By: Dr. ASH NARAIN ROY, Director, Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi.
India is a founding member of the UN. That India signed the Charter of the United Nations along with 50 other countries in 1945 even before gaining independence is a measure of its credentials—millennial civilisations, multi-faceted diversities and peaceful vocation.
Some years back the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said: “Over the decades, India has made an enormous contribution to the United Nations through the efforts of its government and the work of Indian scholars, soldiers and international civil servants.”
Vijaya Laxmi Pandit was elected president of the eight-session of the UN General Assembly in 1953, the first woman to head the organisation. India’s has been one of the most eloquent voices helping the United Nations shape its agenda on behalf of the developing world.
It is therefore all the more gratifying that India has assumed the Presidency of the UN Security Council for this month. The presidency of the Council is held by each of the members in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the Member States’ names.
Last year when the UN celebrated the 75th year of its foundation, India was elected to the Council along with Ireland, Kenya, Mexico and Norway. India began its eighth term on January 1, 2021. Since all other countries come after India sequentially, it gives India another chance to assume the presidency in December next year.
Prime Minister Modi will virtually preside over the Council meeting. He will be the first Indian Prime Minister to do so.
India is all set to leave the footprint of its helmsmanship of the deliberative body. As T S Tirumurti, Permanent Representative of India to the UN has said, maritime security, technology and peacekeeping and counter-terrorism are the three priority themes for India’s presidency. Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and the Middle East will also receive considerable attention under India’s presidency.
External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar reiterated India’s long-held diplomatic tradition by saying that India will be “a voice of moderation, advocate of dialogue and a proponent of international law.”
In recent years, India has propounded its maritime security doctrine reflecting Prime Minister Modi’s vision of SAGAR-Security and Growth for All in the Region. On terrorism too, India’s articulation has found considerable support in the comity of nations. India condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. New Delhi has consistently flagged the counter-terrorism strategy from various global and regional platforms saying, that countries that support terrorism and assist the terrorists must be held accountable.
Major reforms in the UN and the much-delayed expansion of the Security Council remain a big challenge for India. If one country deserves a place at the high table, it is India. Its role in UN peacekeeping has been exemplary.
Since the onset of its peacekeeping mission in 1948, India has sent contingents on 49 occasions, contributed close to 200,000 troops, and in 2007 had the unique distinction of deploying the first all-women peacekeeping force to Liberia. As spelt out by Foreign Secretary Harsha Vardhan Shringla, India will make the most of its two-year term as a member of the Security Council.
India has always been a consensus builder. If India has become a partner of choice for developing and developed countries alike, it is a vindication of its global rise.
In the present form, the UN is unable to respond effectively to the challenges of international conflict and security. The global scenario is undergoing a tectonic shift with the rise of China that wants to set its own rule—refuse to go by a rule-based order where its interests clash and exploit the existing global institutions to its advantage.
As per the UN Charter, the composition of the Security Council requires a complex process. First, the General Assembly needs to approve the change by a two-thirds majority. Then it needs to be approved by two-thirds of UN members including the P5 (permanent five members). This is where reforms are stuck.