By Santo D. Banerjee
A pious wish has been making the rounds since August 4, 2017 in the online news sites in India. On that remarkable day, they carried reports from Washington, D.C. conveying the impression that India’s permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council was just round the corner. The source was invariably the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
The TIMESOFINDIA.COM, for example, carried the following report that apparently served as template for others: “The US, which supports India being given membership at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), is likely to raise the issue of New Delhi’s membership at the world body later this month, said the US State Department today [August 4].”
The report went on to say: “Replying to a specific media question on whether the US plans to raise this issue at the UN, a US state department spokeswoman said she ‘believed’ the US might to do so via its UN ambassador Nikki Haley.”
Referring to Haley, the State Department spokeswoman was reported saying: “I believe she is (planning to raise the issue of India in the UNSC). I would have to double-check with her office. I can certainly do that and get back with you.”
India is a member of the Group of Four (G4) nations – including Brazil. Germany and Japan – which support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the Security Council. Each of these four countries has figured among the elected non-permanent members of the council since the UN’s establishment in October 1945.
It is argued that the four countries’ economic and political influence has grown significantly in the last decades, reaching a scope comparable to the permanent members (P5): Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. However, the G4’s bids are often opposed by the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) movement, nicknamed the Coffee Club, that developed in the 1990s in opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the Security Council.
Headed by Italy, it aims to counter the bids for permanent seats proposed by G4 countries and is calling for a consensus before any decision is reached on the form and size of the Security Council.
To begin with, the Coffee Club included Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt. Soon Spain, Argentina, Turkey, Canada, and South Korea joined them. Meanwhile the group includes about 50 countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The Uniting for Consensus group argues that the increase of permanent seats would further accentuate the disparity between the member countries and result in the extension of a series of privileges with a cascade effect. The new permanent members would in fact benefit from the method of electing particularly advantageous in a number of specific organs of the United Nations System.
The TIMESOFINDIA.COM report went on to say: “In late June, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited with US President Donald Trump, the latter supported India’s bid for a permanent seat in a reformed UNSC and in other multilateral institutions like the Nuclear Suppliers Group [NSG].”
“President Trump reaffirmed the support of the United States for India’s permanent membership on a reformed UN Security Council,” said the Indo-US joint statement released at the end of the PM’s visit on June 26 2017. The statement titled Prosperity Through Partnership is available on:
“As global non-proliferation partners, the United States expressed strong support for India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group,” the report said quoting the joint statement.
NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons. It was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test in May 1974 and first met in November 1975.
The test demonstrated that certain non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be readily turned to weapons development. Nations already signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) saw the need to further limit the export of nuclear equipment, materials or technology.
The Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies is a multilateral regime with 41 participating states including many allies of the former Soviet Union. It was established in July 1996, in Wassenaar, the Netherlands, which is near The Hague.
The Australia Group (AG) is an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonisation of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons.
The TIMESOFINDIA.COM report added: “The State Department spokeswoman . . . touched upon PM Modi’s US visit, terming it “lovely”. It went on to say: “I know we had a lovely visit with Mr. Modi. It was certainly wonderful to have him here in the United States. I know the President enjoyed hosting him, as did the Secretary (of State Rex Tillerson) as well,” the report quoted Nauert saying.
According to the report, “In addition to the US, many others, including Russia, the Netherlands and Turkey, support India’s entry into the UNSC.” Further: “Russia reaffirms its strong support to India’s candidature for a permanent seat in a reformed United Nations Security Council,” the report quoted a vision document issued after the PM’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. “Russia also reaffirmed its support for India’s membership to the NSG and other non-proliferation regimes.”
The TIMESOFINDIA.COM continued: “China objects to India’s membership bid in the NSG a 48-member elite group which controls the nuclear trade. China says there is no change in its stance on the admission of non-NPT states into the grouping. NPT refers to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which India is not a signatory to.”
The bottom line is that the messengers of presumably good news have not cared to read what the Indo-US joint statement says: “President Trump reaffirmed the support of the United States for India’s permanent membership on a reformed UN Security Council.”
Also former US president Barack Obama had endorsed India’s long-held demand for a permanent seat on the Security Council, saying in a speech to the Indian Parliament in 2010 that he looked forward to a “reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member.”