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Permanent Seat for India in UN Security Council

By: Venkat Lakshminarayan
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(The author is a retired automotive engineer and a resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan)

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A buzz that has been going around in the Indian press for the last couple of years is about India gaining a permanent membership in the UN Security Council and as if it is going to happen very soon, with veto power, no less. Frequently the newspapers carry news items such as that some remote leader of a remote African country or some visiting dignitary from Europe had offered his support for Indian membership. The African leader may not even know the workings of the UN and the European dignitary, when pressed hard, would wiggle out of it by saying that he was only expressing his personal opinion. What is the probability of India acquiring permanent membership in the foreseeable future? Not much. Let me explain why.

To begin with, India has not held even a rotating seat in the Security Council during the last sixteen years. In contrast, during the same period, Pakistan, a country that is known to be a failed state, was elected twice to the rotating membership, as recently as 2003. Even Bangladesh was elected to a rotating membership in 2000-2001. Japan has been getting elected every five or six years like clockwork and they pay a big share of the UN budget. If and when there is an expansion, Japan is assured by United States of a permanent seat. When it comes to India"s membership only the Indian newspapers make noise about it. The reality is that the countries that matter on this issue and the countries which control the United Nations have publicly kept mum about India"s chances. In private they diplomatically talk about "India"s past baggage". India"s diplomacy and the lack of focus in the foreign policy carry major part of the blame for this situation.

Indians talk proudly about their democracy, tolerance, ahimsa and so on not realizing that the rest of the world pays no more than lip service to such ideals. World diplomacy and nations" foreign policies are not built on ideals and principles. They are driven by the hard realities of self interest, whether economical, territorial or security related.

We live in a predatory world. In contrast Indians live in a dream world. Indians talk about democracy, secularism and goodwill to human kind as if these matter in the international political arena. India"s ability to make deals in the international political arena has been rather limited because of its own self inflicted stupidities lack of diplomatic skills. Even Pakistan is able to make successful deals in interest of its national security and borders as well as aid. Whether ethical or not, they are able to extract a price from other countries for every agreement they make. Where as the Indian leaders do not even have courage assert their own borders. When the Chinese Ambassador says that Arunachal Pradesh is part of China, the Indian leaders have neither the courage nor the wisdom to throw him out. Nepal, stuck between two major powers, keeps in good relationship with China at the expense of India because they understand who means business and who is dithering. When China took over Tibet, Indian government dithered in spite of security warnings from the military. When China opened its relationship with West, every one of its steps was contingent upon the acceptance by West of Taiwan being part to Chinese territory. Does India have the courage to take such a position on Kashmir? Realism and courage are sorely lacking in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi. Even today we hear some Indian leaders talking about the non-aligned movement with no realization that it is a fossil of the history and has no relevance in the twenty-first century.

United States basically gave everything that India wanted in the nuclear agreement. Still Indian Government dragged its heels to make up its mind whether to sign up or not. In the process they have made themselves a laughing stock of in front of the world. No nation in its right mind will negotiate a serious treaty with such an indecisive government. The Communists our Muslim brothers are holding the government hostage but the Sonia Gandhi sycophants are quite happy about status quo as long as they get to stay in power. In this environment the countries that deal with India have lost confidence in the government"s ability to make deals and follow up.

To gain a permanent seat at the Security Council it is not enough to talk to African or Middle Eastern nations. India hosted and pampered the King of Saudi Arabia at the Republic Day ceremony a couple of years ago, and in return, he pardoned a man from Kerala who was sentenced in a Saudi court to have his eyes gouged out. Still Saudis do not support India"s position on Kashmir. If this is the best that India can do, she is better off to send her diplomats to a boot camp in diplomacy in Pakistan or China. In response to martial law in Burma the United Nations talked of sanctions. When the same kind of martial law was declared by Musharaff in Pakistan the US sent Dick Cheney to Islamabad. Currently there is a martial law in Tibet but western leaders not only overlook that issue but plan to join the Chinese for their big Olympics party. One has to use the tools of diplomacy effectively rather than simply whine.

The countries that control the membership at the Security Council are the permanent members, primarily US and United Kingdom. If India cannot open serious negotiations with those countries, it needs to simply forget about the Security Council. Naturally those countries would view granting India the admission to the Council as a major concession. Any major concession has to be paid for because nobody gives anything free. What can India"s offer for the seat? Or, does India have anything to offer? Indian government cannot even make a minor domestic or foreign policy decision without permission from the Communists and Muslim vote bank. Imagine the fits that the leftists and Muslims will get into once the negotiations with Americans begin!

Current domestic policies of being everything to every vote bank has kept the government and the country as hostage from taking significant initiatives in the social, economic and foreign policy arenas. Instead of looking for a permanent seat in the Security Council at this time India would be better off to do some introspection as to what she wants for the country and the people as she emerges economically, what role she wants to play in the international arena and how she is going to solve the puzzle of balancing those goals with the need to satisfy various domestic vote banks. Or, it can rise above the mentality of hanging on to power with vote bank politics and look towards the good of the country and people as a whole. Until then the country can only dither, a sorry state of affairs.

Venkat Lakshminarayan

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