As U.S. changes tack, India redraws UNSC bid

Despite facing unexpected opposition from the U.S. to its bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, India plans to make a go of it, sources said here on Thursday.

The U.S. has joined Russia and China in their blocking of any large-scale reforms of the council and rejection of veto power to new members.

“The U.S. and these other countries cannot veto U.N. reform, which will be decided by the General Assembly, where each country has one equal vote,” an official source told The Hindu. “We are confident that if India’s candidature is presented there, we would win the seat easily.”

If it comes to a vote, India will need the support of at least 129, or two-thirds, of the 193 member-states.

However, the unity of the U.S., Russia and China on the issue puts the whole process of expansion in some doubt.

In letters to the U.N.’s special committee in charge of inter-governmental negotiations in July, Russia and China made it clear that they are not in favour any large-scale reforms of the U.N.’s prized P-5 (permanent five) structure that gives them and the U.S., the U.K. and France a special status on all international issues. The U.K. and France support India’s position.

The letters have been uploaded ( > for public reading, the first time countries have put their official positions on paper. While the Chinese Ambassador wrote that China wants “small and medium-sized countries” to “take turns to serve in the Security Council”, the Russian Ambassador made it clear that none of the current members’ powers would change, saying: “The prerogatives of the current Permanent Members of the Security Council, including the use of veto, should remain intact under any variant of the council reform.”

Sources said the government was particularly surprised by the letter of U.S. Ambassador Samantha Powers that said the U.S. was “open to a modest expansion” of the membership, and wanted specific countries that would be considered to be named in advance, thereby rejecting the current text-based process that India had been pushing for. “This document puts into doubt everything the U.S. has conveyed to India bilaterally on the issue,” one diplomat told The Hindu.

The India-U.S. Joint Statement issued during President Barack Obama’s visit in January said: “President Obama reaffirmed his support for a reformed U.N. Security Council with India as a permanent member.” However, unlike countries such as Kazakhstan and Romania, which specifically mentioned India as their approved candidate for the seat, the U.S. made no mention of India. Of particular concern is the U.S. Ambassador’s statement that “It is critical that any reform proposal enjoy broad consensus among member states,” as that mirrors the position of a group of 13 countries, including Pakistan, called the Uniting for Consensus Group.

Things could go down to the wire in the next few weeks as it is imperative that the consolidated document uploaded by the President of the General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, at least be accepted by the countries as a basis for discussing UN reform next year. Negotiations over reform and expansion of the U.N. Security Council have run on for more than seven years, and Indian officials feel that the fact that countries have committed to positions is a positive development for the process. If, however, one of the P-5 countries — for instance, China — decides to veto a resolution to accept the document, India’s hopes for a permanent seat in the near future will be in danger. “We would be back to square one unless that happens,” an official said.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 3:56:35 PM |

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