In 1998 when Germany attempted to push the United Nations General Assembly for a vote on new permanent members, Italy’s ambassador Francesco Fulci managed to scuttle the move, saying his country had an equal right to such a position because “after all Italy too had lost World War II”.
Fulci’s sarcasm is a pointer to the global rivalries that are checkmating attempts at expanding the UN Security Council’s permanent membership from the current five or P5 – China, France, Russia, the UK and US.
Reports in the Indian media that Russia betrayed India are the result of the imagination of misinformed journalists who also lack a basic grasp of geopolitics. Russia – like most large nations – has few friends in its neighbourhood. If Germany and Japan – both American allies – become permanent members at the Security Council, they are likely to create more headaches for Moscow.
Russia is only protecting its interests as any self-respecting country is entitled to. Those expecting India to be a shoo-in to the UN’s inner sanctum are only delusional. If anyone has betrayed India, it is its own elites, which we will come to in a moment.
On its own, India had a remote chance at permanent membership, but it was lost when it formed the Group of Four or G4 with Japan, Germany and Brazil. These three countries face much stronger opposition around the world than India.
China, for instance, is paranoid about any proposal that allows permanent membership for Japan. Even if it settles its old disputes with India, Beijing cannot overcome the fear of its ancient enemy.
Japan also faces Russian opposition. Again, France, Russia and the US don’t share Germany’s enthusiasm for inclusion. The US continues to be spooked by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour.
And the US, UK and France are certainly not keen to see European strength diluted by more Asian, African and South American members.
It gets more complicated at the regional level. In a paper titled ‘The Reform of the Security Council of the United Nations: Why Still an Open Question’ for the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, ambassador Fulci writes: “In Asia, countries like Pakistan, Indonesia and South Korea are adamantly opposed to a virtual hegemony of India and Japan. In Latin America, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia harbour similar feelings toward Brazil. In Europe, and more broadly in the western group, countries such as Italy, Spain, Canada and Turkey strongly reject the idea of being ‘downgraded’ and marginalised not only vis-à-vis France and the UK, as already happens, but also with respect to Germany.”
Beggars can’t be choosers
It’s demeaning that economic powerhouses like Germany, Japan and India need to beg for permanent membership. Such shameful supplication is taking place even as these countries are playing prominent roles in bodies such as the G-20, APEC and BRICS, which are more effective at shaping the world’s future.
Any self-respecting Indian would cringe at news that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought support for India’s permanent membership from such geopolitical heavyweights as Ireland and the UAE. Apart from the fact that India has repeatedly fallen short of the required numbers at the UN, don’t Indian diplomats realise both Ireland and the UAE are close allies of the US? Will Modi beseech Somalia next?
Ramesh Thakur, former UN Assistant Secretary-General, writes about India’s amateurish foreign policy in The Wire: “It happens with distressing frequency: the Indian political and foreign service elite loves to get a sound-bite on the matter from every single visiting dignitary, no matter how irrelevant – for this purpose – his or her country may be. And the mainstream media dutifully reports it as an indicator of India’s global standing. In reality, it just confirms to all serious observers of global affairs that at heart India retains a supplicant mentality, except that the begging bowl has changed from requests for financial aid to affirmations of status.”
According to Thakur, a distinctive pathology of Indian foreign policy is that “it is typically aspirational without being programmatic”.
Thakur offers a solution to this geopolitical Gordian Knot: “To begin with, the G4 should refuse to take part in the elections to the non-permanent seats. By participating in the process and taking two-year turns as elected members, they effectively legitimise the Security Council as currently structured. Conversely, the likes of all four of them not serving on the Council for a decade or more would thoroughly delegitimise it.”
The G-4 should then refuse to contribute troops, civilian personnel or funds for UN operations. “They should let others provide the necessary personnel and, since peacekeeping operations are funded by voluntary contributions, they should refuse to volunteer any funds. Where the US has led in showing the effectiveness of purse diplomacy, they should follow,” Thakur says.
Since India has been one of the largest contributors – 180,000 troops since 1950 – and has lost more soldiers (157) in UN operations than any other country, India’s absence will be felt.
According to Thakur, such steps will “throw a monkey wrench in the UN system”, forcing the UN’s five permanent members or P5 to “tackle the thorny issue instead of the preferred posture of permanent procrastination”.
Is it worth it?
The moot question is should India aspire for permanent membership in an organisation where – to use the words of George Orwell in Animal Farm – “all animals are equals but some animals are more equal”?
“The Permanent Five have behaved and continue to behave in ways that suggest that they see the power that they hold as rightful and free, to be exercised by them in whatever manner they choose,” writes Richard Butler of the Penn State University School of International Affairs in a paper titled ‘Reform of the United Nations Security Council’.
“The notion that this power was given to them, over strenuous objections, but for the reason of the good that it might do in preserving the peace, has been substantially replaced by the idea that they have a power that they can use to protect and extend their own individual national interests. This selfish outlook is often not consistent with the purposes and principles of the (UN) Charter.”
While India has got its priorities wrong, it is nevertheless true it has a better claim to permanent membership than either the UK or France. According to Butler, “There is no longer a reason for the UK and France to have permanent membership in their own right, unless of course membership in the UN is based on the continuation of the Battle of Agincourt of 1452.”
Neither France nor the UK deserves to be in the P5. French influence is down to a last few pockets in Africa. As for the UK, it can’t fight a war without big brother America providing protection.
India: Lost opportunities
But does India deserve permanent membership? The country’s political leadership must realise that their primary – and only – duty is to place India’s interests foremost. But they suck at this simple task.
In 1955 India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declined an offer by Russian Premier Nikolai Bulganin to accept a permanent seat in the Security Council. Nehru had suggested that the seat, till then held by Taiwan, be offered to China instead. S. Gopal writes in ‘Jawaharlal Nehru – Vol II’: “He rejected the Soviet offer to propose India as the sixth permanent member of the Security Council and insisted that priority be given to China’s admission to the UN.”
In a paper titled ‘Not at the Cost of China’, Anton Harder of the Wilson Center writes that Nehru lied in Parliament about the offer of a permanent seat. “Despite Nehru’s denial then, and online debates now, the 1955 offer from the Soviets is in fact well-documented, although perhaps not widely known.”
Before Bulganin’s offer, the US had in 1950 suggested that India take China’s place in the P5. But Nehru rejected the offer, saying, “It would be a clear affront to China and it would mean some kind of a break between us and China. I suppose the State Department would not like that, but we have no intention of following that course. We shall go on pressing for China’s admission in the UN and the Security Council…. India because of many factors is certainly entitled to a permanent seat in the Security Council. But we are not going in at the cost of China.”
Nehru’s misplaced magnanimity is haunting India to this day. What Modi is campaigning for now is what Nehru and his acolytes lost six decades ago. Clearly, India has been betrayed by its own elites and no one else.
Instead of angling for a permanent seat, Modi should concentrate on his vision of making India a $20 trillion economy. That matters more than rubbing shoulders with spent powers like the UK and France in a comatose UN.
Post-UNGA: Kashmir is somewhere between abyss and fear
Hailed as a hero for calling out New Delhi’s draconian measures in occupied Kashmir, Imran Khan warned the world of a “bloodbath” once India lifts its lockdown of Jammu and Kashmir. He persuaded global leaders to denounce the brutalities and human rights violations unleashed on Kashmiris ever since the disruption of the decades old status quo, which had been granted by the symbolic autonomy of Articles 370 and 35(A) within the Indian constitution. The constitutional coup d état ensures the alienation of Kashmiris in IOK beyond the point of redemption with massive spillover effects across the LOC. Pakistan is home to 4,045,366 self-governed and independent Kashmiris as per the 2017 census, who are desired of more than a political and diplomatic support for their brothers in IOK. India and Pakistan have already fought three wars on the Kashmir issue.
Focusing on the brazen denial of core human values, Imran Khan prognosticated a more radicalized world as the scourge of radicalism finds more fodder in a discriminated society. If climate change is ignored, the clichés of religious affiliation continues and the inherent right of self-determination remains disregarded, violent reaction is inevitable. He said, “we all know that marginalisation leads to radicalization”… “No one did research that before 9-11, the majority of suicide bombers in the world were Tamil Tigers. They were Hindus”, but Hindus rightly escaped the blame since belief and religion has nothing to do with desperation.
Imran Khan talked more like Gandhi than the nation of Gandhi itself. He reminded the world of the reincarnation of the progrom and racial ridden medieval periods when religion and state were inseparable .It has reshaped and now resides more in inter-state relations while negatively stirring regional cooperation and globalization. Already enwrapped in a world of deprivation, the fifth largest population of South Asia is fearfully seen at the brink of a nuclear war with there being very few options left for a seven times smaller nuclear state of Pakistan, which has been already driven to the wall. The speech was well received and touched a chord with many Kashmiris reeling under the unprecedented communications blackout and travel restrictions in place since August 5.
“It felt like there is someone to watch our back. It felt that someone is talking for us, that we are not alone”, was the feeling commonly displayed. Hundreds of affected Kashmiri stakeholders came out of their homes, shouting slogans in support of Imran Khan and calling for the independence of Kashmir despite the movement restrictions and deployment of additional force by India in Srinagar.A fresh charge sheet has also been filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India against the chief of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, (JKLF) Yasin Malik, and other leaders including Asiya Andrabi, and Masarat Alam on October 4, 2019.
Conjuring up his dystopian vision, Prime Minister Modi made no mention of the disputed region of Kashmir in his read-out speech at the UN along the lines of diplomatically bureaucratic explanation. He only ticked the fanciful boxes of development, progress, and world peace, annihilation of terrorism and protection of environment. This speech however, was soon followed by a threat from his own government’s defence minister calling for the liberation of Pakistani Administered Kashmir as the next step in India’s quest for regional dominance.
Moreover, Imran Khan has also expressed his fears in his erstwhile meetings with Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the General Assembly session. Trump has offered mediation, but only if both Pakistan and India agree. A senior US diplomat for South Asia called for a lowering of rhetoric between India and Pakistan, while saying that Washington hoped to see rapid action by India to lift restrictions it has imposed in Kashmir and the release of detainees there. Similarly, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, in his address to the General Assembly on 27 September stated that,;”The Kashmir issue, a dispute left from the past, should be peacefully and properly addressed in accordance with the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements.”
Nonetheless, an arrogant denial by India to the support of Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir by Turkey and Malaysia is more of an inept understanding of diplomacy and international commitment. India needs to step out of the skeptical comprehension of the role of the UN that was pronounced by Ms. Vidisha Maitra India’s Permanent Mission to the UN. The sway of diplomatic terms espoused with preconceived historical interpretations could be misguiding for political leaders. Modi needs to keep his ears close to the ground to save his political future. It is an extensional battle for Kashmiris. No concertina wire can blur the contradiction in his approach to the issue, “when they are in India they say it is an internal issue and when they are on the international forums, they consider it a bilateral issue,” said one of the residents of Srinagar. Confusion exacerbates the fear, which consequently becomes a forerunner to terrorism. Same goes for the US whose mediator’s role gets paradoxical by Trump’s close alliance with Modi in his perusal of Asia-Pacific policy. Though, Imran Khan is perpetually using his political and diplomatic influence proactively, to mobilize both the international community and his own people, the anti-India feeling, the pro-militancy sensitivity and the general sense of despair — is stronger than before in Kashmir.
Kashmir Issue at the UNGA and the Nuclear Discourse
The Kashmir issue has more significance in view of the nuclearization of South Asia as many security experts around the world consider Kashmir a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan. The revocation of the special constitutional status of Kashmir by the BJP government on August 5, 2019, also referred to as Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act 2019 and the subsequent lockdown in Kashmir has since considerably increased political and diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan. India’s recent moves and actions in Kashmir have once again internationalized the Kashmir dispute. This was evident during the UN General Assembly’s 74th Session, where the Kashmir issue remained a crucial agenda item for several countries.
During this year’s session prominent leaders of the world condemned Indian brutalities in Kashmir. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the international community for failing to pay attention to the Kashmir conflict and called for dialogue to end this dispute. Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that Kashmir “has been invaded and occupied” by India despite the UN resolution on the issue. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also discussed the issue and called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute based on the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions. Based on the grave importance of Kashmir as a potential ‘nuclear flashpoint’ between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing the UNGA warned the world community about the dangers of a nuclear war that according to him might break out over Kashmir due to Indian atrocities. The current situation appears to be the most critical time for both the countries and the region as both countries are nuclear-armed.
However, unfortunately, the Indian leaders and media perceived Prime Minister Imran Khan’s warning as a nuclear threat and termed it as ‘brinkmanship’. Contrary to this perspective, it is worth mentioning here that the Indian leadership itself is involved in negative nuclear signaling and war hysteria against Pakistan in recent months. For instance, the 2019 Indian General Election campaign of Prime Minister Modi was largely based on negative nuclear signaling comprising of several threats referring to the possible use of nuclear weapons against Pakistan. Furthermore, as an apparent shift from India’s ‘No First Use’ (NFU) policy, on August 16, 2019Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, while on a visit to the Pokhran nuclear test site paid tribute to the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and asserted that India might review its NFU policy. He stated that a change in future circumstances would likely define the status of India’s NFU policy. Since then there is no official denial of this assertion from India which indicates that India might abandon its NFU policy.
Moreover, India’s offensive missile development programs and its growing nuclear arsenal which include; hypersonic missiles, ballistic missile defence systems, enhanced space capabilities for intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance and the induction of nuclear-powered ballistic-missile-capable submarines clearly indicate that India’s nuclear weapons modernization is aimed at continuously enhancing its deterrence framework including its second-strike capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan. This is also evident from India’s military preparations under its more recent doctrines such as the 2017 Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces (JDIAF) and the 2018 Land Warfare Doctrine (LWD)which are also based upon more proactive offensive strategies and indirect threats of pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan.
As evident from the above-mentioned developments, it seems likely that India aspires to increasingly project itself as a regional hegemon and a potential superpower. The BJP government under Prime Minister Modi inspired by the Hindutva ideology is taking offensive measures under the notions of ‘a more Muscular or Modern India’ based on strong military preparedness. In such circumstances, Pakistan’s threat perception would likely remain increasingly inclined towards its eastern border. Pakistan due to its economic constraints would also likely face considerable difficulties in competing with India toe to toe with respect to its military modernization plans. Pakistan is already punching well above its weight, and nuclear deterrence would be the only way through which Pakistan can maintain a precise balance of power to preserve its security. This could only be carried out by deterring India with the employment of both minimum credible deterrence and full-spectrum deterrence capabilities. This posture clearly asserts that since Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are for defensive purposes in principle, they are aimed at deterring India from any and all kinds of aggression.
Hence, at the present India’s forceful annexation of occupied Kashmir and the resultant nuclear discourse at the UNGA has further intensified Pakistan-India tensions. Under present circumstances, the situation could easily trigger another politico-military escalation between India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Modi has bet his political reputation on his move to annex the region and his political career is on the line. The same way Pakistan’s politico-military establishment is equally unlikely back down from its stance on Kashmir. It would be difficult for both countries to come down from the escalation ladder because politico-military reputations would be at stake at both ends. Consequently, Pakistan might be forced to take action before India’s modernization plans get ahead and might respond even sooner.
The nuclear discourse in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s speech against the backdrop of the Kashmir crisis at such a high forum like UNGA would likely keep the issue internationalized. The situation demands the UN fulfill its responsibility of ensuring peace and to prevent billions of people from the dangers of a nuclear war. However, Indian blame game, aggressive behavior and offensive nuclear signaling against Pakistan all present a clear warning of nuclear war. It would greatly limit the prospects for international mediation especially by the United Nations whose resolutions on Kashmir clearly provide a right of self-determination to decide Kashmir’s future.
1.2 trillion rupees on the move: Modi’s greatest piece of purchase yet
Last week, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) was taken aback by more than a surprise. Just when it was dealing with the uncomfortable series of events that led to the transfer of surplus 1.2 trillion rupees into the government of India; social media erupted. It quickly realized that losing the battle regarding the transfer would only add fuel to the hoax of closing down nine commercial banks. RBI enjoys considerable amount of autonomy and independence in the largest democracy, and still, it had to kneel down to Modi’s alleged quick fix.
The RBI would have to vouch for the government in times of need, it is primarily what is expected of the institution; but there was a great deal of discomfort in how the government justified it. A committee set up under the ex-governor, Mr Bimal Jalan, cited how central banks would not need so much of surplus to carry out their affairs. Effectively, it was an order, not a request, which became the underlying discomfort behind RBI’s hesitancy in adhering to the views of capital transfer committee. Not that anyone expected the central lender to protest longer, it did however, request Mr Jalan to reconsider the decision at the face of various consequences. To say the least, it was embarrassing for a premier financial institution to be put under the public eye. The social media hoax was another ridicule of the sickly RBI. In the tales of grand conquests, the victorious army steals the wealth from the losing party. Similarly, the BJP led government in India are redefining all forms of state tools in favour of their interests.
Stolen wealth is most often than not used to correct economic blunders. Just like in the tales of grand conquests, the decision to transfer national wealth from the reserve bank is nothing new. It is nevertheless baffling, that the money transfer is looping in the same direction. While the BJP government in India were imposing a comprehensive GST (Goods and Service Tax) policy, they would not have anticipated complaints from large industries over decreased consumer consumption. For a party that is now known to redefine the legitimacy of governance, falling prey to NBFC’s (Non-bank Financial Companies) incompetence or bankruptcy is a visible defeat. Unlike many other soaring economies, there are large group of subsidiary lenders operating in India. On hindsight, economic policies are barely creating tunnels through which the capital is getting recycled in the same loop. Revenues are not generating further revenues. It is merely closing down on its self-inflicted gap.
The Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) almost played with fire. Uncharacteristically, it proposed a framework to work together with the RBI in order to claim outstanding defaults from high value clients. The RBI was never going to agree with a defaming offer as such but the incident did fuel the argument of capital shuffling. It only makes the bluff look more real. A strategic plan to counter all measures that would have blocked the transfer of trillions. As Mr Jalan sheepishly implied how the importance of central bank and what is does is only limited to the public perception, RBI fought a fix in between larger or rather dangerous political agendas. Consolidating requests from SEBI to only fall into the whims of the government shows the lack lustre personality of the central funding institution. For the time being, Narendra Modi has his way, a theft of national treasure-like his opposition colleague Rajiv Gandhi expressed in the media. However, there will also be a far-fetched evaluation of Modi’s actions. A move of 1.2 trillion rupees in the same pot. Not by any means, a cunning cover up.
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