Expectations from India in the UN Security Council
Amb Asoke Mukerji, Distinguished Fellow, VIF

India starts her eighth two-year elected term in the UN Security Council from 1 January 2021. Three priorities have been identified by India when campaigning for elections to the Security Council. These are the countering of terrorism by enforcing Security Council resolutions; the efficient use of UN peacekeeping missions; and enabling the use of technology with a human touch. India has proposed to pursue these priorities while calling for “reformed multilateralism”, which in essence means enabling all members of the Security Council to participate on an equal basis in taking decisions.

“Reformed multilateralism” requires dovetailing India’s revived campaign for Security Council reform reiterated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the General Assembly in September 2020 with her actions in the Security Council as it is called upon to respond to increasingly multi-dimensional challenges to international peace and security. The decision-making process in the Security Council is dominated by the veto privilege of the five permanent members or P5, used 293 times since 1946.

Deadlock in decision-making due to the use of the veto has often resulted in tragic human costs. The most recent example is the deadlock between the United States and China in early 2020, which prevented the timely adoption of a Council resolution to politically support an all-of-UN response to the Covid-19 pandemic. How India, which does not have the veto privilege as an elected member of the Council, deals with her interests if opposed by veto wielding P5 members will be a litmus test for her aspirations as an emerging world power.

All the eight elections won by India for non-permanent membership of the Security Council have been achieved by getting the votes of more than two-thirds of the member-states in the UN General Assembly. To put this in context, none of the P5 have ever sought or won an election in the General Assembly for their seats in the Security Council. At a time when major powers like the United States are reasserting the role of democracies in regulating international relations, India’s consistent track record and performance as a democratically elected Security Council member becomes significant.

India must leverage this aspect as she tries to make the Security Council more responsive and effective in responding to threats to international peace and security. The accepted inter-linkage between peace, security and development allows India to create diplomatic space through partnerships in the Council to pursue a forward-looking role on her three priorities in the Council.

On countering terrorism, India must seek a role within the Security Council’s decision-making process when it deliberates on the epicenter of global terrorism emanating from the Af-Pak region. In 2013, Afghanistan had stood aside in favour of India for elections to the Security Council in 2020. Today, both India and Afghanistan face the prospect of a reinvigorated sponsorship of terrorism from this region directed against their interests. As Afghanistan’s major development assistance partner, India must integrate Afghanistan’s concerns into any initiative she takes on enforcing Security Council resolutions, including in requiring Pakistan’s fulfilment of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) norms referred to in Security Council resolutions on countering terrorism. India’s success would require the support of the P5, who have displayed varying levels of ambivalence on prosecuting terrorism emanating from the Af-Pak region due to their regional and geopolitical interests.

To make the deployment of UN peacekeepers more effective, India must become a key player in drafting the mandates of UN peacekeeping mandates for missions in Asia and Africa, where the bulk of India’s 6000 UN peacekeeping troops are currently deployed. The track record of India’s pioneering women UN peacekeepers in Liberia and South Sudan can become a template for Security Council mandates to reflect issues like women, peace and security and the protection of civilians. In the process, India will facilitate the UN implement its agreed reform on combining peace keeping with peace building, especially for strengthening national institutions of governance.

In the third area of using digital technology for human empowerment and development, India is well positioned because of her national experience of the Digital India platform to take the lead in the Council’s discussions on the role of information and communications technologies for international peace, security, and development. India’s advocacy of a holistic approach making Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development the framework for Security Council actions on cyber issues can offset the current unidimensional P5 polarization on cybersecurity issues. Left unchecked, such polarization can potentially result in a confrontational fragmentation of the emerging digital world order to the detriment of sustainable development efforts.

As a member endorsed unanimously by the Asia-Pacific constituency in the UN General Assembly, India will be expected to be active on Asia-Pacific issues already on the agenda of the Council. These include Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and the Palestinian Question. A visible and constructive Indian role will offset the apparent indifferenceon these issues displayed so far by China, which is currently the Asia-Pacific’s sole permanent member in the Council. India’s eighth innings should therefore highlight the tangible value of making India a permanent member of the Security Council.

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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