By K.N. Pandita
A vigorous debate has been raging in political circles about restructuring the United Nations Security Council and bringing about some important and much-needed reforms in the international organization. What will be the future shape of the organization and how will it impact inter-continental strategies is what is hotly debated.
There are two issues: India seeking permanent membership of Security Council, and India proposing reforms in the U.N. Actually, besides India, Germany, Brazil and South Africa are among the seekers of Security Council membership.
In a sense, Germany is unofficially an accepted member. This is exhibited by the recent Iranian nuclear deal in which Germany had a role.
Among the permanent 5, there is thinking that the entire structure of the Security Council should be changed in a way that the Big – 5 retain supremacy and final word on sensitive international issues.
In my opinion, even if the Security Council agrees to the proposal of inclusion of 4 aspiring countries named above as its permanent members, the new structure will be framed in a way that supremacy remains with them. They would not want India, particularly, to enjoy the powers on par with them, knowing well that India’s inclusion in Security Council would mean considerably wide-ranging and highly sensitive change in the Asian strategy for the EU and the U.S.
China has no small strategic interests in the Asian Continent where India is emerging as a rival and contestant. In particular, China has invested enormously in energy resources in Central Asia and the Gulf. India, like China, is also energy hungry state. China is more interested in blocking India’s overland connectivity with Central Asia or Iran. This prompts China to put more eggs in Pakistan’s basket and oppose India’s membership more through Pakistani instruments than taking a direct confrontational posture against India.
Reforms in the U.N. do not make a strong issue for most of the Asiatic countries except Iran and Pakistan. South East Asian countries are the least concerned; at best they will have lip service for India except Vietnam, and perhaps Indonesia. West Asian States are not at all eager for any reform in the organization essentially because they are deeply embroiled in their domestic and internecine conflicts.
Iran will certainly support India at the U.N.. Iran understands very well that building of the Gawadar seaport by China had the blessings of the US. With this port assuming strategic importance not necessarily for Pakistan but more importantly for the U.S., because the U.S. Navy gets a vantage point to monitor naval movements of two countries in the region with strong navies, India and Iran. That is why Iran, soon after signing the nuclear deal with the U.S., announced an eight million dollar package for Indian investment to develop the Chahbahar port at the tip of the Persian Gulf. This would provide India an entry point to Central, Asia circumventing Pakistan and Afghanistan territories. In all probability, the IPI may be revived for further consideration.
However, Saudi Arabia will evince interest, keeping in mind her national priorities, foremost of which is to maintain Saudi ecclesiastical supremacy and status as the centripetal force of Sunni Islamic world. Though Iran’s agreeing to impose ban on production of nuclear weapon under American and EU pressure, has helped Saudi’s heave a sigh of relief, the Saudi monarchy does not trust Iran. To play it safe against any mischief, Riyadh has maintained very close relations with Pakistan, not for religious reasons but for Pakistan being in a position to provide dependable palace guard mechanism for her besides the solace of Pakistan having the nuclear weapon in the basement.
Pakistan will use both China nod Saudi Arabia to counter India’s search for membership of the Security Council.
However, with all said and done, the point that India is the largest democracy in the world - with every fifth person in the world an Indian - it is becoming increasingly difficult for the EU and the U.S. to ignore India. Implosion of the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1991 has done much damage to the position of India. Putin is soft pedaling on the issue of reforms of the Security Council.
This is the scenario I can visualize in regard to the membership of India and the reforms of the U.N.. The essential question is that India aims to propose reforms through which the concentration of power in the hands of Big-5 can be diluted and democratically distributed. The Security Council has to perform the role of a partner rather than that of arbiter. Experience has shown that imposition of economic sanctions on a defaulting member state seldom yields the expected or even desired results. Often sanctions have proved counterproductive. This mechanism needs replacing by much more effective and result-oriented system. From an advisory role in most of the disputes, the Security Council needs to adapt much more persuasive course as policy matter. Authority must gravitate to dissemination process.
K.N. Pandita is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, India.