India would use this stint to further strengthen its case as a permanent member of the UNSC in coming years

by Dr Raj Kumar Sharma

From January 1, 2021, India would begin its 8th stint at the UN Security Council as its non-permanent member. India was elected in June 2020 securing 183 out of 192 votes showing overwhelming support for New Delhi. India’s previous terms at the UNSC as a non-permanent member came in 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92 and most recently in 2011-12. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already thanked the global community for its massive support and has outlined global peace, security, resilience and equity as areas of focus for India during the two-year tenure. The world today is amidst one of the darkest phases of its existence as the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged economies and destroyed social relations across national borders. In such testing times, the world stands divided, battered and bruised looking for ways to get back to its feet to take on the future challenges. For a country that believes in the dictum of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole world is a family), India would look to bridge the geopolitical divide and play its part in ensuring that there is some semblance of justice at the global level in areas of common concern like health, climate change, terrorism and reform of global institutions.

The common perception about the non-permanent members at the UNSC is that they are powerless, unlike the permanent members who have the veto power and more diplomatic influence to achieve their strategic interests. This is partially true as the non-permanent members have what is called the ‘collective veto’. It means that for any UNSC resolution to pass, at least seven non-permanent members should agree to it, even if the five permanent members have already said a yes to the resolution. Along with the permanent members, the non-permanent members also assume monthly presidency of the UNSC in the alphabetical order. By being the president of UNSC, a non-permanent member can decide the content of UNSC debates and issues that they think are important to be discussed at the high table. Non-permanent members also preside over the committees and working groups at the UNSC. These powers indicate that there is enough room for India to highlight issues that have emerged as threats to humanity but there is no clear cut consensus on how to deal with them like climate change, COVID-19 and terrorism. Given the current traditional and non-traditional security challenges being faced by the world, India would have its hands full in its two-year term and has plenty of work to do. India would use this stint to further strengthen its case as a permanent member of the UNSC in coming years.

External Affairs Minister, Dr S Jaishankar has said that India’s approach would be guided by 5 S, Samman (respect), Samvad (dialogue), Sahayog (cooperation), Shanti (peace), and Samriddhi (prosperity). India would strive to achieve NORMS, New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System. India would try to emerge as a mediating force as frictions rise between various powers. There is the rise of new challenges like the current COVID-19 pandemic and there is a need for the reform of global institutions to better respond to such problems. India is the vaccine manufacturing hub of the world as almost 60 per cent of vaccines distributed around the world originate from India. New Delhi is already bracing to play a central role in supplying COVID-19 vaccines to the world, especially the developing and least developed countries. Most of the early vaccines have been stockpiled by the developed countries and the world would need India’s vaccine manufacturing prowess to vaccinate each individual around the globe. After the outbreak of COVID-19, the relationship between pandemics and climate change is in focus as a warming world becomes more susceptible to disease outbreaks. In times to come, climate change would be the biggest threat to humanity and India should use the UN platform for taking new initiatives on this important issue. India would seek more support for its two flagship initiatives, International Solar Alliance and Coalition against Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. These initiatives strengthen climate justice by empowering poor countries to fight against climate change. From just being an articulator of Third World views at the UN, India has now taken up the leadership role and these initiatives highlight this shift.

The world today knows the massive threat posed by terrorism and India would make efforts for adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT). The CCIT is facing a deadlock at the UN since there are basic differences between various countries on the exact definition of terrorism. India has been urging the global community to have zero tolerance for terrorism and not to distinguish between a good terrorist and a bad terrorist. India would also like to strengthen normative and operative frameworks on terrorism to strengthen the multilateral system for addressing issues such as misuse of information and communications technology by terrorist entities, disrupt the nexus with sponsors and stemming the flow of terrorist finance. India would also strive for more cooperation and coordination between the UN and the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on the issue of terrorism and tighten screws around Pakistan. China and Pakistan are also against India’s permanent membership in the UNSC. India will have to let its work talk at the UNSC and raise value-based issues which would draw widespread support for New Delhi. India would aspire to lead the non-permanent members in the UNSC around these issues.

Lastly, the world today knows that China is a problematic state and China’s image has taken a severe beating as Beijing initially failed to strongly respond to the COVID-19. The result is in front of us all to see. In such testing times, China has unleashed its territorial nationalism and countries from India to Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines etc are facing China’s bullying. India’s presence in the UNSC would be useful in building a narrative and consensus against China’s ill motives. India may also work with like-minded countries to stop China from heading important UN organisations. India would strive to bring transparency, credibility and accountability in the working of the UN and its specialised agencies.