October 16, 2010

India at the UN security council

India getting a non-permanent seat in the UNSC and winning it by a big margin, both need introspection more than jubilation. They mean that India has won many friends and many nations want it to take a leadership position in world affairs – but unless India conducts itself responsibly, the support will only go down. Moreover, expectations are raised and India will need to raise the bar for itself to even stay where it is.

One, India must now take a more moderate, constructive, global world-view. On tricky issues, especially where India’s national interests are in conflict with the consensus global view, India will have to wade with utmost diplomatic finesse.

Two, India must resist acting like a bully the way China does. Leave conduct apart, China can afford to do so, India cannot.

Three, India must show more magnanimity while dealing with its smaller neighbours. That is not always reciprocated and even has harmful repercussions, but some cost will have to be paid to grow stronger internationally.

Four, Indian diplomats were seen commenting that they had to work hard and soften the stand of many countries over weeks to get the majority to get into UNSC. If India does this type of intense lobbying to get into world bodies again and again, it would be too selfish and also imprudent as a long-term strategy. Serious effort must be made to make long-term friends. This can be done by proactively building relations with as many countries as possible and having an understanding approach in bilateral relations.

Five, India must engage Pakistan, China and the US in a comprehensive manner, including channel-II diplomacy. The possibilities for people-to-people exchanges are immense but there is very little that is done. Such exchanges should not fall into the hands of favourites and lobbies as India tends to excel in, but result in long-lasting friendship between people of these countries. It will save a lot of money spent on corrupt and totally opaque intelligence operations and lobbying and therefore the corrupt system may not allow this approach to succeed too much. But India must rise over that.

Six, India must not be complacent that its economy is growing fast and it has a huge domestic market to leverage its position in world affairs. We have seen how ephemeral such strengths are, and even if we are strong on these counts, these should be our strengths that that need not be shown but used subtly. In any case, strength is no substitute for long-term international relations built over time.

In all, therefore, the UNSC seat should be taken as a challenge to grow in stature and an opportunity to get the permanent seat. No day should be lost in the machinations of the type the ineffectual foreign bureaucracy indulges in.

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