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From here to permanence?

The proposal to expand the Security Council has been on the table for 18 years. If it is finally expanded, it is likely to have at least 11 permanent members.

delhi Updated: Nov 10, 2010 09:49 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times

Jubilation over Barack Obama’s open support for India’s UN Security Council ambitions is premature. There are many more hurdles ahead before the dream can be realised. HT answers a few questions that you were dying to ask but didn’t know who to direct them at.

How can the United Nations Security Council be expanded?
The UNSC can be expanded only if all five permanent members (USA, Russia, China, UK and France) and two-thirds of the general assembly (ie. 128 of 192 members) vote for it.

How old is the proposal to expand the Security Council?
The proposal has been on the table for 18 years and still shows no signs of getting anywhere.

Why are the negotiations stuck?
The main issues are: how many new members should there be? Should any or all of them have veto powers? And, should the new members all be permanent? The UNSC cannot be expanded till these basic issues are sorted out.

Why is it necessary to expand the Security Council?
The membership of the UNSC reflects the balance of power in 1945 when it was set up. Since then, India, Brazil and South Africa have emerged as economic powerhouses and strong regional powers. Germany and Japan, the two defeated Axis powers in World War II, have been fully rehabilitated and have re-emerged as powerful global voices. All these countries want a seat at the global high table.

How strong are India’s chances of becoming a permanent member of the UNSC?
When the UNSC is expanded, India stands a very strong chance of becoming a permanent member. Four of the five permanent members – the USA, the UK, Russia and France – have endorsed India’s candidature. China has said it “understands” India’s stand. Russia wants General assembly endorsement.

Will China agree to India’s candidature?
Though China has never publicly backed or opposed India’s candidature, it is believed to be against any other Asian power (read India and Japan) joining the UNSC as a permanent member. During the vote on the nuclear waver two years ago, China had openly lobbied against India.

Then, is Barrack Obama’s backing only of symbolic value?
No. US backing will almost automatically swing 30-40 votes in the UN General Assembly India’s way, making it that much easier for this country to reach the two-thirds mark. Also, if the vote on the nuclear waver was any indication, most countries still find it difficult to stand up against a proposal that has Uncle Sam’s active backing.

Which other countries want a permanent seat on the UNSC?
Apart from India, Japan, Germany and Brazil have said they’re keen on joining the UNSC as permanent members. Pakistan wants an Arab country to be represented. And apart from India, the US has backed only Japan’s case for a permanent seat. The African Union says it wants three seats.

What will the reconstituted UNSC look like?
That’s difficult to say. But the most likely scenario is a 25-member body, with at least 11 permanent members.

First Published: Nov 09, 2010 23:05 IST