Global Policy Forum

India Deserves Place at UN High Table


By Neha Khator

March 10, 2010


Praising India's role in peacekeeping operat-ions Ban Ki-moon describes the country as UN's enduring partner.


The world's tallest building is in Dubai. The largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. The biggest refinery is being constructed in India. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi, the biggest movie industry is Bollywood. The Mall of America in Minnesota in the US, once the largest shopping mall in the world, now doesn't even make it to the list of the top ten.


Casual though, but the list illustrates what Fareed Zakaria describes as "not the decline of the West" but the "phenomenal rise of the rest". The 21st century, he says, marks the end of the American hegemony.

The post-financial crisis world has seen new power centres emerge elsewhere that are fast changing the global political equation, heralding an era of multipolarism. The first signs appeared when the smaller G8 was unanimously decided to be replaced by the larger G20. And as the international financial system reshapes in tune with time, it is unreasonable that the UN maintains its status quo.

The UN, as much of the world believes today, is an anachronism. Back in 2005, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan tabled a reform package calling for an expansion of the Security Council among other changes. Annan urged the permanent members (P5) to expand the UN to meet "today's realities". But the P5 managed to push back the agenda.


When the UN was formed in 1945, it comprised the victorious states of World War II, designed "to reflect the dominance of the western world and to boost the power of the United States and its European allies." However, the dealings at last year's Copenhagen Summit explain how drastically the political and economic dimensions have changed. China, with its new found political confidence pumped up by its economic might, is growing more assertive and restless to show its force on the global front. Taking the cue from China, new powers are surpassing older ones, driving the need for a serious reorganisation of the UNSC.

And, if a country's economic value is any barometer of its political standing, then India fits the bill for inclusion in the next UN order.

It is now a cliche to say India is the second fastest growing economy. And during and after the recession, its stability and reliability has only strengthened. As estimated by IMF, India will continue to grow at more than 6 per cent in 2010 and at 8 per cent in the next fiscal, despite no improvements in the global downturn.

These estimates come at a time when India's industrial growth has registered decade-high figures in contrast to developed countries like Spain and Germany, which are still reeling under recession. There is more to read between the lines when US President Barak Obama referred to China and India in one breadth, "China is not waiting. India is not waiting. And we can't afford to wait."

India has been pushing for a permanent seat in the UNSC since 1994, but has failed each time. Her performance in the financial crisis should convince the P5 that she deserves a place at the high table. Keeping the economics aside, the rest of the resume too is favourable.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has many times described India as "UN's enduring partner", praising its contribution to the peacekeeping operations and termed the country as "a leading voice in the developing world, a long-established democracy and a growing economic power." Lately, countries like France, Britain and Russia have also unequivocally supported India's bid for a permanent seat.

With the world's second largest military and a defence budget to match its size, investors are realising India's huge potential for arms supplies. India's nuclear energy market is also opening up in a big way. Home to world's one-sixth humanity, the country at present has 40 per cent of the world's young population. And by 2020, officials estimate the average age of an Indian will be 29 years compared to 37 in China. This will give India's economy a huge 'demographic dividend'.

Being allocated a seat in the UNSC is a matter of great significance because it catapults a country in the international arena. It deserves a place in the UN not because the US would now implicitly want the rise of India, as a counter force to China, with which it is increasingly at odds with, but because it has the capabilities to contribute in finding 21st century solutions.

Daniel Drezner once wrote in the 'Foreign Affairs': "If China and India are not made to feel welcome inside existing international institutions, they might create new ones - leaving the US on the outside looking in." Daniel might have gone a bit too far, but it emphasises the growing sentiments of unrest for equitable representation.

Unlike other times, this time it is imperative for the UN to keep up with the changes to save it from slipping into irrelevance. For the UN, it is a race for survival.






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