On Thursday, multiple Indian media outlets were abuzz with the ‘story’ that the Chinese government had stated that it had no objections to India and Brazil joining the United Nations Security Council as permanent members. While this story was, in fact, not true, and an exaggeration, the recent Chinese position is that India should play a greater role at the United Nations. This position was articulated at a recent meeting between the Chinese, Russian, and Indian foreign ministers in China.
Despite the lack of explicit Chinese support for an Indian bid to join the UNSC as a permanent member, India should make the most of China’s favorable position to press China to support its bid. India and China often vote together at international forums despite their bilateral differences and border disputes. Moreover, an India on the UNSC would provide a neutral and independent counterweight to other powers, and would help usher in a more multipolar world, as many Chinese analysts wish for. Despite being a liberal democracy, India has supported Russia and China on issues of non-interference in the affairs of other states and would help balance the UNSC away from the Western bloc.
China would be more favorable towards an Indian bid or a larger Indian and Brazilian role at the U.N. than the bids of Japan and Germany. Japan and Germany, along with Brazil and India form the G4 nations grouping, an informal agreement among the four nations to support each other’s bids to join the Security Council. However, their bids are all opposed by regional rivals, such as Pakistan for India’s bid, and Argentina for Brazil’s bid.
India and Brazil have long had the strongest bids, due to their sizes, populations, economies, and the fact that their regions (South Asia and Latin America) are unrepresented as Security Council permanent members. India’s bid in particular is strong as it only faces significant opposition from Pakistan and some misgivings on the part of China. Brazil, on the other hand, faces opposition from other Latin American countries like Mexico and Argentina. Japan, in particular, has faced the opposition of its neighbors including China and both the Koreas. It is highly unlikely that Japan will join the Security Council as a permanent member anytime soon due to China’s ability to veto such a proposal. Furthermore, as the recent Japanese hostage debacle in Syria has demonstrated, Japan is simply not ready to wield the diplomatic and military clout that comes with being a permanent member of the Security Council.
India, on the other hand, has the best chance of joining the Security Council. Whenever and however this proposal is made to India, India should accept it, even it if means joining the Security Council without the other G4 countries. That would be in India’s long term interest and worth any short-term animosity with the other G4 powers, which would be brief at most. Indeed, China had previously implied that it would support India’s bid if it were de-linked from Japan’s bid. India is one of the largest contributors to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces and as of 2014, had the second largest troop contribution to peacekeeping missions.
In order to attain a permanent seat, India would need the support of all five of the current permanent members. The United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have all said that they support India’s bid. With the notable exception of Pakistan (as to be expected), many U.N states would be unopposed to India’s bid. Some states, however, remain wary of the overall reform this would require to the U.N. system. India should convince China that its presence on the U.N. Security Council is not only vital to India’s long term interests but to China’s as well. An agreement with China should then be quickly translated into an actual position at the Security Council, regardless of the bids of Brazil, Germany, Japan, or a member from Africa or the Arab world.