Europe, for instance, retain three permanent seats despite no longer being the economic powerhouse that it was, while Japan — the world’s second largest economy — sits quietly on the sidelines?
Although the R-word keeps popping up now and then, as long as Washington is happy to let things drift, it’s difficult to see how the fractious world body’s 190-odd members could elect the most deserving candidates for the UNSC. The US should realise that broad UN reforms is also in its interest, as that would encourage other countries to share the burden of global peace enforcement, and give a leg-up to the war on terror.