Instilling a dose of realism in India’s ambitions for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, David Malone – Rector of the UN University in Tokyo, author of a widely acclaimed book on Indian foreign policy and an expert on the UNSC – has said this is not a period when SC reform is high on the global agenda. Neither is there widespread support for the expansion of the SC among the permanent five members or the wider pool of smaller nations, which will make India’s wait for a permanent seat longer than it would hope.
Malone was speaking to HT on a recent visit to New Delhi. He is also the co-editor of the Oxford Handbook on Indian Foreign Policy, along with strategic analysts C Raja Mohan and Srinath Raghavan, to be published this year.
“There are moments of intense diplomatic action on the issue, but this is not one of them,” said Malone. He argued that the existing P-5 members are not keen on sharing power- even though Britain and France are more willing than the others since they feel that the more the reform gets delayed, the higher the chances of their own seats getting threatened. “But the other 3 – US, Russia, and China – have little appetite for reform. Also, put yourself in the shoes of a smaller nation in the UN.” Such countries are anyway resentful that the P-5 have asymmetric powers, which are abused. “Why would they want to expand this right to others? So among the wider membership too, there is a divide. Earlier, you could perhaps buy votes but as countries have become less poor and more autonomous, the equations have changed.”
Malone said he personally believed that the Council would be a better place with countries like India, not only because of their size but also they would bring in their own ideas and foreign policy culture to the mix. “But the P-5 argues that it is difficult to come to an agreement even amongst themselves, and expanding the Council would make agreements even more difficult. This is a convenient, but wrong argument.” But Malone argued that it is the foreign policy establishment, rather than the political leadership, of the aspiring countries which is keener on SC membership. “I don’t think it is the number 1 priority for any of the big leaders. They would be delighted to have it, but I haven’t heard either Chancellor Merkel or even PM Modi speak a great deal about it.”
Even if the expansion happens, Malone added that it was difficult to foresee the veto being extended to newer entrants, at a time when the veto – and its use and misuse – is a major source of resentment in the UN.
Malone praised PM Modi’s foreign policy initiatives, said he had created optimism about India on the global stage, tackled the neighbourhood with great skill, and delivered a string of surprises. “He doesn’t seem to fear the world but sees it as full of opportunities and is willing to engage with it.” The fact that India has a lot to offer in terms of being a large market, and is seen globally as a restrained and responsible power, adds to its attraction.