India’s quest for UN Security Council permanent seat: Negotiations may begin

United Nations, Sep 6 (IANS) General Assembly President Sam Kutesa is expected to formally present this week a negotiating document for Security Council reform for adoption before its 69th session ends next week, moving the process forward significantly, according to diplomatic sources.

If it is adopted, it would be the first major step for starting meaningful negotiations for expanding the Council, a process on which India’s hopes for a permanent seat hinge. The current reform initiative, launched at 2000 UN Summit, has been blocked by the opposition of some countries to having a basic negotiating text without which meaningful negotiations are not possible.

Kutesa, who has revitalised the reform process, circulated to the 193 members in late July the draft of a negotiating text based on a survey of the positions of the members states on reforms and their suggestions. Diplomatic sources told IANS Kutesa was expected to formally introduce the document this week in the Assembly with a vote on it likely to take place next week before its current 69th session ends.

The negotiating text’s adoption, which would require only a simple majority, would ensure that the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on Security Council Reforms (IGN) as process is known would be able to conduct its business with a forward-looking agenda.

Kutesa, who is also Uganda’s foreign minister, has declared Council reform a “priority” and that it was “critical” to enable the “organisation to meet the world’s increasingly complex global challenges.”

In order to make a case for reforms, India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji has repeatedly pointed to the Council’s inability to deal effectively with conflicts and maintain peace, which he blamed on its unrepresentative character and secretiveness.

“We need to urgently broaden the Council to make it more representative, more effective and more democratic, reflecting the diversity of our United Nations,” he has said.

Kutesa wanted the reforms in place for the 70th anniversary celebrations of UN’s founding later this month, but in the face of difficult problems he would be able to only reach the first step of having a negotiating text to break the logjam and carry the process forward.

He appointed Jamaican Ambassador Courtenay Rattray as head the IGN to reinvigorate the process and put his full force behind it.

The 25-page document drafted on the basis of the survey conducted by Rattray lays out the different proposals that include adding permanent members or not doing it, different modalities for veto powers and regional distribution of seats. Future negotiations would whittle down the various options in the document and create draft resolution on the reforms.

China has launched a last minute drive to try to block the adoption of the negotiating text in order to continue to stall the reform process, which may see its two Asian rivals, Japan and India, get a permanent seat, according to diplomats IANS spoke to. While 116 countries responded to the survey and involved themselves in the process, that number also included some opposing the text. The sources said that the minimum of 97 votes needed for its adoption was assured.

The main opposition comes from a group of 13 countries known as the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) that opposes adding any permanent members to the council. It is led by Italy and includes Pakistan and countries like Argentina and Spain which are motivated by regional rivalry against likely permanent member additions, which are likely to be India, Brazil, Germany and Japan.

Their stalling tactic has been to create a Catch 22 situation by insisting on a consensus before a negotiating text draft could be drafted, while a consensus could not be reached without a document to guide the process of achieving a consensus. The group also has insisted that its own proposal that rules out adding permanent members while expanding the non-permanent membership be adopted.

The US and Russia are also cool to the negotiating process for reforms.

While the process of Council reform has so far been mired in procedural controversies, India’s candidacy for a permanent seat is backed by four of the five permanent members, Britain, France, Russia and the United States. China, which has not backed India, softened its position by agreeing in a joint communique with Russia and India in February that it supported New Delhi’s “aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations.”

When the UN was founded in 1945 with 51 members, the veto-wielding permanent Security Council seats came as spoils of war to the victors of World War II, Britain, China, France, Russia and the US. There were in addition six elected non-permanent members. In 1965, the number of non-permanent members was raised to 10. There have been no changes even though UN’s membership has risen to 193.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in)

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