The intensive India-US delegation talks, led by Narendra Modi and Barack Obama, saw several departures, prominent among which was the US committing more categorically than it ever has in the past to the desirability of the Indian membership of the UN Security Council.
Sources told HT that Obama was much more forthcoming in the talks than past statements on the issue, when he said that the world had changed. “I cannot visualise a world where a country with one/sixth of the global population is not on the Security Council,” he is understood to have told Modi.
This is a step forward from the 2010 formulation, where Obama had told the Indian Parliament that in the years ahead, he ‘looked forward to a reformed UNSC that includes India as a permanent member’. The joint statement this time around saw a reiteration of this support.
While the Indian side is encouraged, they recognize that this is necessary but not really sufficient to get into the SC. There are questions about whether this commitment will translate into US expending any capital into reform of the SC, which in turn is tied to the entire reform of UN system.
There are other countries which will have to be a part of the decision making. The entire reform question is tied in with regional rivalries, with some existing permanent members like China outright opposing neighbours like Japan or providing conditional support to India’s bid, or disputes within Africa on which country should represent the continent. Additionally, the core concern of all existing five members of UNSC is not to allow any other new entrant to have a veto. So the deal is far from done, though Obama’s comment is ‘more than welcome’.
But the real substance may lie in American support for membership in other multilateral groupings. It is learnt that the US, in the talks, on its own, floated support for Indian membership of institutions like Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). This ties in well with the shared interests of the two countries – with Modi’s Act East and Obama’s pivot to Asia converging. The two sides have also agreed to work towards India’s ‘phased entry’ into Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, the Wassenaar Agreement, and the Australia Group.