4 Jul 2019

India becomes Non Permanent member of UNSC

Manifest pedagogy

In this entire issue two ideas are highly important One the role of non permanent members in UNSC and the other is reforms needed in UNSC. In both issues Indian context is very important as to what is India’s position on both the issues

In news

Recently all the countries in the 55-member Asia-Pacific Group at the United Nations( UN) has unanimously supported India in  its bid for a non-permanent seat at the UN Security Council (UNSC) for term 2021-22.

Placing it in syllabus

  • International institutions and India

 Static dimensions

  • India’ membership and history
  • Powers of a non permanent member

Current dimensions

  • Reforms needed in UNSC and different models proposed
  • India’s claim for permanent membership and why it should be given


In a significant move, Pakistan and China also unanimously supported India in  its bid for a non-permanent seat at the UNSC for two year term of 2021-22 which coincides with 75th anniversary of India’s independence. The 55-member Asia-Pacific Group gets to nominate one of its members for the June 2020 elections to a non-permanent seat on the UNSC. India will need the vote of two-thirds of the 193 UN General Assembly members to win a non-permanent seat on the UNSC. It announced its candidacy for the 2021-22 seat at the end of 2013, with Afghanistan, a potential contender, withdrawing its nomination to accommodate India’s candidacy based on the “long-standing, close and friendly relations” between the two countries.

India’s membership and history

India was among the original members of the UN that signed the Declaration at Washington, D.C. on 1944 October . As a founding member of the UN, it strongly supports the purposes and principles of the UN and has made significant contributions in implementing the goals of the Charter and the evolution of the UN’s specialised programmes and agencies.  India has been a non- permanent member of the UNSC for seven terms (a total of 14 years), with the most recent being the 2011–12 term. India is a member of G4 ( Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan), group of nations who back each other in seeking a permanent seat on the Security Council and advocate in favour of the reformation of the UNSC. India is also part of the G-77.

Powers of a non-permanent member of UNSC

The Council is composed of 15 Members. Five permanent members China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly. More than 60 UN Member States have never been members of the Security Council. A State which is a Member of the UN but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that country’s interests are affected. Both Members and non-members of the UN , if they are parties to a dispute being considered by the Council, may be invited to take part, without a vote, in the Council’s discussions; the Council sets the conditions for participation by a non-member State.

Role of non-permanent members in the work of the Security Council

  • Under the terms stipulated by the UN Charter, the right of veto of the permanent members of the Security Council is restricted, i.e. it does not apply in cases of a procedural nature (related primarily to the functioning of the Security Council itself). In such a situation, the support of nine members is needed for the Security Council to make a decision, regardless of whether they are permanent or non-permanent members of the Security Council.
  • The non-permanent members possess “collective right of veto” , where UNSC decision does not receive support if at least seven non-permanent members of the Security Council vote against its adoption, regardless of the support of all its permanent members.
  • The monthly presidency of the Council  is held in turn by all member states, in alphabetical order. The country holding the presidency of the Council in a given month usually proposes the content of  thematic debates where non-permanent members get chance to draw attention to issues important to them in the sphere of international peace and security.
  • Measures taken by the Security Council in relation to global crises are usually initiated by the permanent members. The non-permanent members, play an important role in matters concerning their respective geographic regions and thematic issues (eg. contributing states on issues regarding peacekeeping operations).
  • The importance of non-permanent members is increased when a large group of non-permanent members of the Security Council presents a united position on a given issue that is on the Council’s agenda.
  • With regards to resolutions, political documents and organisational issues,  incorporating the most important issues during informal meetings gives non-permanent members a chance to protect their interests.

Why reforms are needed in UNSC?

Established by 51 countries 70 years ago, the UN now has 193 member states that coexist, compete and cooperate in a world that is very different from the situation in 1945. Beyond a threefold increase in the global population, the rapidly changing world is characterised by a diffusion of power (away from states), an accompanying shift in relative material power and an ongoing transition from a brief period of unipolarity to multipolarity.

After the 1965 enlargement of the non-permanent members of the UNSC from six to 10 members, reform has been on the agenda but has delivered nothing. Meantime, the roles and influence of civil society organisations in global governance has expanded. Civil society have not been actively engaged in UNSC reform to any meaningful extent, but the global village effect and the marked increase in new forms of instability (terrorism, cybercrime, events in Syria, etc.) is demanding new approaches.

UNSC lacks adequate representation of the developing nations that account for far more than half of the world’s population. This non-proportional representation of the non-P-5 member states in the Security Council gives them less ownership “in the maintenance of peace and international security” as stipulated in the Charter. Furthermore, the permanence and privileges in the Security Council of the countries that won World War II is no longer justified.

Proposed models for UNSC reform

  • A multitude of proposals have been put forward since 1993, when the General Assembly authorised an “Open Ended Working Group” to study expansion of the Security Council. The most notable have come from Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil (collectively known as the Group of Four or G4), from the African Union, and from a “United for Consensus” group.
  • Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, in his report proposed two distinct terms of membership eight countries elected for five years and 16 countries elected for three years. This distinction be based on minimum criteria which will allow for global powers and regional leaders to be re-elected on the five-year ticket, while the three-year category of membership would ensure flexibility and representativeness.
  • 1945 Dumbarton Oaks establishment dealt with democracy vs. efficacy dilemma. By increasing membership “the group would be too large to conduct serious negotiations and still too small to represent UN membership as a whole”. Obtaining consensus in political issues is extremely difficult to obtain when fifteen representatives are vying for their national interests. Hence it doubted the logic in expanding membership.
  • The P-5’s (UK,US, Russia, China, France) national interests hinder the Council’s ability to address issues closest to them, and adding new veto members would further decrease the odds of a specific issue being addressed, thus impedes the council from acting in an effective manner.
  • In 1945 an attempt was made by Australia and nine other countries to limit the veto which proved unsuccessful, thereby giving the P-5 the ability to dictate the course of the Security Council without any possibility of overriding their decisions.

None of the prominent reform proposals address the issue of how to make the Security Council function in a more effective manner.  Therefore, reform needs to focus on attainable objectives that will increase Security Council efficiency while slowly and non-threateningly increasing the voices of the ten elected/non-permanent members (E-10).

  • proposals for limiting the use of the veto,
  • having standing rules of procedure,
  • institutionalising the presidency,
  • providing a secretarial body for the E-10,
  • reforming the elections for E-10 representation,
  • changing working methods in the Security Council is more logical

One logical and justifiable recommendation for veto use limitations would be a renewed call to adopt the failed 1945 Australian amendment which restricts the use of the veto to decisions taken under Chapter VII of the Charter, thereby permitting the whole Security Council to act with more authority and unity in the many cases falling under Chapters VI and VIII. Another proposal is that no single P-5 member could veto a decision backed by others so that unilateral action by a P-5 member against the will of the greater international community would be prevented. The  Security Council must also draft and implement ways to avoid use of the “double-veto.

All the organs of the UN  have an institutionalised presidency with the exception of the Security Council. An institutionalised presidency that could be extended in term would allow a longer learning period and continuity of agenda items and Security Council interests would best serve the needs of the UN  and would not jeopardise the P-5’s veto power.

Presently the Security Council does lack adequate global representation. It would get benefitted from an expansion that is focused on functional representation as well as geography.

Other proposals call for the implementation of weighted voting in the UN. A proposed weighted vote for the General Assembly and the Security Council seems logical based on a member state’s population and contribution to the UN budget.

Why India should be given permanent membership?

Being the second most populated country in the world, India must have a permanent seat in the UNSC as its absence hurts the credibility of the UN system. India is the largest democracy in the world, one of the largest economies, one of the largest contributors of the UN peacekeeping forces. India has stronger economy and stands in third position in GDP based on purchasing power parity(Next to USA and China). India has been elected seven times as a non permanent member of the UNSC.

G4 nations  are supporting each other for the permanent seats in UNSC. However Uniting for Consensus Group (USG) formed by a group of nations including Italy, Spain, Pakistan are  opposing G4 countries entry to Security Council. Earlier US showed support to India, but it opposed reforms to UNSC. Among the five permanent members of the Security Council, US, Russia and China opposed reforms to UNSC, while UK and France supported India and other G4 nations.

India, if made permanent member in the security council, will have a greater say in the international affairs. It  ca get entry into other powerful group such as Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Giving permanent seat to India helps the developing world to get represented in UNSC in a better way. This step can lead to more effective reforms, so that democracy will prevail in the Security Council