Table of Contents
Context: This article talks about India’s role and experience as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the term 2021-2022 and how it has used its position to advance its interests and priorities on the international stage.
Concluding on a High Note, in Manhattan Background
What is UNSC?
- About: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six main organs of the United Nations (UN) and was established by the UN Charter in 1945.
- The other 5 organs of the UN are—the General Assembly (UNGA), the Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat.
- Powers and Functions:
- The powers and functions of the UNSC are defined in Chapter V of the UN Charter.
- The Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
- It has the power to investigate and mediate disputes, take action to prevent or stop conflicts, and authorize the use of force, including military action, in order to maintain or restore peace.
- The council is headquartered at New York.
- The council has 15 members: Five permanent members and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms.
- Permanent members: United States, the Russian Federation, France, China and the United Kingdom.
- Non-Permanent Members: Each year, the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members (out of ten in total) for a two-year term. The ten non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis.
- India was elected a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the term 2021-2022.
- This is the eighth time that India has been elected to the UNSC, having previously served as a non-permanent member in 1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992, and 2011-2012.
- Presidency: The council’s presidency is a capacity that rotates every month among its 15 members.
- Voting Powers:
- Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions of the Security Council on matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members. A “No” vote from one of the five permanent members blocks the passage of the resolution.
- Any member of the United Nations which is not a member of the Security Council may participate, without vote, in the discussion of any question brought before the Security Council whenever the latter considers that the interests of that member are specially affected.
India and UNSC: India has had a significant role in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) since its inception in 1945.
- Founding member of the UNSC: India was one of the founding members of the United Nations and played a crucial role in drafting the UN Charter. India was instrumental in shaping the initial agenda of the UNSC, which included the maintenance of international peace and security, disarmament, and peaceful resolution of disputes.
- Active participation in peacekeeping missions: India, since 1948, has deployed more than 2,00,000 troops, police, and civilian personnel to 49 UN peacekeeping missions, making it the largest troop-contributing country in the world. Indian peacekeepers have been deployed in various conflict zones, including Congo, Sierra Leone, Lebanon, and South Sudan, to name a few.
- Support for disarmament and non-proliferation: India has consistently called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and has proposed various initiatives for disarmament, including a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. India has also supported various measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and has called for a global convention on terrorism.
- Advocacy for developing nations: India has raised concerns about the growing inequality in the global distribution of wealth and resources, and has called for measures to address poverty and inequality. India has also pushed for greater representation of developing nations in the UNSC and other UN bodies, calling for reforms to make these institutions more democratic and representative.
- Push for UNSC reform: India has called for expanding the UNSC membership to reflect the changing global power dynamics and to give more representation to developing nations. India has also called for reforms in the working methods of the UNSC, including greater transparency and accountability.
Decoding the Editorial
- This article is a reflection on India’s two-year stint in the Council from 2021 to 2022.
- During this time, India’s priorities focused on maritime security, terrorism, UN peacekeeping, reformed multilateralism, and the Global South.
- India was able to achieve several significant milestones, including chairing three important UNSC Committees (the Taliban Sanctions Committee, Libyan Sanctions Committee and Counter-terrorism Committee).
- This resulted in issuing the first-ever UNSC statement on maritime security, and steering negotiations resulting in UNSC Resolution 2593 on Afghanistan.
- India also raised the issue of contemporary religiophobia in the Council and pressed for a move by the West to bring climate change under the ambit of the UNSC.
- India also called for immediate reform of the Council.
- India’s contribution to UN peacekeeping, particularly its focus on women peacekeepers and its development of the UNITE Aware technology platform to protect peacekeepers is commendable.
Key Outcomes of India’s Tenure on the UNSC
India’s two-year tenure as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) began in January 2021 and ended in December 2022. During its tenure, India played an active role in several key issues on the UNSC’s agenda.
- COVID-19 response: India used its tenure to push for a coordinated global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. India supported efforts to enhance global health security and advocated for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics.
- Counterterrorism: India focused on the issue of counterterrorism during its tenure, particularly in the context of Afghanistan. India pushed for a comprehensive approach to addressing terrorism that includes cutting off financing and support networks.
- Afghanistan Crisis: When Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, India played a crucial role in negotiating with the Council to develop UNSC Resolution 2593 -guidelines for preventing cross-border terrorism from Afghan soil, protecting the rights of women and minorities, ensuring an inclusive government, and providing humanitarian aid.
- India’s Independent Stand on the Ukraine Conflict: During the Ukraine conflict, India took an independent stance and spoke against sanctions on oil, food, and fertilizers.
- Peacekeeping: India emphasized the need for peacekeeping missions to be adequately resourced and for peacekeepers to have the necessary training and equipment to carry out their mandates. India also piloted a UNSC resolution calling for accountability for crimes against peacekeepers and its gift of two lakh vaccines to all UN peacekeepers.
- Maritime security: India highlighted the importance of maritime security during its tenure and advocated for a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean region. India also emphasized the need for cooperation among littoral states to address common challenges, such as piracy and maritime terrorism.
- Stability in Myanmar: India played a major role in persuading the Council adopt a resolution on Myanmar that was taken over by the military in 2021.
- Sustainable development: India used its tenure to highlight the importance of sustainable development, particularly in the context of climate change. India emphasized the need for developed countries to fulfill their commitments to provide finance, technology, and capacity building support to developing countries to help them achieve their sustainable development goals.
India’s Limitations in the UNSC
While India has been able to achieve some of its goals, it has also faced several challenges and limitations in the UNSC such as:
- Permanent membership in the UNSC: One of India’s long-standing goals has been to become a permanent member of the UNSC. India has argued that its growing economic and political clout, as well as its contributions to global peacekeeping operations, make it a deserving candidate for permanent membership. This has faced resistance from some other powerful countries, who are reluctant to expand the UNSC’s permanent membership.
- Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation: India has been a strong advocate for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in the UNSC. However, India’s refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has made it difficult for India to convince other countries to take concrete steps towards disarmament and non-proliferation.
- Resolution of regional conflicts: India has been actively involved in the resolution of several regional conflicts, including those in South Asia and the Middle East. However, India’s role in these conflicts has sometimes been limited by its non-permanent membership in the UNSC. For example, India has been unable to influence the UNSC’s decision-making on the long-standing Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.
- Greater representation for developing nations: India has argued that the UNSC’s current structure, which gives veto power to five permanent members, is undemocratic and unrepresentative. However, India’s efforts to push for UNSC reform have faced resistance from some other countries, who are reluctant to give up their own privileged positions in the UNSC.
Beyond the Editorial
There is a widespread call for reforming the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to make it more representative, effective and accountable. Proposed reforms include:
- Expansion of Membership: The current membership of the UNSC that is limited to 15 members, with 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent members shall be expanded to make it more representative of the world’s regions, cultures, and people. This could include adding new permanent members, such as India, Brazil, Germany, and Japan, as well as increasing the number of non-permanent members.
- Removal of Veto Power: The veto power allows any one of the five permanent members to block any substantive resolution, even if it has the support of the majority of the Council’s members which is widely viewed as undemocratic. This has to be reformed to prevent its misuse by the permanent members.
- Regional Representation: Currently, non-permanent members are elected on a regional basis, but this does not guarantee regional representation. Creation of permanent seats for regions such as Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East will ensure that the voices are heard in the decision-making process.
- Transparency and Accountability: There have been calls to make the UNSC more transparent and accountable by ensuring that it consults more widely with other UN organs and civil society groups before making decisions.
- Democratic and Inclusive Process: Reform of the UNSC should ensure a more democratic and inclusive process. Proposals include the establishment of a working group that includes civil society representatives and the creation of a more representative and accountable UN General Assembly.