On 10 December 2022, the newspaper headline read, “India stands isolated at UN Security Council (UNSC) during its Presidency.” The reason, New Delhi did not vote in favor of Resolution 2664 establishing a ‘humanitarian carve out’ to the asset freeze measures imposed by the UN sanctions regime. The resolution would facilitate the work of humanitarian organisations towards the delivery of “basic human needs.” India has continued to misuse the platform of the UNSC for domestic political agendas throughout its two-year membership. On the contrary, India has intensified its efforts to acquire membership of the most exclusive club in international affairs, the UNSC.
At present, the UNSC comprises five permanent members and 10 non-permanent member countries, which are elected for a two-year term by the UNGA. India, through the UNSC platform, wants to play a bigger role at global level. However, when India’s merit is assessed impartially, it becomes apparent that the country is nowhere in a position to even seek for membership. In fact, India needs to assess its foreign policy behaviour, and its human rights record at home, as well as its reluctance to take a clear stance on Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
Apparently, India wants global prestige under a Hindu nationalist state ideology, Hindutva, and, therefore, wants to be a permanent member of the UNSC – so as to have a greater say in the evolving global order. However, owing to lack of consensus among the P5 members of the UNSC, India so far remains excluded. So far, India has the backing of four members of the UNSC, i.e., U.S., Russia, UK, and France. However, China’s skeptical stance will continue to be the biggest hurdle.
The then U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first state visit to India in 2015, declared in front of the Indian parliament that he looked forward to the day India would become a permanent member of a reformed UNSC. It was the first time that an American president had publicly expressed such support for this longstanding Indian quest. The US policy shift towards India has broader strategic consequences. For US policymakers, India is the only power which is equipped enough to counter China at a regional level.
With the presence of a likeminded India at the UNSC high-tables, the U.S. would feel comfortable to counter the China-Russia bloc. However, even with UNSC membership, India will never be able to fulfill American dreams. It is an unreliable partner of the West, especially, the United States. While it continues to project itself as a counterweight to China, its bilateral trade with China reached $125 billion in 2021.
The much-touted world’s largest democracy is ruled by an extremist political party, the BJP, whose leader PM Narendra Modi was once banned from entering the US for his role as an enabler in the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Under the Modi government, India has faced various setbacks at the international level, including increased doubts being expressed for its democratic credentials. On minorities-related issues, India has been a country of concern for quite some time now.
Moreover, how can a country become a UNSC member state when its actions are in direct contradiction to the very foundation of that body? India has repeatedly violated UNSC resolutions concerning the Kashmir dispute. On the other hand, India through its group at the UN G-4 comprising Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, has long been lobbying for expansion in the UNSC (G-4 members support each other’s bids for permanent seats at the UNSC).
Uniting for Consensus (UFC) is a diplomatic move that is developed in opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the UNSC. The group consists of Italy, Pakistan, Colombia, Turkey, Spain, the EU, Malta, Argentina, Mexico, South Korea and San Marino. Under the UFC, Pakistan’s diplomacy was successful in persuading the UNGA to adopt a resolution which has been adopted by the assembly concerning the question of equitable representation on an increase in the membership of the UNSC and other matters related to it. It represents the commitment of these heads of state and governments to instill new life into the discussions on reforms of the UNSC.
Pakistan has strongly opposed the Indian intention for a permanent seat in the UNSC. There are valid reasons behind Pakistan’s apprehensions.
First and foremost, India, unlike other UNSC members, is seen as an aggressor and continues to occupy the disputed territory of Kashmir. Despite repeated UN resolutions, India has refused to accept international obligations and the rule of law.
Pakistan has been working to convince the world body that India does not qualify to be a UNSC member because of its refusal to accept resolutions coming out of the same body, its gross human rights violations and continuous backsliding in democratic norms. Pakistan thus argues that India’s membership of UNSC will be a major blow for the credibility of that body.
Due to the changing geostrategic realities, India has become the West’s ally. And for that matter, the West is ready to go to any length to accommodate India. However, such accommodations in past have badly affected the credibility of various regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), where India was given a waiver. Likewise, the UNSC’s expansion without realising the sensitivities described above, would put global peace and harmony at stake.
There was a time when India was known as a secular and democratic state, but it has been hijacked by Hindutva extremists and is no longer a secular or democratic country. It has emerged as an extremist Hindu state, and democracy has deteriorated during the hawkish leadership of PM Modi.
The global community needs to realise that India’s journey towards an increased global role is not guided by any commitment to principles, but purely by a self-serving logic.