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The method in India's UNSC madness

On the face of it, it’s asking for a seat at the top table, even if you are not allowed to eat. The proposal from India, Brazil, Japan and Germany to give up veto powers in exchange for a permanent se

Published: 10th March 2017 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th March 2017 08:13 AM   |  A+A-

On the face of it, it’s asking for a seat at the top table, even if you are not allowed to eat. The proposal from India, Brazil, Japan and Germany to give up veto powers in exchange for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council is baffling, until you carefully parse the statements issued by Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN at the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on Council Reforms.

“The issue of veto is important, but we should not allow it to have a veto over the process of council reform itself,” he said, speaking on behalf of the G4 nations.

“While the new permanent members would as of principle have the same responsibilities ... as current permanent members, they will not exercise the veto until a decision has been taken during a review.” 


China, France, Russia, the UK and the US have been permanent members of the council since it was formed in 1945. The UN General Assembly elects the remaining 10 members for two-year terms, but these nations do not have veto powers like the permanent five do.

For years, the G4 members have been supporting each other’s claims to permanent membership, with PM Modi categorically declaring it was “India’s right.” But the reform process required for such changes hasn’t even been discussed officially at the UN, barring some platitudes about its necessity. 


Then there are groups and lobbies with other ideas, some of which are obviously aimed at preventing India from getting a permanent seat. For instance, Akbaruddin objected to a suggestion made by the 13-nation Uniting for Consensus group (which includes Pakistan) which proposed a category of longer-term elected members on the UNSC, saying this was an attempt to obstruct the G4’s application.

While the proposal to get seats without veto powers is not new, it reflects the frustration (or desperation, if you ask Pakistan) of the four nations. So what if you can’t eat at the top table … as Akbaruddin put it, “It is time to get started”. 

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