India and the United Nations

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Karun Lama

Since the inception of the United Nations Organization on 24th October 1945, India’s role in world peacebuilding has been immense. As a founding member nation, India has hugely contributed in its various operations such as contributing peacekeeping forces in Korea, Indo-China, Middle East, in many of the African regions, and so on, along with providing medical aid in the war-affected regions and training to the peacekeepers around the world. India also has a unique distinction of women participating as all-women contingent in peacekeeping operations for the first time in 2007 in the history of the UN. India, in fact, has played a prominent role in the evolution of the norms of peacekeeping.

Having participated in the UN operations, India has lost 168 of her soldiers, till date, who all have made supreme sacrifice for the purpose of bringing the world peace. Well, no doubt, India’s contribution has, time and again, received due recognition by the UN and the global community; Indian peacekeepers have been honoured with many accolades – the Dag Hammarskjold medal, the highest recognition, for their courage and sacrifice.

However, India deserves a much greater say in the organization. With all the contributions that India has made for international peace and security through the platform of the UN along with her commitment to international law and world peace as enshrined in Article 51 of India’s Constitution, no nation except India becomes an immediate and suitable candidate for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. In addition, other features of India viz. India’s cosmopolitan world view ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam’ which means ‘the world is one family’, a multi-cultural society showcasing a unity-in-diversity, being the world’s largest democracy, effectively supplement to her induction in the high table of the UN.

That apart, keeping in view of the changing dynamics in the world order and the post-COVID world, it is high time the UN needs some serious reforms if it has to serve its purpose.

Firstly, if one looks into the representation of nations in terms of geography in the UN Security Council, the UN lacks an equitable representation. For instance, only one country from the Asia-Pacific region i.e. China has got a permanent seat. However, it’s so unfortunate to learn from the aggressive and expansionist acts of present-day China that its representation nowhere seems to be in line in serving the main purposes of the UN. (Also, even if countries think of suing China in the UN for the mishandling and late reporting of this coronavirus and similar viruses which often have had outbursts from China, it has already the veto to block any such processes that come against it. And exactly the same thing happened of late; China blocked a discussion about the origin and sources of the coronavirus in the UN.)

Besides this, it also doesn’t seem fair to have zero representation from South America, and especially from Africa where most UN actions take place without their voice. Today’s UN needs to be more representative reflecting the contemporary power realities. In that case, too, India which is said to be the leader of the developing countries becomes the most deserving as well as an immediate candidate to the Security Council from Asia or from the global south region.

Secondly, the existing veto system needs to be reformed because many a time since the cold war period and even today, major decisions in the Security Council remain in deadlock due to the indifferences between the P3 (US, UK, France) and P2 (Russia, China) countries. Such bi-polarization of the Security Council during the cold war period had almost loosened the relevance of the United Nations as world peace and security organization. Again, it was India and mostly other non-permanent member nations who played a crucial role in maintaining UN’s credentials through peacekeeping missions in place of Collective Security actions. Hence, in order to bridge the gap between the P3 and P2 countries, neutral countries such as India needs to be added to the Council.

Moreover, if one pays a note on the original ratio of the number of member nations in the General Assembly to that of the Security Council and the ratio that prevails currently, which although had been reformed once in 1965, the UN seems quite unrepresentative. In 1945, the UN had only 51 members in the General Assembly while it had 11 members in the Security Council (5 permanents with veto + 6 non-permanents without veto for a two-year term). In 1965, the number in the General Assembly had increased to 113, hence, four more non-permanent seats were increased, thus making the total strength of 15 in the Security Council. And now, in the General Assembly, the number has risen to 193 but unfortunately, no expansion has been done yet in the Council.

However, it is not just about raising the numbers or having an equitable representation, it is more about whether or not, the 20th century UN model is being able to serve today’s global challenges. Today one can clearly see UN’s ineffectiveness in dealing with the current pandemic. Although the UN has had been successful in preventing a third world war, bringing peace in many conflict-zones, improving lives, however, with times changing, increase in trans-national communication and activities have also brought bigger challenges such as terrorism, ethnic lynching, climate change, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, etc. than ever before. As a world peace and security organization, reform is direly in need now than never.

India’s winning of the non-permanent seat for the 8th term with the overwhelming support of 184 votes in the 193-member General Assembly this year shows countries’ penchant for India in the high table to be one of the leaders in the global community. Hopefully, as India joins the Council next year, India utilizes her two years to the fullest and works for bringing reforms which will indeed create a greater impact on human lives and the world.

The writer can be reached at [email protected]                    

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