India’s UNSC reform model: A pinnacle of democratic change

India's UNSC reform model
UNSC Meeting (Photo: Social Media)

UNSC reform have long been in the talks, but conceiving such reform has not been an easy task. India is doing everything it can to make it possible. In that direction, India has recently presented a new detailed model. Participating in the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council reform (IGN) on March 7, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj presented a model for reforms in UNSC on behalf of the G4 countries- India, Germany, Brazil and Japan.

Clearly, the talks of UNSC reforms persisted since very long, on grounds that the current structure was formed as per the situations of 1945 and the times have changed. But after last two years, the crisis in Afghanistan that led to Taliban takeover of the country, Russia-Ukraine war, multiple coup de ‘tat in Africa and Asia and Israel-Hamas war have proved that the current architecture of Security Council is incompetent to take decisive action to establish peace.

Kamboj highlighted the same by saying, “The realities of 1945, when the Council was established, have long been superseded by the geo-political realities of the modern era and a new century; with the need for change being felt across the board.”

Proposed model for UNSC reform

The G4 model proposed by India advocates for an expansion of the United Nations Security Council’s membership from the current 15 to 25-26. The proposed changes include adding six new permanent members and four or five non-permanent members. Among the new permanent members, two are suggested from African states, two from Asia Pacific states, one from Latin American and Caribbean states, and one from Western European and Other states.

The G4 proposal from India doesn’t specify which countries would get the new permanent seats. Instead, it suggests that the UN General Assembly should decide through a fair and inclusive election, emphasizing the need to fix the current lack of representation in the Council. This, according to the model, is crucial to avoid worsening the existing imbalances in the Council’s makeup.

The concept is not unique but upholds the significance and sanctity of democratic process, which is essential for the global governance institution. Strictly speaking, the United Nation is a global governance institution with multiple arms where power does not lie with the larger world and has been subsumed in the hands of few. With due consideration, these few actors were also not democratically elected but chosen, based on their power that had already took the world to the most horrible devastations.   

So, electing members through UNGA would ensure that only the nations that are trusted by the other countries can have a seat at UNSC. Past 79 years tell that the permanent members have only sorted their national interests and sinister animosity through international platform using ‘Veto’.

Provisions for Veto

Veto has been the most consequential power of the permanent UNSC members. Regarding which, the proposed model suggests flexibility. The new permanent members would have the same responsibilities as current ones but would refrain from using the veto until a decision is made during a review. Currently, only the existing five permanent members can veto Council actions, a practice criticized for slowing down responses to global challenges. The goal of the proposal is to tackle these issues and make the Security Council more effective.

 India’s bid for permanent seat at the UNSC has been widely recognized and supported except countries like China ad Pakistan which considers India as rival. While India backs its claim by the fact that it is amongst the most populous countries, the fastest developing economy, biggest resource provider to the UN and at the forefront of global governance in the current geopolitical scenario. Except every other country China is the only permanent member which is opposing India’s seat at the table.

Interestingly, at one point China affirmed to support India’s bid but with a condition that it must give up its support for Japan’s bid for UNSC. Having said that, India’s support for Japan comes from the same G-4 grouping which has backed this proposal.

G4 and complexities around UNSC reform

As mentioned above, G4 is a group of 4 countries viz, India, Japan, Germany and Brazil. But the common denominator for this group is UNSC permanent bid. Each of these four countries support the bid of rest others.

But to their opposition is another grouping called Uniting for Consensus (UfC). The members of UfC may not be necessarily against the bid of individual G4 countries but do have antagonising relationship with one or more countries. UfC, a grouping of 12 countries includes countries like South Korea, Italy, Canada, Pakistan, Mexico, Argentina, Malta, Columbia, Costa Rica, San Marino, Spain and Turkey.

Now as per the proposed model. one each seat has been provided to LAC and Western Europe and other states. However, considering UfC and G4, only LAC has over 3 aspiring countries, hinting towards a possible friction that can arise with the proposed model.

But the provision for election through UNGA is essentially a potent way to solve the regional complexities and antagonism. Nevertheless, the model is the most democratic and seemingly acceptable proposal for reforms in UNSC up to date. And the timing is also prudent.

India making encirclement with like minded countries

Apparently, the Indian model is backed by G4, which consists of Brazil, which in turn has the presidency of G20. This becomes more important knowing that Brazil has announced that the reforms at the global governance institutions would be at the centre of its presidency. It has claimed that in November 2024, it will hold a meeting of G20 Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of UNGA in New York.

Clearly, the reforms are much needed and India along with like minded countries is fast paced to do so. If the proposed model gets worldwide approval, which France and Germany have already got and is enacted, India would be able to bypass the indifference-born-opposition to its permanent UNSC seat.    

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