Given the reliance of politicians on the bureaucracy to both formulate policy as well as to implement it, it is no surprise that several UPA-era initiatives are being backed equally enthusiastically by the NDA. The acceptance of a mistake being a cardinal sin in the ranks of the higher bureaucracy, it is natural that even policies that have demonstrably been shown to be counter-productive have been continued into the present. Among these is the Club of Four, or the G-4, comprising Japan, Germany, Brazil and India that got formed to collectively lobby for permanent membership in an expanded UN Security Council. Each of the four has the gravitas necessary for entry into this most exclusive of clubs within the UN system, although eyebrows may get raised at yet another European country being included in a group where the continent is already well represented, with the UK and France being permanent UNSC members. Given the declining role of Europe in international geopolitics, a situation which shows no sign of getting reversed in the coming decades, if we assume that the number of permanent UNSC members should get doubled to ten, clearly Asia should have at least three seats, Europe retain its two and South America and Africa gain two each, the new entrants from the first being Brazil and Mexico and from the second, South Africa and Nigeria.
Japan clearly merits a permanent seat at the UNSC. The country has been lavish in its funding of UN operations, and has behaved impeccably in international fora since the UN got formed in 1945. However, there is zero chance that P-5 member China will allow Japan to enter the UNSC Permanent Member club, and by joining hands with Tokyo in an all-or-none strategy, the two countries with the brightest chances, Brazil and India, are dooming their quest. While going through the motions of keeping the G-4 going, such as through the meeting of Heads of Government hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York, it needs to be signalled that in fact, each of the four is on its own so far as a permanent UNSC seat is concerned. What is needed is to ensure a General Assembly vote on separate proposals to include each of them (rather than the four as a combo) as a two-thirds majority is needed for consideration by the UNSC. In that forum, should each of the five back a country together with two-thirds of the General Assembly members and a majority within the 15-strong UNSC, that country would enter the club of permanent members. The country with the brightest chance is India, followed by Brazil and Germany, with Japan eliminated because of Beijing’s veto. Within the P-5, should a vote take place on India, it would be difficult for China to veto the move, except if New Delhi insists on being tagged with Tokyo for the honour.
It has been a characteristic of Nehruvian diplomacy that India’s interests — including core interests — have been sacrificed in order to further the needs of other powers. This was done most fragrantly by Jawaharlal Nehru, even in matters as vital for survival as water, when he handed over 80% of the Indus waters to a belligerent Pakistan for reasons clear only to him and perhaps his advisors. However, Lal Bahadur Shastri’s surrender at Tashkent over the Haji Pir pass and Indira Gandhi’s kowtow to Bhutto at Simla are some of the many examples of such a needless sacrifice of the national interest. India has lost considerably and gained not at all from such an India Last policy, and it is expected that Narendra Modi will ensure that his promise of a consistent and principled India First policy will be followed, even if some elements of this jar on officials reluctant to abandon “time honoured” policy lines. Until Japan ensures support from China, there is zero chance of Tokyo becoming a permanent member of the UNSC. There is no reason for India to delay its own ascension to the slot till Tokyo makes it, and in such a process, far more than the G-4, it is the General Assembly as well as the UNSC — especially the Permanent Five — that will decide whether and when India will make it to the UNSC. It needs to be made clear that while each of the four countries forming the G-4 support the others, none within the group has the right of veto on others seeking to enter this most exclusive of UN clubs. In Ban ki-Moon, the UN has a Secretary-General who understands and appreciates India, and in Barack Obama, a US President eager to ensure that an alliance with India be placed in his legacy box.
Our country’s policymakers, invariably, give precedence to process over outcome. This should not recur in the UNSC hunt as well. India should not lock itself into a situation where it will fail to succeed, not because of opposition to its own candidacy but because of the Chinese veto over Japan’s candidature.
The UN General Assembly should hold a separate vote on each of the countries wanting to join the UNSC as a permanent member, followed by another vote for each such country within the UNSC. The odds are high that India will cross these barriers with greater ease than any of its G-4 partners. A propitious moment has come for India’s acceptance as a UNSC Permanent Member, and this needs to be seized by Prime Minister Modi, rather than thrown away in the manner of the numerous missteps by his predecessors. Outcome is core to the future, and the process followed needs to be such as would ensure success in India’s quest.