NEW DELHI While India has thrown its hat into the United
Nations Security Council ring, the process of actually gaining a permanent
seat on the body which has the power to introduce sanctions and authorize
the use of force in conflicts may prove to be a long drawn-out affair,
according to experts.
"It is a slow-motion process and it would be wise not to get too excited at
this stage," Raja Mohan, one of India's leading security analysts and commentators,
Raja Mohan is currently a professor at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University
(JNU) in New Delhi and a senior security affairs correspondent for The Hindu
India has joined Germany, Brazil and Japan in a joint bid to seek permanent
seats on the council for themselves and one African nation.
Mohan said while this was a good strategy on India's part, it could also prove
to be problematic in the long run.
On Tuesday the group of four contenders issued a statement saying: "Brazil,
Germany, India and Japan, based on the firmly shared recognition that they are
legitimate candidates for permanent membership in an expanded Security Council,
support each other's candidature."
"As things stand, China may be more opposed to Japan than to India," observed
Mohan indicating the kind of hurdles that stand in the way of an expanded Security
Pakistan has already made known its opposition to the Indian candidature, while
Italy is opposed to Germany gaining a seat. Also, several Latin American countries
have lobbied against Brazil.
"Much depends on how big the expansion of the Security Council is going
to be and India's candidacy is in fact the weakest of the four," said Prof.
Christopher Raj, who teaches American Studies at JNU.
"For example, India has more opposition against it in Asia than Brazil does
in Latin America," he said in an interview.
According to Raj, while China now has better relations with India than it did
in the past, "there is every possibility of Pakistan working through China,"
he said. "It is an 'all-weather ally' to scuttle India's chances."
Alternatively, said Raj, Pakistan could turn the expansion of the Security
Council into a religious issue through its friends among the Muslim nations,
if the issue ever got to the voting stage in the General Assembly. Any change
in the constitution of the Security Council would require a two-thirds majority
in the 191-member General Assembly besides being subject to a veto from any
one of the five permanent members the United States, Britain, France, Russia
While Britain, France and Russia are supportive of India's candidature, the
U.S. has not shown its hand, and according to Raj, Washington may be inclined
to heed Pakistan's wishes as it has always done when it comes to matters in
On the other hand, India's relations with the United States have been steadily
improving since the historic 2000 presidential visit by Bill Clinton. Clinton's
visit to India was the first since Jimmy Carter went there in 1978.
Traditionally, India was an ally of the now-defunct Soviet Union and, because
of this alliance, an adversary of the U.S. For many years, India sourced its
military hardware from the Soviets and received political backing when needed.
This month President George W. Bush announced the lifting of a decades-old
embargo on sensitive "dual-use" items that could be utilized in India's
independent space and nuclear programs.
"There are wheels within wheels in this game, and nobody expects anything
to happen in a hurry although everybody agrees that the council's composition
is outdated and unrepresentative," said Raj.
According to the academic, while the process of the Security Council expansion
can be expected to be long and tortuous, India does have reason to hope for
He points out to a historic debt China owes India.
China managed a seat in the Security Council only because India, when invited
to join the Security Council in 1955, declined in favor of its bigger neighbor.
"The first step to be taken is for China to take her rightful place, and
then the question of India might be discussed separately," India's then
prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in a letter to the country's top political
leaders explaining why he supported Beijing.
But, by 1962, India and China were at war with each other, and it is only in
recent years that there has been a discernible thaw between the Asian giants.
For example, this year, Beijing finally recognized the former Himalayan kingdom
of Sikkim as part of India and, in return, New Delhi acknowledged Tibet as an
integral part of China although India continues to be home to the exiled
Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, and hundreds of thousands of his followers.
Analysts generally believe that Beijing would find it difficult to oppose the
candidature of both India and Japan simultaneously, and if made to choose would
go with the former.
Moscow, which has a record of using its veto in favor of India on sensitive
issues such as Kashmir, has favored the formation of global axis consisting
of Russia, China and India as a possible counter to a unipolar world.
"There are various ways of looking at it, but whichever you do, India's
candidature comes up as uncertain," said Raj.
Which may be why commentators like M.V. Kamath have wondered out loud whether
the United Nations, as it stands today, is worth being a member of.
Kamath is a leading columnist in India and also served as editor of The
Illustrated Weekly of India.
"If the U.S dares to fight a war in the Middle East, despite the disapproval
of several nations, of what relevance is the Security Council and for that matter
the United Nations as well?" Kamath demanded to know in his syndicated
column this week.