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India reviews UNSC strategy to fend off P-5 naysayers

india Updated: Aug 15, 2015 01:38 IST
United Nations Security Council

Members of the United Nations Security Council during a meeting at the UN headquarters in New York. (Reuters File Photo)

New Delhi is reviewing its strategy on securing a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council given the obstacles being placed by veto-wielding powers like China, the United States and Russia.

These countries, representing five of the existing permanent members of Security Council, have opposed “text-based” negotiations on UN reform, an agenda that includes council expansion. The three have independently supported continuing “intergovernmental negotiations” on the issue.

Their positions undermine the present Indian strategy to get a permanent seat, though strictly speaking the positions of the US and Russia do not contradict their official support for India getting a permanent seat. US ambassador to India, Richard Verma, publicly said on Friday that Washington has not changed its 2009 policy on India’s Security Council seat.

New Delhi’s strategy had three broad elements. One, do not get entangled in the debate as to which countries should get permanent seats, focus only on getting a vote for the principle of council expansion. Two, insist the UN reform agenda should be pushed through the General Assembly and not the Security Council.

The third element was procedural. The UN reform agenda had come back to life recently when the new xxx had proposed that the diplomatic process shift from intergovernmental negotiations – a talking shop which allowed any country to delay proceedings forever – to a text-based solution which would force all members to work with a draft UN reform document. India, of course, supported this shift to the written word.

This procedural shift is what has been opposed by the three largest P-5 members. Because the initial vote on the principle of expansion is purely a matter of the General Assembly, none of these countries can use their veto. But India is concerned that the position of these countries would influence the views of other countries and boost the standing of the so-called 13-country “coffee club” which is openly opposed to council expansion, a group that includes Pakistan.
India will now have to concentrate on the immediate step of adopting a text for negotiation next month. It will then have to work to ensure this text moves to the next level: ensuring an outcome-based General Assembly in which two-thirds of assembly members vote in favour.

Only after this, when the assembly’s decision has to be ratified by two-thirds of the UN members and all of the permanent members, can any of these three countries block the process.

“Even the last time when the non-permanent category members were expanded, a process that ran from 1963 to 1965, most permanent members had opposed the move. But at the ratification stage none of them went against”, said a source. “India is the only permanent seat candidate that is supported by all but one of the P-5 members.” The expectation is that at this point the US and Russia will approve the changes and China, to avoid isolation, would reluctantly come on board.

These three members opposition to the procedural shift to text-based talks is designed to scupper or at least delay the proceedings at this early stage so that the assembly votes and ratification process never happens.

China’s opposition to India and Japan, two of the candidates, is open and it is known to have demarched individual UN members to oppose the whole process. The US and Russia are generally unenthusiastic about UN reforms and the diplomatic bad blood that will follow as various countries vie for permanent seats. Besides the Group of 4 – India, Japan, Brazil and Germany -- the African Union and Arab League states are groupings that feel one of their members also deserves a seat. Neither Moscow nor Washington have repudiated their support for India’s candidacy. The US note to the UN says it supports “moderate expansion” of the council and lays down criteria that would easily apply to India.

Read:India suffers setback as US, Russia, China oppose UNSC reforms