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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Narendra Modi renews call for UN Security Council membership as he lands in Paris

New Delhi is keeping pressure on world powers for a structural overhaul of global multilateral institutions

The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has again advocated a reshuffle of international institutions, given the “changed world order,” so that his country, the most populous nation in the world, may “regain its rightful place.” Before arriving in France for a two-day visit, he renewed New Delhi’s strong push for permanent membership on the UN Security Council (UNSC) and stressed India’s role as a “bridge” between the Global South and the West.

In an interview with French financial newspaper Les Echos, Modi said the 15-member UN body, whose only permanent seats are those of the US, the UK, France, Russia and China, epitomizes the dissonance of an institution not in step with a changed world order. “How can the UN Security Council claim to speak for the world when its most populous country, and its largest democracy, is not a permanent member?” he asked. “Its skewed membership leads to opaque decision-making processes, which adds to its helplessness in addressing the challenges of today. I think most countries are clear on what changes they would like to see in the UN Security Council, including on the role India should play,” Modi said.

Read more: Egypt, India upgrade relations to strategic partnership during Modi’s Cairo visit

The PM noted that his country’s claims are based on its strong democratic credentials and its “unparalleled social and economic diversity.” “As the world’s largest democracy … our success will demonstrate that democracy delivers. That it is possible for harmony to exist amidst diversity. At the same time, there is a natural expectation of adjustments in the international system and institutions to give the rightful place to the world’s largest democracy,” Indian leader told Les Echos.

The 72-year-old Prime Minister also cited the role of India as a leader of countries in the Global South and spoke on behalf of economically disadvantaged nations across Africa, South America and parts of Asia. He said the rights of the Global South have been long denied and this has led to a feeling of anguish among these countries, and it accentuates India’s role as a bridge between them and the Western world. Modi also called French President Emmanuel Macron a strategic partner in the Asia-Pacific region who shares his views on the global order.

On the Ukraine conflict, PM Modi recalled his earlier statement at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Uzbekistan last year. He said he has spoken a number of times to Russian President Vladimir Putin and to his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky, making various bids to defuse the crisis. 

I met President Zelensky in Hiroshima. Recently, I spoke to President Putin again. India’s stand has been clear, transparent, and consistent. I have said that it is not an era of war. We have urged both sides to resolve issues through dialogue and diplomacy. I told them that India is ready to support all genuine efforts that can help bring this conflict to an end. We believe that all countries have an obligation to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries, to abide by international law and adhere to the UN Charter.

Read more: Modi’s US visit spotlights America’s policy choices

On China and its massive spend on defense and security in the region, he said India’s interests in the Indo-Pacific are vast and its engagement is deep. “I have described our vision for this region in one word – SAGAR, which stands for Security and Growth for All in the Region. While peace is necessary for the future we seek to build, it is far from assured.”

Modi said India has always stood for peaceful resolution of differences through dialogue and diplomacy, and for respecting the sovereignty of all nations, international law, and a rules-based international order. “This is more important than ever for maintaining mutual trust and confidence. We believe that it is through this that a positive contribution can be made towards lasting regional and global peace and stability.”

India is not alone in seeking a permanent seat at the UNSC, and its bid is supported by Russia, France, the US and the UK. Earlier this month, Britain’s Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward said her country wants to see an expansion of the Security Council’s permanent seats to include India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, and to also have African representation.