The United Nations on Monday took a significant step, though only procedural, towards the long-awaited expansion of the Security Council, for which India is a leading candidate.
The UN general assembly adopted a “Decision on UNSC Reforms” that puts before the world body a text of proposal for the first time in 23 years since the issue has been on its agenda, setting the stage for talks at the 70th session of the global body which commences Tuesday.
This is major progress for the glacial pace at which the process has moved thus far, marking, at the same time, defeat for countries opposed to it, including China and Pakistan.
The ministry of external affairs welcomed the development, calling it “significant” in a statement in New Delhi. And it said “we look forward to early commencement of text-based negotiations with a view to securing concrete outcomes during the 70th Session of the UNGA”.
Indian permanent representative (PR) Asoke Mukerji called the development “truly historic”, “memorable” and “path-breaking” in a speech to the assembly, after the adoption of the decision.
He added the member nations had so far been “making statements in the air, or at each other, with easily deniable or disputable summaries, or at times compilation text(s), to register our endeavours”.
There is now a document, as the UN decision said, that “represents a sound basis upon which Member States can engage in text-based negotiations” through the next phase.
In other words, there is a set of proposals about Security Councial expansion that can be discussed, debated and even opposed, which is significant from the Indian viewpoint.
The draft decision contains a negotiating text, which has positions of UN member states on Security Council reform and how the powerful 15-nation body should be expanded in its permanent and non-permanent categories.
India is a leading candidate for a permanent seat in the expanded Security Councial, which has had only five members since birth, along with Germany, Brazil and Japan, called the G-4 countries.
India has the support of four of the five permanent members of the Security Councial — the US, the UK, France and Russia. China has said it backs India too, but New Delhi is leery of that claim.
Most member nations back Security Councial reforms, except a group of 13 that calls itself Uniting for Consensus, also Coffee Club, led from the outside by China, which is not a member.
“They had canvassed countries all over the world to oppose the adoption of the decision,” said a UN diplomat, “but they couldn’t do much because they didn’t have the votes.”
To force a division, a vote, on the adoption, the opponents needed the support of two-thirds of the assembly, which they clearly didn’t. They had thus resorted to back-channel pressures.
Mukerji pointed to these efforts in his speech commending general assembly president Sam Kutesa for moving the decision in the face of “stiff challenges and pressures”.