India not yet ready for UNSC berth


There is a widespread debate going on in international arena whether India along with Germany, Brazil, Japan and South Africa is a fit candidate for a seat in permanent council of the UNSC. Talking about India, there are commentators who feel that India is an appropriate candidate for it, while others think it is not. For this author though India is a suitable candidate but time isn’t ripe to put its candidature because of various factors.

This author calls India as yet–to-be–ready-power, which means that though it has capability to be a global power but due to certain reasons it is struggling to be so. Both internally and externally, it is facing stiff challenges due to its own policies.

All permanent members of the present UNSC, except France, are regional hegemonic powers. At the time of its inclusion it was a power to reckon. France got into it because no other country at the time of framing the constitution of the UN was deemed fit to be in the council. Also the credit goes to past record of France, when it was a power balancer in Europe.

Coming to India’s case, it is not a regional hegemonic power because in south Asia China and USA have in depth presence in various ways and forms. India has not even a working relationship with its neighbours. The relationship with Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and Sri Lanka are under strain in one way or the other. Secondly, it is internally disturbed and has failed to resolve various security challenges. In Kashmir and north-east secessionist movements are on rise. In central India Maoist insurgency has put a brave front and is challenging the state apparatus continuously. Economically it’s an emerging giant but more than seventy percent of the population is under poverty. So in that case it’s very difficult to consider it as a power but it has capability to gain the status of a global power.

Then there are regional questions which also aren’t favouring India’s cause. China won’t formally support its candidature because of its regional strategy. Also, Pakistan has good relationship with China, which further weakens India’s chance for support. USA’s position keeps on changing from time to time due to its own national interest. France and UK may support India’s candidature but still there is nagging doubt on Russia, which has good relation with China. India’s US-tilted policies have made Russia a bit sceptical towards New Delhi. Non Alignment Movement (NAM) of which India was once a leader, which is also the largest bloc of the developing countries too are not in favour of en-block support for India, because of India’s attitude towards its members. Even African Union (AU) is not in support of India’s membership because while campaigning for its seat in UNSC, India joined with Japan, Brazil and Germany, leaving South Africa, which commands respect in AU.

Even if the discriminatory reform of the UNSC take place, where the number of permanent members get increased but with no veto power and secondly the number of non-permanent members get increased with longer time span, in both situation India has to deal with opposition from the ‘coffee group’. It has to bargain hard with potential powers and placate the less and least developing powers. To do so India has to change its attitude towards various countries and international organisations. It cannot afford to neglect them at other’s interest based will.

During pre-independence period at time of constitution of the UN and during Prime Ministership of Pandit Nehru its chances were bright to assert its membership but Indian leadership failed to do so. In 1945 it was a major economic power and also had contributed significantly in military terms in the World War-II. But as it was under the colonial rule so British did not support it to be in UNSC as permanent member.

Girija Shankar Bajpai, who represented the British India in 1945 did not stake India’s claim to be a permanent member of the UNSC. Later on even Pandit Nehru, under whom India was a leader of developing countries and supported China’s membership for the UNSC was not very much worried about India’s place there.

Going through the record of India’s voting on important global issues in the UN General Assembly, Stephen. P. Cohen and Sunil Dasgupta have written in this year’s spring issue of Washington Quarterly that India has always taken an easy way out by abstaining on all issues of critical importance put on vote in the United Nations. They have questioned its credibility even if it becomes veto-wielding permanent member of the UNSC.

To conclude, if India is really serious about its membership in the UNSC, it has to prepare itself by tackling its internal and external problems. It must take gradual steps to resolve all persisting issues, be an assertive and responsible regional hegemonic power and respected global power at first.

Author is PhD Student, South Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and can be mailed at

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