Monday, November 08, 2010

President Obama Supports Permanent Security Council Seat For India

This is potentially huge news for the United Nations and US relations with South Asia and beyond. India is the world's largest democracy, and it has long been a leading member of the non-aligned nations although it has frequently aligned itself with the then Soviet Union in disputes because of US relations with Pakistan.

That's all water under the bridge as the US forges continuing closer ties with India. President Obama has now publicly stated that the United States would support adjusting the United Nations Security Council to include a permanent seat for India.
“The just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate,” the president said. “That is why I can say today — in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed U.N. Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.”

Members of Parliament reacted with sustained applause. But neither the president nor his top advisers offered a timetable for how long it would take to reform the council, or specifics about what steps the United States would take to do so. Last month, India won a two-year nonpermanent seat on the council, which has five permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

But expanding the body will be a complicated endeavor that will require the cooperation of other countries and could easily take years. “This is bound to be a very difficult process and it’s bound to take a significant amount of time,” William J. Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, said here.

Mr. Obama is on a 10-day trip to Asia that will take him to four countries, all democracies; it is no accident that China is not on the list. The president’s announcement on Monday underscored how the United States is trying to promote India as a global power at a moment when both countries are concerned about the increasing influence and assertiveness of China.

“In Asia and around the world, India is not simply emerging,” Mr. Obama said in his speech, echoing a line he used earlier in the day at a joint news conference with Mr. Singh. “India has emerged.”
Third world nations have long chafed under the Security Council's rules that provide the permanent five members with the veto power to trump anything done in the General Assembly or thwart action within the Security Council itself.

Much of that legacy is borne from the post-World War II period when the United Nations was in its formative stages and the Cold War brought its own paradigm shift.

President Obama's move would definitely realign the Security Council's dynamics and would undercut some of the criticisms over how the Security Council operates. Of course, it also opens matters up for more criticism - particularly from China, who sees India as a longstanding threat and rival. It could also bring criticism from countries like Japan.

Bringing India into the permanent membership aboard the Security Council wont come quickly, but it could be part of a larger move to revamp the Council's operations - perhaps with additional countries being made permanent members such as Japan or Germany or even Brazil or Egypt to increase the geographical distribution of permanent members.

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