New York, May 17: India, acting in concert with Japan, Germany and Brazil, yesterday took the bold, but risky, step of circulating a draft UN resolution, which, if adopted, could see all four countries elected permanent members of the Security Council by the middle of July.
The resolution will mean that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have his task cut out for him when he visits the White House around that time.
Singh’s visit to Washington will coincide with a vote in the UN General Assembly on India’s permanent membership, according to the new timetable. US support is vital for India to achieve that goal.
The draft resolution, circulated among UN’s 191 members late last evening, seeks to expand membership of the Security Council to 25 from its present strength of 15.
The draft does not mention India or the other three aspirants for permanent seats by name.
Instead, it stipulates that two of the new permanent members would be from Asia, two from Africa and one each from the Latin America/Caribbean area and the geographical region known in the UN as “Western Europe and Other States”, which includes diverse entities such as Israel.
The draft seeks to increase the Security Council’s non-permanent membership by four -- one each from Africa, Asia, East Europe and Latin America/Caribbean.
It says new permanent members should have “the same responsibilities and obligations as the current permanent members”, implying that they too should have the veto power.
But diplomats at the UN, who attended an informal meeting yesterday afternoon at Germany’s permanent UN mission here to drum up support for the draft said this provision was included in the resolution at India’s insistence.
Japan, Brazil and Germany are willing to compromise on the demand for veto power although they have not publicly said anything about such a compromise at this stage.
Sources at the UN said the Bush administration had informed aspiring permanent members, such as India, that it would not support their candidatures unless they gave up their insistence of having the veto.
At yesterday’s meeting at the German mission, an impressive 70 countries offered to co-sponsor the draft circulated by India and others, known at the UN as the Group of Four or G4.
These included, two permanent members of the Security Council -- France and the UK.
As diplomatic activity on Security Council expansion got into top gear at the UN headquarters, permanent representatives of the G-4, including India, were this morning meeting their Russian counterpart to seek his support for the draft.
They will later have talks with several more of their counterparts, including other permanent members.
The surprise move by G4 to advance their case for Security Council restructuring and complete the entire process before heads of state and government arrive here in September for the UN’s 60th anniversary, put them on a collision course with China.
“From the initial situation, it appears that the core content of this draft proposal is very different from the positions of many countries,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan said in Beijing today.
He implicitly criticised G-4 for advancing their proposal at a time when there are still differences in the UN on the issue.
The draft resolution “can only exacerbate the conflicts and damage the UN reform process”, Kong added.
As of now, the G4 is unfazed by Beijing’s opposition to their draft and are taking the view that they will “cross the bridge when they come to it”.
One diplomat at the UN, who attended the meeting at the German mission said the change in the G4 time table was partly prompted by the perception was China was gradually moving closer to the position of the “Coffee Club” states like Pakistan, which are trying to subvert UN reform.
The sponsors of the draft resolution envisage a three-step process for Security Council restructuring: adoption of their resolution in June, election of new permanent members in mid-July and amendments to the UN Charter two weeks later to legalise the restructuring.
A resolution will also be adopted to convene a conference in 2020 to comprehensively review the UN Charter.
Even as the process gets under way, the Prime Minister will have to use his Washington visit to lobby support for UN reform both in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Any changes to the UN Charter to have more permanent seats in the Security Council will have to be ratified by its current permanent members and at least half of the states voting for those changes in the General Assembly. In the US, such ratification means approval by the Senate.