Recent intergovernmental negotiations for United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms where G-4 (India, Germany, Japan, and Brazil) states are striving to become permanent members of the Security Council were held in the Seventy-seventh session of the General Assembly.
The verbal negotiations are yet to be transformed into text-based negotiations. The lukewarm response from the international community is deeply frustrating the Indian ambitions to secure a seat at the big table. India never shied away from its ambition to book a permanent seat in the most powerful UN organ. India consistently raises the matter of its permanent membership. In their most recent statement in May 2023, India expressed discontent over the prolonged negotiations and termed it a “wasted opportunity.”
India is the most preferred nation out of G-4 states to enter the UNSC. It is supported by 44 UN member states, including 4 permanent members of the UNSC. However, India is only interested in negotiations that will benefit its aspirations to become a permanent member of the UNSC. If the negotiations on UNSC reform do not produce any fruitful results, India is likely to be ever more frustrated. This is because India has been a strong advocate for reform of the UNSC, and India believes that it deserves a permanent seat on the Council. India is unlikely to find any negotiations acceptable unless they result in a permanent seat for the country on the Council.
The presence of the existing 5 permanent members and 10 non-permanent members necessitates institutional reforms to renew the Security Council. The inter-governmental talk about the reforms initiated in 2007 has identified five specified areas, however, any way forward has since been on the slower side. Currently, there are no existing prerequisites for attaining permanent membership at the UNSC, although any future negotiations in this regard would likely foster a competitive atmosphere among states competing to join this exclusive club of global security decision-making body.
Uniting for Consensus (UfC), also known as the Coffee Club, was formed under the leadership of Italy, along with Pakistan, Mexico, and Egypt, and garnered support from around 50 states. Their common stance revolves around opposing the proposition to expand the number of permanent members in the UNSC. It instead encourages the increase in number of non-permanent members in the Security Council. The line of argument for UfC is increasing permanent members will further increase the disparity among member states and the series of privileges which UNSC member enjoys will open spill gates for other states. UfC stresses that the selection of new members will affect other UN organs.
A similar stance is displayed by Pakistan as part of UfC that instead of adding a permanent member to the UNSC, 11 temporary members should be elected for a longer period. Pakistan also stresses that small and medium-sized states need to be heard and equitably represented, instead the powerful permanent members in the UNSC have taken it upon themselves to form other larger states generally their allies as permanent members. Pakistan also stresses there is no value addition for adding more permanent member states. As UNSC still displays paralysis on major underlying global issues, adding more permanent members will further complicate important global issues. In the case of delayed negotiation, Pakistan states without naming any state that “Inflexibility is shown by a few states with pre-determined goals.”
Moreover, historical instances such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, where the U.S. blocked the UN peacekeeping response, highlight the detrimental consequences. Similarly, the inclusion of more permanent members would only worsen uncertainties in addressing future international emergencies where a timely and effective U.N. response would be necessary. Given India’s human rights records, particularly in the context of the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, prioritizing the attainment of a permanent seat in the UN’s most influential and powerful organ should be enough for member states to rethink their India’s inclusion into the premier body of UN.
Although institutional reforms are needed in the UN Security Council, however the addition of a permanent member to the Security Council is not beneficial for global peace and stability. Instead, a UN charter-based approach is needed for reforms that are both democratic and cooperative. The UNSC structure is outdated and needs reforms based on merit and democratic values, however, it will most probably be a political decision justified by powerful UNSC permanent member states rather than democratic reforms. However, one thing to note is that India’s permanent seat at UNSC would affect the dynamic of South Asia which may further destabilize the already hostile region.
There should be meaningful reforms around the UNSC body with equal representation from all regions rather than powerful states supporting other powerful states to create a global world order of their liking. India should bring something new to the table of the UNSC rather than getting frustrated over the lack of progress and debate by UN members. The UNSC has instead bent to benefit the interests of P-5 states rather than addressing threats in global international crises. The addition of India without any meaningful reforms would contribute nothing but create more international crises which would further destabilize the South Asian region as well as create further paralysis in global decision-making. This in response would create crises that go beyond the region of South Asia.
However, the timely implementation of reforms as per the UfC frame of reference becomes crucial to effectively address the potential influence exerted by India as a leading contender for permanent membership. Timely reforms are necessary to counter any attempts made by G-4 states and especially India, to sway UN member states towards alignment with its interests. Failure to act promptly could inadvertently grant G-4 states an advantageous position during negotiations, potentially clearing the path for their permanent seat in the UNSC.
Looking at the geopolitical divide, constant opposition from members of UfC, and opposition of one permanent UNSC member, China, the dream of Indian aspirations to become a permanent member of the most elite club is unlikely to be realized soon. If the majority supports the permanent seat of India at UNSC, at best it could create another shaky Westphalia and at worst create a catastrophe. Any criteria for joining the UNSC may in response create an environment of competition among member states to join the UNSC which would be detrimental for both the UNSC and the UN as a whole.