'Coffee' diplomacy by Pakistan

'Coffee Club' led by India's arch rival Pakistan is united in their key goal - how to keep their neighbours away from the coveted prize - getting the permanent membership of the UNSC. The other active members of the club are Mexico, Italy, South Korea and Argentina who sit across the table, despite reservations but their goal is to block the case of their rivals.

india Updated: Nov 27, 2003 18:21 IST

At the UN headquarters in New York, the coffee club has been having extended session over cups of cappuccino. Not to socialise but to strategise.

The members of the coffee club led by India's arch rival Pakistan are united in their key goal, how to keep their neighbors away from the prized goal of getting a permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

Pakistantests itsvocal chords over India's claims

One of the most vocal member of the "coffee club" is the Pakistani ambassador to United Nations, Munir Akram whose job description requires him to sabotage India's attempts to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The other active members of the club are Mexico, Italy, South Korea and Argentina. They sit across the table, despite reservations and differences on many international issues; their goal is to block the case of their rivals.

"We don't want new center for privileges and India's record of occupation and human rights violation is a fit case, why it should be out," remarked a senior Pakistani diplomat.

While Italy wants to stop Germany from getting on board. Mexico and Argentina want to spike Brazil. While South Korea's axe is directed against Japan,Egypt wants its own case over Nigeria or South Africa so it is the unity of purpose that has made them strange bedfellows.

"We don't want new center for privileges and India's record of occupation and human rights violation is a fit case, why it should be out," remarked a senior Pakistani diplomat.

Pakistan plays spoilsport

While Pakistan has no illusions that it cannot become a permanent member of the UNSC, it is playing spoilsport with India. In fact it is clear that blocking India's entry has become a foreign policy objective for Pakistan so much so that the Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf used a similar argument in his address to the UN General Assembly session this year.

Pakistan's strategy has been to exploit the Jammu and Kashmir issue, spread false propaganda against India, since it is assured that if India gets on board of the UNSC it will use the opportunity to settle the Jammu and Kashmir issue to its advantage, as Jammu and Kashmir is a key international issue that UNSC must decide.

So in order to block India's case it has been supporting and funding NGO's and support groups that spring up during UN General Assembly to spread anti-India propaganda. They send petitions on issues ranging from Gujarat violence to human rights violations by Indian security forces. Besides another argument is that permanent membership would be seen as a reward for India for developing nuclear weapons.

Herculean task to accomplish for India

For India, the path to a permanent seat is not a easy climb, as not only will it have to get a yes from P-5 countries like US and China who have not endorsed its candidature it will have to seek favourable allies in the 2/3rd of the 191 members of the UN General Assembly to get on board the UN Security Council if and when it is enlarged.

While P-5 countries like Russia, France and UK have endorsed India's candidature, besides support from smaller countries, many countries have chosen to be careful in their support.

"Some countries are waiting to see how our case shapes up and will then open their cards, while some say they favor a consensus, which itself means they are non committal," admitted an Indian official.

A recent case in point is Israel, which refused to support India's candidature in a joint declaration during Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to India.

"Some countries are waiting to see how our case shapes up and will then open their cards, while some say they favor a consensus, which itself means they are non committal," admitted an Indian official.


Complex interplay of nations: Indonesia and Japan

Then it will have to overcome some resistance from countries like Indonesia and Malaysia who have their own case. However, New Delhi realizes this and has adopted a new strategy that may help it overcome this hurdles.

"We don't want to be bogged down by South Asia, we realize that Pakistan has been trying to block our case, but we are sensitizing our interlocutors on India as a global player which has only increased support for our candidature," remarked a senior MEA official.

India does not want to take on Japan, which itself is a contender and is a powerful candidate riding on its cheque-book diplomacy.

India realizes that although it can back its claim for a permanent seat in the UNSC by putting forward the issue of regional representation from Asia, however it does not want to take on Japan, which itself is a contender and is a powerful candidate riding on its cheque-book diplomacy.



So, New Delhi's strategy is to overcome these hiccups, while it wants to negate the false propaganda by Pakistan, it has decided not to join issue with them, it also wants to be seen as a "mature" democracy and therefore does not want to be hyphenated with Pakistan. "We have no competition with Pakistan, our profile and stature is much higher and this is what we are projecting," remarked a senior Indian diplomat.

For instance, during the UN General Assembly session in New York this year, New Delhi engaged in what External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha describes as "hectic diplomacy".

Vajpayee too, had meetings with many global leaders including a trilateral meeting with leaders of Brazil and South Africa, both contenders of permanent seats in the UNSC from their respective regions.

"We will use the UNGA for networking and build partnerships", said Sinha. Clearly trying to build its case for a permanent seat at the UNSC is a goal that Sinha and his team are working towards. That was the reason why Sinha had back-to-back meetings with 20 foreign ministers at the UN General Assembly.



Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee too, had meetings with many global leaders including a trilateral meeting with leaders of Brazil and South Africa, both contenders of permanent seats in the UNSC from their respective regions.



At all these meetings New Delhi attempted to showcase India as a major voice of developed world with a growing economic potential and stature. Clearly a permanent seat at the UNSC is the objective and this time India is determined to overcome all hurdles.

(Saurabh Shukla is the chief diplomatic correspondent with the Hindustan Times)

First Published: Nov 14, 2003 17:01 IST