India, backed by a large number of UN member states, has firmly rejected the suggestion that the 15-strong Security Council be expanded only in the non-permanent category with a provision for review after ten years, seeking increase in membership in both segments.
The member states made known their strong opposition to the proposal contained in the report of the task force comprising representatives of Bangladesh, Chile, Djibouti and Portugal during a debate on the document in the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Tuesday. The task force was appointed by UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim.
Describing it just a tactic to scuttle real reform of the Council, they asked what would change in ten years that would make taking a decision easier then. The interests of the states are not likely to change much during next ten years, they asserted and called for confronting the issue right now rather than deferring the decision.
Rebutting the argument that the draft being prepared by some 30 nations including India would hinder the reforms, Indian UN Ambassador Nirupam Sen warned that if a decision taken to start inter-governmental negotiations cannot be implemented by consensus, then clearly it would have to be implemented by alternative means.
Sen did not amplify what the alternative means could be but diplomats says it could mean bringing a resolution in the General Assembly for expansion of the Security Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories.
Replying to a question as to how the draft would play out, a spokesman of the General Assembly President told reporters on Tuesday that he was aware of the move and if the member states preparing it feel they have two-thirds majority, they could move it in the 192-member Assembly. That's how system works.
But the countries which have taken the initiative say that their move is only aimed at preparing a consensus document to start inter-governmental negotiations but do not rule out the possibility of taking the issue to the Assembly. OEWG has been discussing the issue since 1994 without reaching any conclusion. The difference between the two processes is that while OWEG only tries to build consensus, in the inter-governmental negotiations, specific proposals are discussed and there could be give and take.
However, the spokesman did say that Kerim opine that there is growing recognition of the possibility of pursuing an intermediary approach as the highest common denominator option at this stage of the Council reforms process, a contention that India and a majority of member states reject.
Intermediary approach is euphemism for expansion in non- permanent category only with a provision for review after ten years. But he also agreed that ultimately, it would depend on member states.
During the discussion, Sen, who has been playing a significant role behind the scene, told the OEWG that all regions want expansion in both categories. So much so that when the recommendations of the task force became known, the Arab Group shot out a letter to Kerim that the task force does not incorporate its views on the Council expansion and put on record the necessity to guarantee a permanent representation to it in any reform process.
Without naming Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram who strongly opposes the expansion in the permanent category, Sen chided him for ignoring the communique of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) which speaks of representation in all categories which "logically includes permanent category. "He has to decide whether he belongs of UFC or OIC," he remarked. UFC (Uniting for Consensus), also known by nick name Coffee Club, is led by Pakistan and Italy and opposes expansion in the permanent category.
"The consensus decision is clear we have to negotiate on the basis of progress achieved and the proposals and positions of member states. In addition, a transitional (intermediary) model has been rejected by the African Group, by many small States, by us and by many countries supporting us," Sen said.
India along with Japan, Germany and Brazil is a strong contender for permanent slot in an expanded Council. Their proposal would increase the number of permanent members by six including two each from Asia and African and one each from Western States and other groups and Latin America.
Besides, it would add four non-permanent members to take the strength of the Council from 15 to 25. UFC would like to increase the number of non-permanent members by ten.
Sen asserted "it is illogical to suggest that we should leave out whatever cannot be achieved in a short timeline even though it clearly means ignoring all real problems."
To buttress his argument, he referred to the remarks made by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad that the timeline concept is not the best way to proceed since it would lead to the lowest common denominator. The Chinese envoy had also clearly stated what is not acceptable to Africa would not be acceptable.
Sen accused task force of selectively quoting from statements to reach its conclusions, pointing out that there was no consensus on separating expansion of non-permanent and permanent categories.
Besides, he said, the number of non-permanent members was expanded in 1965 but it has made no difference in the working of the Council and there would be little point in making the Council unwieldy without making it more effective.
Kerim intends to present a draft resolution by the end of the July but officials close to him said how things work out would ultimately depend on the member states. Kerim wants some move forward on the issue during his presidency which ends in September but all indications are the issue would be remitted to the next session unless some member states decide to press a resolution in the Assembly.