India at the UNSC: Breaking the policy paralysis

India at the UNSC: Breaking the policy paralysis

With the UN fast losing its coherence, New Delhi’s stint at the security council aims to bring back the focus on long-delayed reforms and a permanent seat for the world’s largest democracy.

When India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti took his seat at the 15-nation UN Security Council earlier this week, it was only the eighth time that the country has had a seat on the powerful horseshoe table.

On January 1, India joined the council as a non-permanent member for the 2021-22 term, sitting alongside the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, UK and the US. India will be UNSC President in August 2021 and will preside over the council again for a month in 2022.

Clear agenda

Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations TS Trimurti along with the new incoming members of the United Nations Security Council, after the flag installation ceremony. Counter terrorism and peacekeeping to maritime security, technology, youth and developmental issues and peace building, India’s priorities for the UNSC tenure.
Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations TS Trimurti along with the new incoming members of the United Nations Security Council, after the flag installation ceremony. Counter terrorism and peacekeeping to maritime security, technology, youth and developmental issues and peace building, India’s priorities for the UNSC tenure.

From counter terrorism and peacekeeping to maritime security, technology, youth and developmental issues and peace building, India’s priorities for the UNSC tenure are already in place and will be vigorously implemented. But also on India’s agenda will be the immediate need for greater cooperation in the council, where “because of paralysis of decision making, urgent requirements do not get properly focused,” according to Tirumurti.

“We would like to have a more cooperative structure in which we genuinely look out and find solutions and go beyond the rhetoric,” the envoy told PTI. “The current multilateralism is not factoring in multipolarity. When you have a structure, which is able to accommodate the multipolarity in a multilateral framework, then automatically (there is) a more responsive, more rule-bound and more inclusive process,” he said, adding that the focus on improving the UNSC framework of cooperation will also lead to reforms in the multilateral system and pave the way for a better understanding of India’s demand for a permanent seat at the hallowed council.

India’s goals and NORMS

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York in 2019. Modi has stressed that India will not hesitate to raise its voice against enemies of humanity, including terrorism, and will speak in support of peace, security and prosperity.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York in 2019. Modi has stressed that India will not hesitate to raise its voice against enemies of humanity, including terrorism, and will speak in support of peace, security and prosperity.

Last year, as India mounted its bid for the non-permanent seat at the UNSC, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar had outlined the nation’s five overarching priorities at the council under the acronym NORMS: New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.

Addressing the virtual high-level General Assembly session in September, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that as a Security Council member, India will not hesitate to raise its voice against enemies of humanity, including terrorism, and will speak in support of peace, security and prosperity. He had asserted that reform in the responses, processes and in the very character of the United Nations was the “need of the hour” as he questioned, “for how long will India, the world’s largest democracy and home to 1.3 billion people, be kept out of the decision-making structures of the UN?” That victory was seen as a strong stepping stone for India’s decades-long quest for permanent membership at the UNSC. For years, New Delhi has worked closely with the so-called G-4 group, with Brazil, Japan, and Germany, to push for structural reforms within the UNSC.

‘Unequal and inefficient council’

According to experts, a lack of reforms at the UN has produced a “highly unequal and inefficient” Security Council. “The five permanent members (P5) – Britain, France, United States, Russia, and China – possess permanent seats and have the privilege of the veto whilst the status of non-permanent members is low,” noted a study on UN reforms.

“I feel India’s presence in the Security Council is needed at this juncture when there are deep fissures between P-5 themselves and also between other countries. The UN is losing coherence and we hope to bring this back by focusing on issues of priority to all member states,” Ambassador Tirumurti said.

As a strong voice for the developing world, Tirumurti said India rightly deserves a place as a permanent member of the council. On the long-delayed UNSC reforms, he said hardly any progress was made in the last decade. “Not a single thing has moved. Is this the type of process we want or can we collectively come to a slightly better process which will yield results,” he asked.

Against this backdrop, India will also underscore the importance of respect for rule of law and international law. India’s message will also be to ensure “how do we let diversity flourish in a united framework, which is in many ways the United Nations itself. This is something which India as a country, as what it stands for, will take to the council,” he said.

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