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Behind India’s UNSC victory

Hours before the vote at the United Nations General Assembly for a non-permanent seat from the Asia region on the Security Council, diplomats at India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York were feeling the pressure.

world Updated: Oct 14, 2010 02:41 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Hours before the vote at the United Nations General Assembly for a non-permanent seat from the Asia region on the Security Council, diplomats at India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York were feeling the pressure.

It wasn’t because they didn’t believe the required 128 votes were attainable, they actually expected around 180. The reason was that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had relayed a message to the delegation that both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and 10 Jan Path were looking for an “impressive” outcome.

At 11.31 am on Tuesday, as the result was announced, the Indian delegation’s deft floor management had borne fruit —India had 187 votes, more than it had ever got in the past and more than any other country in recent years. In comparison, Germany barely squeezed through in the first round, getting just one vote over the minimum.

But India’s thumping win also marked another significant chapter in the history of the Council — in January 2011, the UNSC will finally somewhat reflect the new global reality. Other than the five permanent members, India and Germany, the 15-member Council will include Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, among others, marking a major power shift to new emerging forces.

But India’s election required months of hard and soft diplomacy. Every vote mattered. A diplomat was even dispatched to the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to get its vote. Kiribati did not even have a representative on the floor of the UNGA on Tuesday. But it had authorised New Zealand to vote for India on its behalf.

Even minutes before voting started, Indian diplomats were corralling representatives of other countries into the UNGA Hall to cast their ballots.

India also forged a partnership with Portugal, a new ally of India on the UN stage. Both made it to the Security Council, and Canada had to withdraw in favour of the Iberian nation, another sign of changing times.