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How India has become the UN’s top diplomat for a month: Why It Matters?

In its rights as the largest democracy in the world and a major economic and military power, India has long sought a place at this high table. Despite this, it has found the door tightly shut to becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) – a select club of the US, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom. Non-permanent member India has been forced to be content with periodic elections and today has been elected to preside over the UN body for one month. As the Security Council’s leader, the U.S. plans to advance the Security Council’s agenda as follows.

India’s UNSC presidency: how did it happen?
UNSC members are also elected to serve two-year terms for each of the ten non-permanent members. In the past, India has been elected as a non-permanent member on seven occasions, and it will begin its eighth term on January 1. The UN General Assembly elects the 10 non-permanent members. The UN General Assembly elects each year five non-permanent members who must receive a two-thirds majority in order to qualify.

The 193-member General Assembly decided to ratify India for the 2021-22 term after it received 184 votes in June 2018. There are currently nine other non-permanent members in addition to India: Tunisia, Vietnam, Estonia, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Niger, Norway and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. According to the order of the member states’ names in English alphabetical order, the UNSC presidency changes hands every month. From France, the presidency has passed to India, which will take over from India in September 2021.

Powers Of The UNSC President
A member of the United Nations Security Council is ‘responsible for leading Security Council meetings and authorized to represent (it) in relationships with other UN organs and member states’, according to the UNSC Handbook. Moreover, the president has the authority to set the agenda of the month in which he or she has been elected and to call meetings as required. It also presides over meetings.

India’s Agenda for Presidency
New Delhi’s decision to adopt an agenda ’embracing pressing global issues such as maritime security, peacekeeping and counter-terrorism’ was lauded by the Russian ambassador as India assumed the presidency. According to India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti, the UNSC will also hold several important meetings concerning Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and the Middle East.

TS Tirumurti also stated that it would be adopting important resolutions on Somalia, Mali, & UN Interim Force in Lebanon. There was a message from Pakistan – whose soil has been used by terrorists to launch attacks against India – that it hopes New Delhi will observe the relevant rules and norms governing the conduct of the Security Council Presidency. Moreover, reports suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will preside over a UNSC meeting, making him the first Indian Prime Minister to do so. In a tweet, a former permanent representative of India to the UN said there may be a ‘first in the making’ in 2021 as ‘an Indian Prime Minister may perhaps preside, albeit virtually, a Council meeting for the first time’.

Is there a veto for non-permanent members?
In the UN Charter, aside from their status as permanent members, the veto power is probably the most significant distinction between permanent and non-permanent members. Therefore, non-permanent members do not have veto power.

The UN Charter states that all members of the UNSC will have one vote and that decisions on ‘procedural matters’ will require the affirmative vote of at least nine of the 15 members. A decision on any other matter, however, requires not only the affirmative votes of nine members but also the consent of the permanent members. A veto is defined as a ‘special voting power’ which, in the UN, provides that ‘if one of the five permanent members cast a negative vote in (the UNSC), the resolution or decision would not be passed’.

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India’s UNSC Presidency: Can It Promote Its Case for Membership as a Permanent Member?
As India prepares to assume the UNSC presidency, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla was reported to have said the country will establish its credentials for becoming a permanent member by making the most of the country’s two-year term as a UNSC member. ‘We will make the most of our two-year term in the Security Council. Our goal is to make sure that India leaves its mark in the Council, and by doing so, establishes its right to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council,’ he said.

From George W Bush and his successors Barack Obama and Donald Trump, successive US presidents have backed India’s bid for a permanent UNSC seat. Last year, Biden, who succeeded Trump, talked about supporting India as a permanent member. UK, France and Russia also support India’s bid, but the biggest stumbling block in that regard has been China, which has reportedly used its veto to block India’s elevation to the UNSC.

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