UN Security Council Does India deserve a permanent seat?

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay

Though not a member of the Security Council, India played a role that ought to have been played by its members.

During World War II nations opposed to the Nazi-Fascist axis gathered in San Francisco with a view to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and agreed to establish the United Nations (UN). The charter of the UN, in Article 7, established the UN, the Security Council (SC) being one of them. According to Article 24, “In order to ensure prompt and effective action by the UN, its members confer on the SC primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security…” Thus the founders made it a very important organ of the UN. India’s claim to a permanent membership of the SC must be examined in the light of the development of international understanding during the war and also on the present reality of the international relations. The major powers who contributed heavily in the war against the Axis powers — China, France, the UK, the USA and the USSR — were recognised as “the big five” and were given permanent seats in the SC. Though a large number of Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives in the war, India was still a British colony then and Indian political leaders didn’t have an important role in making of the UN charter. However, this is a known fact that Indian leaders like Gandhi and Nehru were openly against the Nazi-Fascist coalition and were ready to contribute to the victory over Axis powers as an independent nation. Still, India’s participation in the UN for the very initial phase cannot not be ignored.

After Independence, India raised its voice against colonialism, racism, armament and aggression. India’s role in Bangdung conference of Afro-Asian nations, in giving impetus to the non-aligned theme, in raising voice in favour of general and complete disarmament as well as its support to freedom struggle of the occupied nations had a considerable effect on the UN. So, even without being a member of the SC, India had been playing a role that ought to have been played by the Council members. Article 26 of the UN charter stipulates: “In order to promote the establishment and maintenance of international peace and security with the least diversion of armaments of the world’s human and economic resources, the SC shall be responsible for formulating, with the assistance of the Military Staff Committee referred to in Article 47, plans to be submitted to the members of the UN for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments. However, SC then failed miserably in its duty to create an atmosphere of disarmament. On the contrary the permanent members perpetrated the cold war and went on stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and nuclear warheads. India and other non-aligned nations never ceased to raise their voice in the form of general and complete disarmament and destruction of nuclear weapons.

India is an important regional power, the second most populous country in the world and world’s largest democracy. These qualifications are enough to qualify India to be a permanent member. Besides, India’s role during the last 60 years after the end of World War II has established it as a responsible UN member, which has abundantly contributed to the maintenance of international peace and security. India has also played a dynamic role in promoting the rights of the developing nations.

One has to take into consideration the basic difference between the League of Nations and the UN. While both emphasised the maintenance of peace and international security as the primary objective, the UN charter gave much more recognition to international cooperation in dealing with economic and social problems. It was recognised by the framers of the charter that economic and social dislocation had contributed to events leading to World War II. The Indian National Congress under the leadership of Gandhi and Nehru had always emphasised the need for social harmony and economic justice. So, even before World War II started in the 1930s the Indian National Congress had pointed in the direction that could lead to greater strife. A review of the Indian freedom struggle and the thoughts propounded by Indian leaders is ample proof of India’s dedication to what the UN stands for and what it strives for. The international scenario has undergone a drastic change. The UN must represent the people of the whole world. The former Axis powers are peacetime democratic nations dedicated to upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms. The effort of G4 has to be supported. In 1945 only 50 states were UN members and a Security Council of eleven. In 1965, in the view of considerable enlargement in the UN members the number of SC was raised to 15. Taking into account the much larger present number (more than three times the original) and the political scenario, the membership of the SC must be enlarged, including the number of permanent members representing all the five continents. Thus India must be supported for a permanent seat on the SC.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister