The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clock ticks on Security Council seat

New York, Feb. 20: India will become a permanent member of the UN Security Council by January 1 next year, if everything goes according to a timetable now being put together at the UN headquarters here.

Sixty to 70 per cent of the UN's membership favours a formula which will bring India ' along with significant other countries ' into the council as a permanent member, UN diplomats said at the conclusion of a special General Assembly discussion.

A permanent seat for India will be the culmination of nearly 15 years of efforts to change the structure of the council.

The next milestone in reforming the council will be in about three weeks, when UN secretary-general Kofi Annan will propose to members of the world body his restructuring plan.

To enable Annan to make his recommendations, a 'high-level panel on threats, challenges and change', gave its opinion to him on December 2 last year.

Lieutenant General Satish Nambiar, the former deputy chief of army staff, was a member of the panel. It proposed two formulas for restructuring the council. 'Plan A' calls for increasing the number of permanent members by six and that of non-permanent members by three.

'Plan B' envisages creating eight semi-permanent seats, to be filled by election by the General Assembly every four years, and one non-permanent seat.

In both cases, the total number of members will increase by nine to 24. Veto power will not be granted to the new members.

Lobbying for the reform will reach its peak in July in Perthshire, Scotland, during the next summit of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised countries.

Japan and Germany are working overtime to get G8 approval for expanding the council: they reckon that without a G8 consensus, any attempt to reform the UN will come a cropper.

According to diplomats at the UN headquarters here, Japan will present a resolution to the General Assembly in September for changes to the UN charter.

The resolution, according to present plans, will be co-sponsored by India, Germany and Brazil. All three countries are aspirants to permanent seats and formed an alliance during the General Assembly last year to pursue this goal together.

India's ambassador to the UN, Nirupam Sen, said in his statement during an informal General Assembly meeting, convened here a few weeks ago: 'Expansion of the permanent together with the non-permanent membership is not a matter of arithmetical sophistry, but of... clear issues for the majority of the vulnerable and developing world'.

Throughout the General Assembly discussions, the number of countries which supported Plan B remained at a steady 10 among the UN's 191 members.

The remaining 181 governments categorically opposed that plan. Of these, 60 to 70 per cent favoured Plan A, which would see India slide into a permanent seat in the council.

Two-thirds of the General Assembly ' 128 countries in all ' will have to support the proposed Japanese resolution for this to happen.

This is not only possible, but likely, as Singapore demonstrated when the General Assembly met to discuss the report of the panel.

Before the meeting, Singapore was in favour of Plan B, but in the General Assembly, it changed its view and launched a blistering attack on the idea of semi-permanent membership.

In recent weeks, India and Singapore have been in regular talks on the course of UN reform. Singapore is a member of the 'coffee club' at the UN, a group of states opposed to the expansion of permanent seats in the council. Therefore, its changed stand on Plan B represents a setback for the club.

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