Why no Security Council seat to India?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is generally at ease in the intricate art of global diplomacy. His speech at the UN General Assembly on the historic occasion of the world body’s 75th anniversary made the case for India playing a leading role in global affairs.

“For how long will India be kept out of the decision-making structures of the United Nations?”, he asked. Perhaps he had in mind India’s longstanding quest for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

PM Modi took a swipe at China’s deft-trap diplomacy which has come to the fore with President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road initiative, especially in India’s neighbourhood.

India becomes a non-permanent member of Security Council for a two-year term from January. However, as the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy it deserves a permanent place in UNSC.

Talking about China and its dubious role against India, I am reminded of Nehru’s drive in the 1950s for Beijing’s entry in the UN with a permanent membership slot at Security Council. China was then represented by the Chiang Kai-Shek regime, and not by Mao. In any case, Nehru’s pro-China move at that time was attributed to his idealism and passionate belief in Asian solidarity. That was a different global setting.

No wonder, Nehru underlined that China was a “well established fact” and that excluding it from the Security Council was an “unrealistic state of affairs”.

My sole purpose of recalling Nehru’s plea for China’s entry in the UN needs to be seen dispassionately, and not from partisan angularities. All the same, we ought to learn from history and past mistakes. India has had to pay a heavy price for trusting Mao’s Communist regime in Beijing.

My underlying point is elementary: we must be guided by our country’s interests, and not allow ourselves to be guided by emotions.

Prime Minister Modi might be somewhat wiser today, but soon after coming to power in 2014, he conducted the country’s foreign policy through his personal prism and in the process overlooked certain hard lessons from Communist China’s behavior pattern from 1962 onwards.

To say this is not to suggest that we should not try to befriend China. However, we ought to be more cautious and pragmatic in dealing with China as well as Pakistan.

Looking at India’s global diplomacy in a larger perspective, it is regrettable that this country’s legitimate claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council has not received the degree of global support that it richly deserves.

India, of course, becomes a non-permanent member of the prestigious Security Council for a two-year term from January. However, the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy deserves a permanent place of honour in the Security Council.

India is not a banana republic. Nor is it a nation without substance. The country has civilisation roots that are deep rich in thoughts and accomplishments. It has played a critical role in establishing peace and all-round human growth and development.

Ever since the 1950s, Indian leaders have worked actively for the promotion of global peace and towards building a new, just order. It has participated in the UN peace-keeping operations, and unlike America, India has never delayed the payment of dues to the world body.

Nehru used to say that we might be poor, weak, good or bad, but “India counts”.

Our size, situation, status and the circumstances of the world we have lived in, as well as our efforts have enabled this country to be counted in the comity of nations.

While pushing for UN reforms, Prime Minister Modi at the General Assembly underlined India’s willingness to assume a larger role in managing the global crisis during the harsh days brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, the question of India’s permanent seat in the Security Council is very much linked with long-pending reforms of the UN. This has been high on the agenda of the General Assembly.

However, as in other walks of life, global power politics has become a major stumbling block in reforming and retuning the world body to the changing needs of the time.

There was a time when Washington acted as a supremo of all that the UN stood for. Today, there is a perceptible change in American and Western perspective on nuclear India.

However, in today’s changing global power games, I am not sure of China’s attitude towards India. Beijing plays a negative role in global power politics.

In view of the India-China stand-off in Ladakh, Beijing gives the impression of being hostile towards India, and therefore, we have to give a serious thought about tackling China. New Delhi ought to play its cards well in today’s complex global setting. Indian diplomacy is on test.

That said, South Block should not be apologetic about the country’s legitimate place in today’s global setting. India is a power to reckon with. It cannot be equated with Pakistan. If anything, India has to be seen vis-à-vis China.

If China can be a permanent member of the Security Council, there is no reason why India should be denied the position it deserves. The new world of today calls for new thinking and strategies.

A flash-in-the-pan diplomacy will not work in today’s complex world. India has acquired special importance in the market-driven global politics. The world cannot overlook India’s economic potential and its nuclear power for peaceful purposes.

In the past 72 years, India has established itself as a shining example in democratic housekeeping. So, it will be in the interest of big powers and a large number of UN members to support India’s case graciously.

By Hari Jaisingh

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Journalist, South Asian Analyst