India in the UNSC: Much Ado About Nothing


The Indian media is awash with the news that India has become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council after 19 long years and the MEA pundits are patting themselves on the back for a job well done. But is it really worth all the hype? I think not. Let alone non-permanent status, even a permanent seat on the UNSC is just a bag full of hot air if you ask me. Its nothing more than mere symbolism.

There are many reasons for this. Let me not even get into the colossal failures of the UN in preventing genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Sudan, Bosnia etc. Lets also forget for a moment that the UN has mostly failed to prevent military conflicts, right from the Korean war to the recent Israel-Lebanon war. The UN has also failed to resolve territorial disputes like Israel-Palestine, J&K, North-South Korea in any meaningful way. The greatest successes of the UN lie in its humanitarian divisions like UNICEF, WHO etc.

Given this shaky track record, why should being on the upper echelons of this old-timer’s organization even matter? True, the UN is a global forum and for all its flaws, it does provide mechanisms for arbitration of disputes, however poor their track records may be. In this sense, it is enough to just be a member state of the UN and I do not believe that being a permanent UNSC member is of any added advantage to a country like India. China’s global clout is a result of its massive economic power and not because China is a UNSC member. If India sustains its current healthy growth rate and flexes its diplomatic muscles to forge long ignored partnerships with various countries in Asia and Africa, there is no stopping India from being counted among the world’s super-powers, with or without a UNSC seat.

But, I also believe, that as much as a UNSC seat should not matter to India, India too does not matter to the UNSC. This is because of India’s largely neutral stance on all global conflicts. Sure, India is a big economic player and it is given a lot of respect in the G8. But thats economics and India has been good at that of late. Geo-politics is a totally different ball-game altogether and India’s track record is very poor in that field.  We are not key players in any global issue and hold little influence over countries that are. Russia and China have considerable clout in Iran, and China has strong links with the North Korean leadership. In fact China wields great influence over many African nations. All this makes China an important global player. Brazil and Turkey too have been pro-active on a global-level of late. Contrastingly, India has been doggedly muted over the burning issues of Iran, Korea, Middle-East etc. The only time we have raised our voices is with regard to the Af-Pak scenario and even then noone listened to the song we were singing. So what exactly will India bring to the UNSC table I cannot fathom. Countries that are supporting our UNSC bid are doing so only as a policy of appeasing a rising economic power-house. Lets not fool ourselves into believing that we matter in global geo-politics.

Given all this, I dont think we need to bite our nails over the non-committal of US and China to our UNSC seat. Instead, we should pull our socks up, resolve  internal issues like Naxalism and Kashmir, focus on alleviating poverty, improve education etc. We have our hands full and we can do without stepping into international quagmires till we set our own house in order.

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2 responses to “India in the UNSC: Much Ado About Nothing

  1. I generally get the impression that India, in its effort to please everyone, doesn’t take a stand on international matters. In most cases it is because China or US will have an opposing stance on the issue and we don’t want to piss off them.

    Probably in case of Tibet India was taking a stand against China. Now it is all superficial as most countries (including US) are intimidated by China.

    • In most cases it is because China or US will have an opposing stance on the issue and we don’t want to piss off them.

      Yeah thats the issue. We have been mostly neutral because we don’t have the confidence and strength to take a stand. Forget global issues, even with issues closer home, like the crises in Nepal and Sri Lanka, we have never expressed our strong opinions for fear of making enemies. Our diplomats haven’t moved with the confidence of China, which has built strong links with Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Nepal, all regions within our geo-strategic sphere of influence.

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