Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine, accompanied with the nuclear threat, has thoroughly discredited the United Nations. It was intended to save the world “from the scourge of war… and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
An utterly unwanted and needless war is scourging Ukrainians, and what’s the UN doing? Secretary General Antonio Guterres is making a fervent appeal to Putin: “President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia.” Just like the Hindi film heroine begging a rapacious Prem Chopra or Ranjeet, “Bhagwan ke liye mujhe chhod do!”
Article 1 of the UN Charter describes the first purpose as: “To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace.”
Instead of focusing on international peace and security, effective collective measures, and the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, the UN became a forum to slam the West and Israel, especially against the latter.
Consider this: Hamas fired over 150 rockets at Israeli civilian areas, including Jerusalem, in May last year. The Benjamin Netanyahu government ordered airstrikes against Hamas locations throughout the Gaza Strip. The UN Human Rights Council (and the international media) condemned Israel’s legitimate defensive action, while ignoring or downplaying Hamas’ lethal attack on Israeli civilians.
The UN has many weaknesses, the most important among them being structural. On the one hand, its Security Council includes two permanent members, Russia and China, which also enjoy veto powers. One need not be a professor in political science to know that both are rogue states. On the other hand, India, the world’s largest democracy and arguably most well-behaved nation, is not even a permanent member without veto.
Addressing the United Nations’ 75th General Assembly virtually in 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his exasperation over this unpleasant fact: “The trust India has in the UN is unparalleled. But Indians are waiting for reforms in the UN. They are concerned if the reform process will reach the logical end? How long will India be kept away from decision-making in the UN? How long will the country have to wait for the changes happening in the real world? India aspires to be in an expanded role in the UN.”
India itself has to blame for its marginalization. In 1950, the United States wanted India replace Taiwan on the Security Council, but Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, sacrificing the national interest, recommended that communist China was a better candidate. Five years later, the erstwhile Soviet Union made a similar offer; Nehru again refused that. Eventually, China did get that seat—much to our pain, as we now realise. Unfortunately, the UN doesn’t realise this.
Nehru’s non-alignment policy not just torpedoed our chances of becoming a permanent UNSC member but also cast such a spell on our foreign policy that even after his death 58 years ago we follow that. Our refusal to denounce Russia at the UN—first in the Security Council and then General Assembly—is a testimony to that spell.
Even if we succeed in becoming a permanent member of the UNSC with veto power, it would be a victory without any benefits; for, as we noticed earlier, the UN has become a useless organisation. In fact, it is worse than useless. Its arm, the World Health Organization, is headed by a pro-China politician who played a key role in transforming through bad advice an endemic, Covid-19, into a pandemic, thus killing millions and destroying the global economy. Other than employing a lot of overpaid bureaucrats and experts and maligning Western nations and Israel, it does very little for mankind.
The UN is following in the footsteps of the League of Nations; it should be allowed to become extinct. For no organization of nations can ever play a meaningful role unless a thread of ideas and ideals binds them. The League of Nations, for instance, comprised democracies as well as Germany, Italy, and Japan—the nations that launched the Second World War.
The only thread that can bind nations for proper, effective action is democracy. The need of the hour is an alliance of democracies. Only such an alliance can effectively take on tyrants like Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.