ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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An Opportunity at the United Nations

Can India's non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council be used to strengthen multilateralism?

For a foreign policy and strategic affairs establishment obsessed with permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), India’s election as one of the 10 non-permanent members is an opportunity to demonstrate what the country can do and will not do to push for an independent approach towards promoting peace and development in the world. India has come to occupy this position after a gap of 19 years. India’s election comes with an enormous amount of goodwill – 177 nations supported its candidature and just five nations cast a negative vote, compared to the vote of only 60 odd countries the last time around. India failed in its attempt in 1996 to be elected to the UN council, but has succeeded this time and has begun serving the two-year post.

The structure of the UNSC, with a permanent set of five nations with veto power and another 10 elected members on a two-year tenure, has been widely accepted to be barely responsive towards or representative of large sections of the world populace. After years of being tied down by the bipolar nature of the world during the cold war, the UNSC has now become a busy forum for debating issues related to security that call for the presence of peace-keeping forces. However, on important political matters it is still the United States that continues to decide the final outcome. This was most obvious in the UNSC’s decisions on the Yugoslavian civil war in the late 1990s and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It is in this milieu that India, “enhanced” in the eyes of the world as a rising economic power, has tried to position itself as a “world power”. But it is increasingly evident that a certain bandwagoning with the US governs India’s position in world affairs.

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