Obama’s India Trip Creates A New UN Question

UN Security Council Chamber in New York.

Image via Wikipedia

As President Obama begins to wrap up his trip to India, the first leg of a 10-day Asia tour, he backed a proposal to add India to a new, permanent seat in the UN Security Council. This would be the first expansion of the UN permanent security council since its inception in 1945. There have been five historic permanent seats on the council – the US, China, United Kingdom, France, and Russia. Adding a sixth seat creates a host of new problems, not the least of which is the possibility of a deadlock 3-3 vote on issues brought before the security council.

From the Washington Post:

NEW DELHI- President Obama said Monday that the United States would support adding India as a permanent member of an expanded U.N. Security Council–a powerful endorsement of India’s growing global aspirations offered on the final day of his India visit.

Backing India in its quest for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council is a great move to forward diplomatic goals with India specifically, but the ramifications in other issues, I feel, have not been fully considered. India is the worlds most populous democracy and does indeed deserve the recognition which comes from that status, as well as the status of having one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the world.


Creating a new permanent seat on the Security Council creates a potentially dangerous precedent. If a new security council seat is created, what is to prevent other States from requesting the same treatment. Brazil, for example, or South Africa. Pakistan, India’s perennial rival, will certainly demand similar treatment, if for nothing else than to ‘keep up with the Jones’.

Creating a new Asia seat in the council also increases the voices of other regions for permanent seats – an African seat, or a South American seat. While there does exist a compelling argument for creating a new security council based upon regional powers, simply adding seats is not the way to go about such matters.

If that were to become the new standard, the Security Council would face the prospect of becoming an ever-expanding board, prone to longer and more deadlocked discussion and debate than it already is.

In order to try preserve some of the UN effectiveness and to accurately reflect the changes in the World since 1945, The UN does need to restructure the Security Council, but not in the way proposed. Maintaining the five seat council promotes a faster decision making process than simply expanding the security council to account for new voices. However, in order to effectively reflect the changing world status, the permanent council seats should be assigned regionally.

North America

South America




While this is, admittedly an imperfect solution (watch China, India, and Pakistan duke it out for Asian seat, along with Australia), it does do a better job of reflecting the powerful voices in the World than the current system of one North American, Three European (Russia is a border-hopper) and one Asian seat dictating world security policy.

Obama has the right of things when he says that the US should and will back India in a bid for a permanent security council seat, but what remains unsaid is how India should go about claiming the seat which its influence deserves.

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1 Response to Obama’s India Trip Creates A New UN Question

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