The UNSC reforms and comprehensive model proposed by India

Indian is historically placed to become a global rule makerm shaper. The United Nations Security Council has emerged as the central arena and gauge for assessing the promise and progress of accommodating new, ascending powers in the global system. India’s case serves as one of the prime examples of a rising power grappling with its […]

Indian is historically placed to become a global rule makerm shaper.

The United Nations Security Council has emerged as the central arena and gauge for assessing the promise and progress of accommodating new, ascending powers in the global system. India’s case serves as one of the prime examples of a rising power grappling with its heightened influence, role, and expectations in negotiating its place as a permanent member in a reformed Council. According to India, “no UN reform is complete without altering the Security Council’s composition to mirror the contemporary realities of the twenty-first century. This entails enlarging both permanent and non-permanent Council membership.” India’s pursuit of permanent Security Council membership, described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as “an essay in persuasion,” is at the core of its repeated calls for UN reform, the sole universal organization of global governance. Before delving into Indian concepts, ambitions, and tactics, it’s crucial to grasp the unique nature of the UN Security Council. The UN’s founders envisioned a “security specialist” Council primarily dedicated to upholding international peace and security. Consequently, successive Indian administrations have underscored the urgent necessity of democratizing international relations embodied in the UN and its omnipotent Security Council. India, representing the G4 nations, has presented a comprehensive reform model for the Security Council, advocating for democratically elected new permanent members by the General Assembly and showing flexibility on the veto issue.

Taking part in the Inter-governmental Negotiations on Security Council reform (IGN) on March 7, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj highlighted the UN’s upcoming 80th anniversary as a crucial milestone to achieve tangible progress on this long-standing issue. Ms. Kamboj introduced the ‘G4 model’ on behalf of Brazil, Germany, Japan, and India for discussion, dialogue, and eventual negotiations. The proposals garnered strong support from a broad spectrum of UN members. “The realities of 1945, when the Council was established, have long been overtaken by the geopolitical dynamics of the modern era and the new century; with the imperative for change being universally acknowledged,” Ms. Kamboj stated as she presented the exhaustive G4 model to UN Member States in the General Assembly.

Addressing these contemporary realities, the G4 model suggests increasing the Security Council’s membership from the current 15 to 25-26, by adding six permanent and four or five non-permanent members. Among the six proposed new permanent members, two each are suggested from African states and Asia Pacific states, one from Latin American and Caribbean states, and one from Western European and Other states. The G4 model acknowledges the current Security Council composition’s “glaring under-representation and un-representation” of key regions in both membership categories, which is “detrimental” to its legitimacy and effectiveness. It emphasizes that the Council’s failure to address critical conflicts and maintain international peace and security underscores the urgent need for reform. “Any reform that fails to address the lack of representation, particularly in the permanent category, would only worsen the current imbalances in the Council’s composition and leave it ill-prepared to tackle today’s international challenges,” she said.

Ms. Kamboj emphasized the UN membership that the world has undergone significant changes since 1945, and these new realities must be reflected in the permanent membership. “Any proposal that fails to address the representation issue of the Global South, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America, in the permanent category undermines the aspirations of developing countries for equality.” Emphasizing the urgent need for reform, Kamboj highlighted the current under-representation in the Council’s composition, asserting that any reform must address this issue to effectively address contemporary international challenges. The model also offers flexibility on the veto issue, suggesting that new permanent members should not exercise the veto until a decision is taken during a review. This proposal comes amidst growing support from UN member states for expanding both permanent and non-permanent seats on the Security Council, reflecting the need to align the Council’s composition with contemporary geopolitical realities.

The G4 model demonstrated flexibility on the veto, a contentious topic among member states as they strive to advance the reform process, which has progressed slowly over the years. “While the new permanent members would, in principle, have the same responsibilities and obligations as current permanent members, they will refrain from exercising the veto until a decision on the matter is reached during a review,” Ms. Kamboj stated. She remarked that we must not allow the veto issue to hinder the Council reform process itself. Our proposal also signifies flexibility on the issue to facilitate constructive negotiations. Currently, only the five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. — possess veto powers and have used them to obstruct action in the Council to address global challenges and conflicts such as those in Ukraine and Gaza. Though these Indian desires repeatedly articulated at the highest levels of government remain unfulfilled and seemingly intractable, its ideas and diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral, over the last few decades on the UN Security Council and its reforms including its quest for a permanent seat, highlight a growing, powerful consciousness in India. The Indian decision makers realise that it is now historically placed to become an international rule maker and shaper, as opposed to a meek rule-follower in the policy relevant future. It truly marks a rising India’s dramatic desire to move to the centre from the periphery of global politics.

Prof. Rajesh Kumar is the Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University. He specialises in India’s Foreign Policy and South Asian Politics. He writes for journals like World Focus, Pakistan Horizon and Punjab Journal of Politics. He is the author of the book “Indo-American Bilateral Relations: Politico-Strategic Partnership and the Power Dynamics” by Sage Publications. He has also been the project officer for several Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Reports under Punjab Government.
Sharanpreet Kaur in an Assistant Professor of International Relations at School of Social Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. She is an alumni of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has a Phd on Indo-US Nuclear and Defence Cooperation. She is the author of the book “India’s Soft Power Diplomacy: Prospects, Challenges and the Way Forward”. She writes on issues related to India’s foreign policy, global political affairs, politics of South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia.