Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2023 > India’s quest for Permanent seat at the UN Security Council | P. S. (...)

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 41 October 7, 2023

India’s quest for Permanent seat at the UN Security Council | P. S. Jayaramu

Saturday 7 October 2023


22nd September 2023

India’s success in coming up with a consensus document at the recently concluded G20 summit in New Delhi and the Chandrayaan-3 mission as the first nation to reach the south pole of the moon and the accompanying global praise of the two events should lead us to renew our claim strongly for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Undoubtedly, India deserves to be at the head table, though doubts are often expressed, realistically too about the efficacy of the world body to promote peace and security at the regional and global levels. Being there is a recognition in all respects. Some of us who are familiar with the issue are aware of the history surrounding India’s place at the UN head table.

It is relevant to take a brief look at the issue, before getting down to an understanding of the justifiable reasons for India occupying the permanent seat at UNSC. It is well known in academic and political circles that during Nehru’s visit to the United States in 1949, the US leadership had offered to take up India’s case for a permanent seat in the world body in return for India’s cooperation and acceptance of the role of an ally to defeat communist Soviet Union There are documentary evidences to show that Vijayalakshmi Pandit, ( Nehru’s sister) as India’s Ambassador in the US, wrote to Prime minister Nehru about the official thinking in the US State Department in August 1950. But, Nehru rejected the offer in his reply to Ms. Pandit as he had welcomed the rise of Communist China in 1949 and had advocated her entry into the UNSC. He was categorical that he did not want India to be seated in the world body at the cost of China. Integrating the Peoples’ Republic of China into the international community by conceding its ( Indian) right to the Chinese seat at the Security Council was a central pillar of Nehru’a foreign policy. Details are available in Pandit Nehru’s papers in the Nehru Memorial and Museum Library, now renamed as Prime Ministers Sangrahalaya.

One of the lesser-known matters is the offer by the Soviet Prime Minister Bulganin in 1955 to accommodate India as a sixth permanent member of the UNSC. However, A G Noorani’s has recorded in his 2002 review of “Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru(2nd series) edited by H.Y. Sharada Prasad and A. K. Damodaran that the Soviet offer was a “feeler to test India”. It seems it was understood by Nehru and he therefore rejected it. Nehru’s biographer S. Gopal too has alluded to Nehru’s principled stand on the issue. Going by the depth of China’s continued hostility towards India, it is difficult to counter the arguments of Nehru’s Political and academic critics that it was a historic blunder to have rejected the American offer in 1950. During the rest of the Cold War years, the issue did not come to the fore.

The issue of India’s permanent membership was raised by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during his address to the UN General Assembly in 1986. Russia, whose power had declined after the collapse of the Soviet Union, could not adequately back India’s plea. The US was not very enthusiastic about India’s entry to the P5, given the fact that the US-Chinese relations were steadily growing. Vajpayee raised the matter again after making India a nuclear-weapon State in 1998, but to no avail. China, whose power has grown enormously over the years, is opposed to India’s entry .

The constellation of forces at the international level have changed in recent years. With the steadily growing Indo-US politico-strategic relationship in recent years, specially to counter China’s growing clout in the Asia-Pacific and beyond, as manifested through QUAD of which India is a member and the leadership role that India is demonstrating in the regional and international arena as the leader of the Global South, now is the time for India to renew vigorously its demand for a permanent seat.

Objectively speaking too, India is fully qualified for permanent membership in view of its strategic importance, demographic advantage/valuable human resource, its steady annual financial support to the world body as per the formula worked out and more importantly contribution of about 195,000 troops to the UN Peacekeeping Force, the largest from any country, with participation in more than 49 missions. India is a nuclear-weapon power too like the other P5. 168 Indian peacekeepers have sacrificed their lives while serving under UN missions. India is also the second largest troop contributor with7676 personnel deployed in 10 out of 16 active Peacekeeping Missions.

Flush from his G20 summit success, where he rhetorically put forward his plea for ‘one Earth, one Family and one Future’, PM Modi should have gone to New York to forcefully argue India’s case for permanent membership at the ongoing annual session ( he is skipping it) of the General Assembly. Despite missing that opportunity, Modi should lobby for US and Russian support, and through Russia China’s acquiescence,(Britain and France back India’s case) for permanent membership of the UNSC. It remains to be seen whether Modi would accomplish this feat. Of courese, more depends on how positively the P5 would respond to India’s demand.

(Author: P S Jayaramu is former Professor of Political Science, at Bangalore University and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi)

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.