India’s 8th Stint as Non-Permanent Member of the UNSC
On June 17, 2020, India got elected as the Non-Permanent Member (NPM) of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 8th time. It will remain as council’s NPM for a period of two years starting from January 2021 till December 2022.
As per the organisational setup, the UNSC has 5 permanent members (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France) and 10 non-permanent members that are elected on rotational basis via secret balloting. These NPM states are elected according to different regional groups namely, African group, Asia-Pacific group, Latin American & Caribbean group, Western European and other groups.
According to the UNSC rules, election of any country to any of the principal organs of the United Nations (UN), two-third votes are required from members of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This means that a country needs 129 votes out of a total of 192 to be elected to any principal organ, and India got 184 votes to become UNSC’s NPM this time. India ran uncontested from the Asia-Pacific region and replaced Indonesia.
Although UNSC is the strongest organ of the UN and holds the final decision-making authority, being a NPM is not that big of a deal and is a routine matter at the organisation. It does however, have a strong symbolic significance. Especially for a country like India that is aspiring to one day become one of the Permanent 5 (P5) members of the UNSC.
From Pakistan’s perspective, India’s election as NPM of the UNSC might seem alarming but if the development is analysed thoroughly, it is not that big of a deal. Many experts may argue that India’s election can be seriously harmful for Pakistan’s interest since the latter is already facing a lot of diplomatic difficulties from the former.
There is also a sense that because India’s close proximity to the UNSC members now, the Kashmir dispute might go on the back-burner and not get the attention that Pakistan wants or that Pakistan’s nuclear programme might come under more scrutiny from the international community. There are also fears that terror-sponsoring allegations against Pakistan will be re-enforced in UN debates by India in order to embarrass the country and provide impetus for economic and diplomatic isolation.
There is no doubt that India will definitely use this opportunity to pave way for its permanent membership of the UNSC but it is important to keep in mind that UN reforms is a matter that is way bigger than Pakistan-India disputes and involves interests of other stake-holders and significant actors/states.
Timing of India’s election as a NPM of the UNSC might raise eye-brows because of India’s inhuman lockdown in Indian Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IOK), heightened tensions in the South Asian region (referring to India’s disputes with other neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh) and especially the recent border tensions with Pakistan and China, to name a few. But there is more to it than what meets the eye.
The world is governed by realpolitik and not by moral and ideological considerations. The best example of this is that despite there being proof of Indian atrocities in IOJK for the past seven decades combined with the worst kind of human rights violations against minorities and a total disregard for international law by the state of India, the international community has maintained a deafening silence due to its different vested economic, political and strategic interests attached to India.
The international community is well aware of the fact that India is one of the few countries that blatantly rejected resolutions of the UNSC, particularly on IOJK, human rights and nuclear proliferation. It has not only been a perpetrator of chaos and instability in the South Asian region but also the sole culprit behind rendering of the SAARC organisation dysfunctional in order to sabotage any chances for regional integration and cohesion.
It is no secret for the international community how India was responsible for introducing nuclear weapons in the South Asian region which resulted in a perpetual nuclear and conventional arms race and further worsening of human development in the region. The world is also aware that even though India still refuses to become a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and continues to maintain a large nuclear arsenal which is one of the fastest growing in the world (without any check on most of its facilities by bodies like IAEA).
Of course none of this would be possible without the consent and complicity of major powers such as the United States. But then again, it is because of the realpolitik that is at play here, the vested “interests” attached to India due to the sheer size of its economy and geo-strategic positioning among other factors.
Now, drawing some analytical wisdom from the developmentalist school of thought which in my humble opinion also draws inspiration from realism, it suggests that in the 3 categories of states in the world (core, semi-periphery and periphery), the semi-peripheral states (such as India) always try to enter the club of core states (such as US, Russia etc.). However, regardless of several shared interests, the core states have always and will always resist the semi-peripheral states from entering their exclusive club. And this is exactly what is happening with India as well.
The US and other major powers of the world continue to assist India (or act like doing so) to achieve status of a powerful country but a regional power at best, not a global power. The core states continue to play India in a system that is designed to halt its progression after a certain point. Whether it is the case of India’s permanent membership of the UNSC or the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the country’s bid is bound to crash and burn due to the contemporary structure and organisation of these institutions.
It is just like saying; they (core) want you (semi-periphery & periphery) to do good, but not as good as them. India has been successful in selling a particular image of itself to the world over the recent past but the world (as mentioned earlier) is governed by realpolitik and not rhetoric. The powers to be know the reality behind India’s façade. They know that India is standing on clay feet.
With recent developments in the South Asian region, particularly since the beginning of the year 2019, have consolidated the realization in the core states (that were betting on India for specific reasons) that India is all bark and no bite and that betting on India have probably not been a wise geo-strategic decision. Even the Indian political and military leadership have realized that they have bitten more than they could ever chew and now they are paying a heavy strategic and political price for the show-boating.
Moreover, there is a lesson for Pakistan in all of this as well. The policy-makers of Pakistan need to realize (if they haven’t yet) that international politics is a brutal game where only interests reign supreme. Regardless of cordial relations with other states, a state just cannot rely on any other for the protection of its interests. As discussed earlier, the system is rigged and one has to play with the cards that it is dealt with.
Rather than be distracted by India’s actions, Pakistan should build up its strengths and capitalize on the opportunities at its disposal.
Pakistan has been a NPM of the UNSC seven times as well. It should use opportunities like these to strengthen its diplomatic outreach and connections with major powers to build a good rapport for itself while simultaneously working on its internal balancing. Because without the requisite internal national strength, Pakistan will never be in a strong position to bargain rather will always be on the receiving end of things. A stance is nothing more than a compendium of words unless it is substantiated with strength and power.