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Waking up from siestas of the ‘Cold War’ era . . .

The following news was published recently in newspapers (and some probably even hailed our foreign minister for this)
India refuses UNSC seat sans veto power

And then came a very candid and practical comment from the UN general secretary Kofi Annan that “. . . it would be ‘utopian’ to expect the current permanent members to give up their veto power, or grant the same to the new members . . .”
No veto power for new UNSC members: Annan

Let us analyse the whole situation. The UN Security Council was formed when the world was just out of the Second World war with allies being victorious – especially the U.S.A. emerging as a powerful nation. The Russian Revolution and Stalin on the other hand contributed to the rise of a strong, communist U.S.S.R. and the world became bipolar. The Veto Power emerged as a major tool to maintain the power equations in this era. Conversely the Veto Power made sense only in this bipolar world. For instance if any proposed action by the U.S.A. was vetoed by U.S.S.R. then the U.S. could not dare to overlook the Veto and wage the war all by itself due to the risk of a strike back by U.S.S.R.

The situation has changed dramatically after the fall of the Soviet Union as illustrated by the unilateral actions of U.S.A. and Britain against Afghanistan and Iraq. Both actions were undertaken even after being vetoed by the UNSC. Let us accept it – in the unipolar world, where America is the ONLY superpower the Veto power has lost its ‘power’. In fact it no more makes sense for the current permanent members to continue to have it.

Another major shift in the world politics is that ‘power’ is no more based on pure military might. The act of induction of newer members in the Security Council being considered, itself speaks of the fact that political power in the world today is a sum of military, economic AND knowledge power. In such a scenario the reluctance of New Delhi to accept the UNSC seat without the Veto Power makes little sense.

The foreign policy planners (read Natwar Singh – a bureaucrat-turned-minister) are still engulfed in a time warp of their own times. Probably Mr. Singh had dreams of seeing India as a permanent member of UNSC when he was a bureaucrat with the Foreign Ministry. And there might have been several instances (like Vietnam and Bangladesh war) when he would have dreamt of using the Veto power as his political weapon.

I dare say that seeing India as the permanent member of the UNSC has been a childhood dream for me as well like many others of my generation but we are look at our nation as strong nation whether we are members of UNSC or not. Rather than showing stubbornness on non-issues like the Veto power India needs to start behaving like a powerful state. For example we can use our political might to force the King of Nepal to restore democracy there. We may not be jingoistic as the U.S.A. has been in cases of Iraq but we must behave like a powerful democracy that we are.

The new India which is being recognised for its economic and knowledge might (along with Military might), cannot afford to be caught in this time-vacuum. Mr. Natwar Singh needs to wake up to reality from his siestas of the cold war era and accept victory by assuming a permanent seat in the UNSC.


  1. Nikhil, I both agree and disagree with you.

    No doubt New Delhi needs to be more mature in its approach, and look at the UNSC seat as more than a means of merely exercising veto.

    However, veto as a concept has not lost its relevance. In fact, in a Unipolar world, it has become all the more important. Responsible and effective use of the veto by members can prevent today's lone superpower from indulging in its whims and fancies.

    But veto as a TOOL has not adapted itself to the post-cold war era. The results of this manifested itself in the recent Iraq war.

    Essentially its a matter of political evolution.New UNSC members, although devoid of veto, can in my opinion, help shape veto in a way consistent with the current world scenario.

    Eagerly awaiting Veto v1.1 ;)

  2. Anonymous6:58 PM

    how r u doing?
    I don't understand one thing.. if the veto power has lost its importance, then why are the states so hesitant to give it to other countries?

  3. The oldies are hesitant for the same reason that the newbies want the power ... its just an emotional aspect - all UNSC big 5 know that Veto has lost its sheen... but they simply can't accept it or they will be rendered ineffective!!


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