UNSC expansion A difficult road for the aspirants

The United States is against G-4’s proposal on the ground that any vote on the issue would be divisive.

India’s minister of state for external affairs Rao Inderjit Singh officially asked for Nepal’s support for India’s bid to secure a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) under the UN reforms proposal. Though the expansion is an integral part of the reform proposal presented by Secretary General Kofi Annan in March as a result of many years of discussion, the debate on the resolution marks the first radical step. A large body of world opinion sees the need for a restructuring of the Security Council, so far based on the balance of powers of the World War II period, according to the changed international political and economic realities of today. The G-4 countries—Brazil, Germany, India and Japan—have, in a draft proposal presented to the UN, called for increasing the Council membership from 15 to 25. They have proposed six new permanent seats without veto power—four for themselves and two for the African Union—and four non-permanent ones. However, the African Union, in its separate proposal, sought immediate veto power for two permanent Security Council seats for Africa as well as five non-permanent Council seats, including two for Africa.

The African Union had opposed the G-4 resolution on the grounds that any new members should automatically be given the same veto powers as the five permanent members—the US, UK, France, Russia and China. After a series of consultations, the African Union has now agreed to push a joint AU-G-4 resolution giving up its stand on immediate veto power.

Besides, a group called “United for Consensus,” backed by the countries opposing G-4’s bid, has submitted a third draft proposal, pushing for an increase to 25 members, with 10 new non-permanent members. Under this proposal, backed by a group of countries—Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Pakistan, South Korea, San Marino, Spain, and Turkey—the 10 new non-permanent members would be elected for two years with the possibility of immediate re-election. It calls the present composition of the Council

“inequitable and unbalanced”. The 20 non-permanent members would be geographically distributed—six from Africa, five from Asia, four from among the Latin American and Caribbean states, three from Western Europe and other states, and two from Eastern European states.

However, this proposal has been opposed by a number of powerful countries including the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, Algeria. The US has firmly opposed the draft resolutions stating that the enlargement should take place in the right way and at a right time. Washington favours only two new permanent seats with no veto power, including one for Japan. A resolution requires a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly (128 votes out of 191) for adoption. Pakistan is inflexibly opposed to India securing permanent membership of the Council. Argentina and several Latin American countries oppose Brazil. Italy leads the opposition to Germany’s bid. G-4 has already faced the embarrassment of the US rejecting their draft resolution for UNSC reform with the logic that the 191 members would be divided on the issue if it were put to a vote. But Japan says these doubts are without foundation. On the contrary, Italy has alleged international blackmail and bullying to win support after Japan threatened to cut its financial contribution to the UN if it was denied a permanent seat. Japan is the second largest contributor to the UN annual budget after the US, which accounts for 22 per cent. Japan contributes 17 per cent.

In these circumstances G-4 hopes the joint move with the African Union will be vital, as the African bloc has 54 members. But, according to the UN Charter, if the legislature of one of the veto-wielding countries does not endorse the resolution, it will die. Leaders of major political parties have backed India’s SC bid. They asked the government not to treat India’s request as a bargaining opportunity. However, these leaders’ appeals seem hasty as their parties have yet to take a decision. Nepal has only told the Indian minister of state that the Cabinet will take a final decision. Nepal has so far only supported Japan’s candidature. The people backing India’s bid argue that India deserves it because of such factors as its vast population and its growing military, economic and political importance in the world. However, most of India’s neighbours are wary. As for Nepal, it should take into account its national interests as well as the complexities of global power politics before making a decision. The decision should roughly reflect the national consensus. In a complex international scenario where American and Chinese interests are one concerning G-4’s proposal, South Korea backing China and Japan standing against US and China, it becomes difficult for Nepal to decide. However, no less important are Nepal’s geopolitical realities and its wide-ranging relations with India.

Chalise is executive editor, Gorkhapatra