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India versus the rest

The security regime of the world is about to see a change. The alterations in the global order manifest itself in a more decisive role for developing countries in the Security Council. India appears to be one of the more popular contenders, along with Brazil and South Africa. What are our chances?

india Updated: Nov 10, 2003 06:00 IST

The Razali Reform Paper of 1997, as a draft resolution of the General Assembly, called for restructuring of the Security Council. The number of permanent members of the Security Council was to be expanded from the current 5 to a total of 10. Of these, one member will represent Asia, Africa and Latin America and two will be from industrialized states. Notwithstanding the competition from within these three continents, all three nations have a strong case for becoming permanent members.

Economic might works right

The Brazilian economy is the strongest in Latin America with a growth rate of 2% (estimate 2002). South Africa’s real growth rate was pegged at 3% (2002). Compared with these two countries, India achieved a much higher growth rate of 4.3% (2002, and has a sizeable export base).

Recently at Cancun in Mexico, India and Brazil were the strongest opponents of a world trade regime dominated by the prosperous nations. These two countries were instrumental in stalling measures that were unfavourable for the developing nations, asserting themselves in the face of Great Power coercion.

Nuclearized nation status

Another aspect that would work in India’s favour is the fact that it is a nuclear power.

Brazil’s current President, Lula da Silva has rescinded his country’s commitment to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty. He has declared his intentions of making Brazil into a nuclear power. If Da Silva does go ahead with his plans, Brazil’s credibility in the international community will get eroded.

It may be argued that having the bomb may actually weaken India’s case, however, the fact remains that the present permanent members all draw their strength from the fact that they are nuclear nations. In a world where might is indeed right, having the bomb definitely boosts prospects of India’s voice being taken into account at the global forum.

Interestingly, while both South Africa and Brazil are signatories of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Brazil’s current President (Lula da Silva) has rescinded his country’s commitment to the Treaty. He has declared his intentions of making Brazil into a nuclear power. If Da Silva does go ahead with his plans, Brazil’s credibility in the international community will get eroded.

India, on its part, has maintained its stand consistently about not being an unequal partner in an unequal non-proliferation treaty. India’s assertiveness and consistency combined with its capability make it a formidable candidate for permanent membership.

Support of the big brothers

India has clear backing from UK and Germany. President Clinton had made public his support for India as a permanent member. However, the US, aside from verbal assurances, has not yet made any effort towards our inclusion. The good news is that US media and think tanks are pushing India’s case as a strategic partner.

Here we must take into account that India has been one of the largest contributors to peacekeeping operations all across the world. South Africa on the other hand, has displayed its reluctance to assume regional or global peacekeeping responsibilities, which could turn into a major disadvantage when the relative merits are being weighed.

Lastly, India represents one-sixth of the world population, and the big powers realize that such a large majority cannot go unrepresented in the Security Council.

What would actually work against India is opposition from China. Even if Britain, France, Russia and the United States support India, a single veto from China could lead to a total collapse. It has to persuade China to assume, at the very least, a neutral stand, towards India. This becomes even more important given the fact that China is not expected to oppose Brazil and South Africa in their bid for permanent membership. This would be a serious setback, and India has to tread carefully on this slippery slope.

(The writer is a MA (Final), International Relations student at Jawahar Lal Nehru University, New Delhi)

First Published: Nov 10, 2003 02:12 IST