Need for UNSC Reforms & India’s Permanent Membership

SEP 26

Mains   > International relations   >   International Institutions   >   United Nations and its agencies


  • Recently, India made a push for United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reform with external affairs minister S Jaishankar hosting a meeting of two separate groupings, G-4 and L-69, in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.


  • The G4 nations, comprising Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan, are four countries which support each other's bids for permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
  • L-69 grouping is a group of developing countries from Asia, Africa, Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific committed to UNSC reform.


  • The UN Security Council is one of the six main organs of the UN, and is primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security.
  • The UNSC headquarters is in New York City.
  • It consists of 15 members — five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members.
  • The five permanent members are the US, UK, Russia, China and France.
  • Every year, five non-permanent members are elected for a tenure of two years.
  • To be elected as a non-permanent member of the council, each member-country requires a two-third majority of the entire assembly.
  • India, for the eighth time, entered the UNSC as a non-permanent member last year (2021) and will stay on the council for two years, i.e. 2021-22.
  • The permanent members of the UNSC have a veto power. This veto allows any of these five countries to block the adoption of a resolution
  • Unlike permanent members of the council, the non-permanent members do not have veto power. However, they have “collective right of veto” — any resolution of the UNSC has to be passed by at least seven non-permanent members even if all the permanent members support it.


  • If there is a security crisis anywhere in the world, the matter is brought before the UNSC and they try to reach an agreement either through mediation, appointing special envoys, dispatching a UN Mission or requesting the UN Secretary-General to settle the dispute.
  • If the matter escalates, ceasefire directives are issued and peacekeeping forces and military observers dispatched.
  • Furthermore, if the circumstances are very dire then sanctions and financial penalties are imposed, arms embargoed, and travel bans can also be issued.
  • It is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
  • Under the UN Charter, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council s decisions.


  • Regional bias:
    • A large chunk of the population and many different regions of the world - Latin America, Caribbean group, Arabs and Africa - remain unrepresented in the permanent membership of UNSC.
  • UNSC remains unreflective of the current trajectory:
    • The victors of World War II shaped the United Nations Charter in their national interests, dividing the permanent seats, and associated veto power, among themselves
    • It does not reflect the current balance of power and geo-politics
    • The United States is no longer the dominant economic and political power it once was.
    • All G-4 (Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) nations are bigger economies than Russia, France and Britain.
  • Failure of UNSC in preventing violence:
    • The systematic widespread of the violence in Syria and Yemen over the last few years has posed important questions with regard to the effectiveness of the UNSC in carrying out the responsibility entrusted
  • Higher global role of G4 countries:
    • Japan and Germany are now the UN's second- and third-largest funders respectively, while Brazil and India are two of the largest contributors of troops to UN-peace-keeping missions.
  • Misuse of veto power:
    • Veto power is grossly misused by the permanent members in their own national interest.
    • E.g. out of 24 vetoes over the last 20 years, 15 have been used by the United States to protect Israel.
  • Only one reform since its inception:
    • In 1965, the number of elected, non-permanent seats without veto power was extended from six to ten, bringing the Council up to its current configuration.
    • This remains the only Security Council reform since its formation.
  • Non-transparent and non-consultative working:
    • There is a pressing need to enforce greater accountability, coherence and transparency in the Council


  • One country opposing another country’s bid for the permanent membership from a region.
    • Pakistan does not want India to be the permanent member of the council.
    • China has serious objections to Japan being there in the Security Council.
    • Italy trying to compete with Germany in Europe for a place in the Security Council.
    • Argentina does not agree with the fact that Brazil should represent South America in the UNSC as a permanent representative
  • Rigid procedure:
    • Any changes in the structure of UNSC will require amendment in the UN charter that will have to be signed and ratified by two third majority of UNGA membership and it will also require concurrence of current P-5 members
  • Permanent members will not be ready to give away their privileges:
    • The P-5 will never agree to give up their veto right, nor will they agree to accord this right to any other country
    • The UN General Assembly in 2008 decided to facilitate the reform process through the Inter-Governmental Negotiations framework (IGN) on equitable representation as well as expansion of the UNSC.
    • It was opposed by U.S., Russia and China
  • Resistance from some countries:
    • An informal "coffee club", comprising 40-odd member states, has been instrumental in holding back reforms to the United Nations Security Council.
    • Most members of the club are middle-sized states who oppose bigger regional powers grabbing permanent seats in the UN Security Council.


  • India’s higher global foot print:
    • India is the 2nd most populous nation (according to a U.N. report released recently, India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country by 2023), the 3rd largest economy in PPP terms, a responsible nuclear power and the largest democracy in the world.
    • India’s international profile and capabilities rise due to its ever-expanding global footprint in diverse areas like politics, sustainable development, economics, and culture and science and technology.
    • This can be seen in proactive initiative pertaining to maritime and space diplomacy.
    • Also, India has been inducted in various export control regimes like MTCR, Wassenaar arrangement, etc
  • India’s association with UN:
    • India is a founding member of the UN, and it has been the temporary member of the UNSC for 8 terms.
  • India as a major provider of peacekeeping force:
    • India has provided the 2nd largest number of troops in peacekeeping missions.
  • Support from other major powers:
    • India enjoys the backing of major powers including four permanent members other than China and those of African Union, Latin America, middle-eastern countries and other LDCs from different parts of the globe.
  • India’s past with minimal or less aggression:
    • India has been a responsible power and it has contributed significantly in global peace efforts.


  • India’s reluctance to participate in Nuclear Disarmament Treaties:
    • India has still not signed the NPT and also refused to sign the CTBT in 1996.
  • China factor:
    • China, which has veto power in the UNSC being one of its five permanent members, has been stonewalling India's efforts to become a permanent member.
    • Considering the recently held border clashes, Chinese support will be far from reach
  • India’s soft stance on contentious issues:
    • By remaining silent on contentious issues, India has always remained in a safe zone
    • This had made India unrecognizable among international community in many instances
  • Poor human development record:
    • Though India is a bright spot in the global economy and its macroeconomic fundamentals are stable, yet it shows poor performance in many socio-economic indicators like the Human Development Index and Global Hunger Index
  • India is yet to project it’s military capabilities:
    • India’s capacity to project its military power beyond the Indian Ocean region is still to be tested.
    • Further, India heavily relies on weaponry imports from US and Russia for its military requirements.


  • There is a pressing need to democratize UNSC so as to ensure its effective and transparent working.
  • India must voice for expanding the UNSC to include more countries from different regions rather than battling for acquiring veto power for few major powers
  • India should argue for ending undemocratic system of one member veto and the distinction of permanent and non-permanent member.


Q. Adapting the United Nations to the contemporary world realities necessarily requires urgent and comprehensive reform of the Security Council”. Discuss.