Being the sole candidate from the Asia Pacific region for the non-permanent seat of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), India was elected by 184 votes in the 193-member United Nations’ General Assembly. on June 17, 2020.
For its membership during its two-year term- 2021-22, the priorities for India had been announced much in advance. India has called for a “New Orientation for A Reformed Multilateral System” (NORMS)”- based United Nations.
The major characteristics for achieving norms include: new opportunities for progress; an effective response to international terrorism; reforming the multilateral system; a comprehensive approach to international peace and security, and; promoting technology with a human touch as a driver of solutions.
Chinese Incursions into the Indian Territory
With India’s non-permanent membership bid confirmed, its tenure begins with major skirmish in its border with the permanent member of the UNSC- People’s Republic of China (PRC), in the Ladakh side at the Galwan valley.
There has been a total of 20 confirmed casualties of the Army from the Indian side, and with indications of several personnel (jawans) held hostage by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Physical confrontation using nailed-rods have been inflicted as a means to torture the Indian jawans.
It needs to be mentioned here that this conflict draws resemblance to the 1962 war with China at the site of the Galwan river in the Ladakh region near the Line of Actual Control between India and China, began when China attacked India’s posts along the Indian border.
Suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese, this war was described as a blatant Chinese communist aggression against India. It must be noted that after 1975, no Indian soldier was killed at the hands of the Chinese troops. This 45-year record of mutual trust witnessed a bloody jolt where 20 Indian soldiers were martyred on June 15-16, 2020.
As India seeks to place NORMS at the UNSC table, any complacency in its approach towards China would only embolden the latter. As it clearly is, India is surrounded by expansionist and terror-harbouring states who are also nuclear powers.
According to the Yearbook 2020 of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India (150) has lesser nuclear warheads than Pakistan (160) and Pakistan and China (320) combined.
With nationalist sentiments raging high in India, the Prime Minister of India has sent a stern message that while India wants peace, it would respond appropriately to any provocation.
With complete resolve, it would do to protect its sovereignty and integrity and would not compromise it in anyway. Certainly, the stakes are high because when Pakistan intruded into India and challenged India’s sovereignty, India launched a ‘surgical strike’ against it as a befitting reply to such attack against it.
Amid the ongoing combat, a virtual meeting between India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Foreign Minister of India Wang Yi, was held. India warned China that the unprecedented development and killing of Indian soldiers would have a ‘serious’ impact on the bilateral relations.
While India and PRC have border management agreements, India must realize that such arrangements have not stopped China into making aggressive overtures towards it. The sooner its thuggishness around international rules of law is exposed, the faster it would ensure safety for the heroes in the armed forces.
Non-Permanent Membership of the UNSC: India’s Test to Hold PRC Accountable
As India assumes its Non-Permanent Membership of the UNSC from January 1, 2021, India must seek to avenge the wrongs of China keeping all its options of tour de force open.
It would also hold the UNSC presidency for a month in August 2021. India’s objective to establish a NORMS-based architecture must stand the test of time and prove its mettle to the world that it is fully capable of wielding a veto-powered permanent membership to the UNSC.
While this is the eighth time that India would sit as a non-permanent member in the most powerful agency of the UN, this election has been regarded as being the result of Indian PM’s “vision, and his inspiring global leadership, particularly in the time of COVID-19”, and that the international community would be a testament to the Indian ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family).
Into its 75th year, the UNSC does not represent the changed geopolitical realities. In 1945 when the UN was established, the UN General Assembly had 51 members, and in 2020 the it stands at 193. However, the permanent membership to the UNSC remains unchanged- it was 5 then, it is 5 now. In other words, it remains unreformed and underrepresented.
India has been a vocal advocate of reforming the composition of the UNSC for over three decades, and being the largest democracy of the world, with formidable economic and military might as well as a responsible nuclear power, following a comprehensive approach to peace and security guided by dialogue and negotiations, mutual respect and commitment to international law, it has continued to demand a non-discriminatory permanent seat in the UNSC.
The UNSC is the pivot of the mechanism of international collective security and international peace. Therefore, it is high time that it should be reformed and expanded in order to enable it to perform its duties enshrined in the UN Charter more proactively.
For this it is imperative that the representation of emerging economies, most prominently India, be the top of the list, which would give the developing and lesser developed countries greater say in the decision-making process of the UNSC. India’s objectives, mission and vision to promote responsible and inclusive solutions to international peace and security must put the need to reform multilateralism on top of the agenda.
With the commitment towards multilateralism, rule of law and a fair and equitable international system, India would adopt a ‘Five S’ approach to the world from the UNSC seat — samman (respect), samvad (dialogue), sahayog (cooperation), shanti (peace) and samriddhi (prosperity).
Basing all its arguments under these principles, India must call an urgent meeting of the UNSC comprising of all permanent and non-permanent members and collectively hold China accountable for its misadventures (including intrusions into its territory and threatening its sovereignty by induction of Chinese troops, artillery and defence equipment into the areas along the Line of Actual Control around Pangong Lake and the Galwan valley), and also for its attempts to unilaterally change the status quo on the border.
Having the international community of nations support India’s stand would be the first test as it sets to establish the NORMS architecture in the Council.
This article first appeared in IPS News: India’s Test along the Line of Actual Control on June 30, 2020.
About the author:
Dr Simi Mehta is CEO and Editorial Director, Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi.