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Quiet China stalls India?s Bid

The Chinese response to India?s lobbying for a permanent seat in the Security Council has not been very encouraging. With China and India being the two biggest countries in Asia and engaged in what China acknowledges a ?healthy? competition, the Chinese response does not come as a surprise.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2003 17:31 IST

Where vetoes are concerned, China has been the quietest P-5 member of the Security Council. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has exercised its veto power only four times since its entry into the Security Council in 1971.

Prior to this, the Chinese veto was used to block Mongolia’s application for UN membership in 1955 by Taiwan or Republic of China (ROC). Taiwan was one of the founding members of the United Nations and a permanent member of the Security Council from its inception till 1971.

The weapon that isVeto

The two most recent resolution drafts that China has vetoed were with regard to Guatemala (1997) and Macedonia (1999). In both cases, the move was in response to the steps taken by the two countries to strengthen their diplomatic ties with Taiwan. In the Guatemalan case, the Chinese vetoed the otherwise unanimous Security Council vote towards authorizing 155 military observers to Guatemala for verifying the status of the ceasefire agreement in the country.

China was clearly peeved at Guatemala’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan and its consistent support for its application for UN membership. Guatemala’s decision to invite a Taiwanese delegation to observe the signing of the peace accords was the last straw for China.

During the vote, the Chinese Ambassador did not mince his words while proclaiming his country’s nationalistic bias in this issue: “No country’s peace process should be at the expense of another country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”China reversed this veto few days later when Guatemala agreed not to support the next Taiwanese bid for representation in the General Assembly.

A natural progression to the Chinese support for Pakistan in the 1971 war, China vetoed Bangladesh’s application for membership in the United Nations on August 25, 1972.

The Chinese decision to veto the extension of UNPREDEP (United Nations Preventive Deployment Force) in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 1999 was again prompted by Macedonia’s “cash-for-embassy deal” with Taiwan. Macedonia took one billion dollars from Taiwan in return for diplomatic recognition. Earlier in 1972, China along with the USSR had vetoed a resolution on the ceasefire in the Six-Day war in the Middle East.

China in South Asia

However in the South Asian context, the first veto by China (PRC) is of utmost significance. A natural progression to the Chinese support for Pakistan in the 1971 war, China vetoed Bangladesh’s application for membership in the United Nations on August 25, 1972.

An accord of recognition in late 1975 and an exchange of diplomatic missions in February 1976 did much to normalize the ties between China and Bangladesh. But it is important to note that the only time a Chinese veto was used in the subcontinent, India was on the other side of the fence.

The Chinese response to India’s lobbying for a permanent seat in the Security Council has not been very encouraging. With China and India being the two biggest countries in Asia and engaged in what China acknowledges a “healthy” competition, the Chinese response does not come as a surprise. However at least two silver linings can be observed in this cloud. First, if it comes to a choice between Japan and India, India stands a better chance for that Chinese vote. And second, China has been consistently advocating a fair representation of the global north and south in the Council. Optimists have read China’s promise to support the bid of developing countries gives India that much more leverage in this its quest for the elusive permanent seat.

(Soumita Basu is Programme Associate with Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace, New Delhi)