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India emerging as the leading voice demanding United Nations reform


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India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti made a rather strongly worded remark on the inefficacy of the IGN (Inter-Governmental Negotiations) framework of the United Nations in bringing about any tangible reform in the Security Council.

He said that a handful of countries are using the IGN as a smokescreen and rather using it to stall progress on reforming the Security Council.

Ambassador Tirumurti was speaking in the UN General Assembly and he categorically said that the IGN has become like a platform for debate in a university rather than any serious result oriented process in the United Nations, consisting of sovereign member-states.

India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar has also recently made a statement regarding the urgent need for reform in the UN and the world body’s increasing inability to initiate such a reform. Without naming any country, he said that “one or two countries” are obstructing reforms at the United Nations and “want to freeze one moment of history for perpetual gain to continue”.

Now, India has been consistently emphasizing the need for reform of the UN and its various multilateral institutions. And though of course, India’s rightful claim to the permanent membership of the Security Council is a major reason behind this push that is by no means the only issue that India is trying to address. India is leading the call for a comprehensive reform of a world body that is theoretically the only international body that countries can look up for resolving disputes with other countries. It is the only world body theoretically that can keep a check on human rights’ violations of any kind and question governments of states regarding that. It is theoretically the only world body to which developing and underdeveloped countries can look upto for addressing various issues plaguing their economies and also for making sure that they don’t end up being exploited by the developed economies.

But all this is just theoretically. In practical reality, the United Nations which was formed in 1945, after the 2nd World War, is still governed by those archaic rules and principles. It is incredible that an organization that claims to represent the entire world still has a handful of rich, developed countries running it and taking all its major decisions.  

As far as the UN Security council is concerned, it has absolutely no representation from any country in the Africa or South America! Besides India’s case for representation in the UNSC as a Permanent Member, there are equally valid cases for countries like Japan, Germany, Brazil and South Africa becoming permanent members of the UNSC.

The world has changed a lot since 1945 but the UN seems to be stuck in a time warp, and quite deliberately so. Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet again emphasized the need for UN reform, while he was addressing the BRICS Summit virtually. He said that the multilateral system was going through a crisis so not just the UN but even its organizations like the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization etc needed urgent reform, if the declining faith in multilateralism was to be restored.

This is not the 1st time that PM Modi is speaking categorically about the urgent need for UN reform. He has done it on several occasions. Even in his recent virtual address at the UN General Assembly  75th anniversary celebrations, he launched a strong critique of the UN system and its inability to change with the times.

If one thinks about it rationally, what has the UN really done to help the global community at the time of such an unprecedented crisis, apart from the WHO chief making doomsday statements every now and then about how coronavirus is not yet gone and people and governments should not take it lightly, how it’s bad news for the economy, all that.

The  coronavirus pandemic has shattered the global economy. Developing countries are especially vulnerable as vast percentages of their population have lost their livelihoods. And yet, what has an organization like the UN really done to address all this? It is again very strange to think that such an international organization doesn’t have any mechanism, any funds to financially help developing nd underdeveloped countries at times of such a crisis. It is strange to think that it does not have any tangible, practical; vision for recreating livelihoods and safeguarding economies.

The United Nations has become just a fancy, elite organization that totally fails to reflect the changing geo-political scenario of the world. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government has been rather the 1st Indian government to openly and boldly raise the issue of not just India’s claim to permanent membership of the UN Security Council but also that of UN reform.

The global geo-political order has undergone a sea change ever since the United Nations was 1st founded. We are no longer living in a cold war kind if era, characterized by two opposing camps and every country of the world either on this side of the camp or that side. No, we are not living in such simplistic times that can be defined by black and white binaries. We are living in a rather, complex, multilateral world where no country can afford total boycott of any other country, despite strong bilateral issues and disputes. Such is the mutual economic inter-dependence of countries in this kind of a multilateral world order. We are living in times where Asia and Latin America are both rising. And India is becoming an important stakeholder in many important global dialogues. Not just that, it is rather leading the refashioning of global discourse on many fronts. In such a scenario, India certainly deserves a more important role vis a  vis the United Nations.

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