India’s UNSC alliance with Japan a mistake

By Liu Zongyi Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-20 19:13:01

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the UN, and appeals for UN Security Council (UNSC) reform are becoming increasingly louder. The G4 nations, namely Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, are the most active in calling for a change. The UN General Assembly on September 14 adopted a negotiating text, setting the stage for talks on the reform.

Since it is the first text-based negotiation since the Inter-government Negotiations (IGN) was started in September 2008, its significance is self-explanatory. Some Indian media acclaimed that the nation's bid for permanent UNSC seat has been boosted. However, in reality, it will take a long time to discuss only the wording of this document.

Despite the Indian media's warm responses to the move, Japan, rather than India, has played the most active role in seeking a permanent seat within the G4 bloc.

The Abe government has beefed up campaigning for the seat since last year, and is preparing to secure it this year. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has paid visits to countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Winning support from these countries and regions is the main component of Abe's strategy in fighting for the UNSC permanent membership. Japan's diplomatic effort is particularly focused on Africa.

The Abe government invited the UN ambassadors and officials from 16 countries, including the G4 nations, South Africa, Indonesia and the Netherlands, to discuss UNSC reform in Tokyo in July 2014.

During the ministerial meeting held in New York on September 25, 2014, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida forged a consensus with his counterparts from Germany, India and Brazil to work closely on UNSC reform. The joint statement, released after the meeting, reads that "The G4 countries reiterated their commitment as aspiring new permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as their support for each other's candidatures."

In his talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Abe has striven to put commitment for UNSC reform in their joint statement. This is also in accordance with India's aspiration for membership. Modi expects India to be an international power, and a permanent Security Council seat is an important symbol of this.

Modi and Abe agree that it is high time for the UNSC to be reformed this year, saying that a more significant role for India and Japan will make the UN more representative, more justified and more effective.

India, as the second most-populous country, has a promising bid for a permanent Security Council seat. However, the nation has strategic problems.

Indian politicians, academics and media insist China as its biggest obstacle in winning the seat. Beijing as a UNSC permanent member has not openly supported New Delhi's UN aspiration. India, taking this as an excuse, pressures China through every possible means.

In fact, India's biggest mistake is to ally itself with Japan, Germany and Brazil. First of all, these three countries have opponents in the region. Japan's bid for permanent membership will definitely invite strong opposition from China and South Korea.

Japan, which betrayed the G4 bloc in 2005, is unreliable as well. Besides, other countries, for instance, the UK, France and Italy, do not support Germany wholeheartedly. Berlin's membership would breach the principle of balance in the region.

The US strongly opposed the G4 proposals in 2005 and will not sincerely support the permanent membership of these nations. Admittedly, the US once endorsed India's aspirations before.

The reason behind such support is to rope India in to counter China. But Washington will not support New Delhi to obtain a veto seat. India has observed that, in the IGN, the US refused to contribute to the negotiating text. This is surprising to the Indians.

Uncertain of winning a permanent seat this year, Japan has already prepared to become a non-permanent Security Council member from 2016 to 2017. Earlier, Japan offered massive aid to Bangladesh in exchange for its support and has already won support from African and Latin American countries.

India, on the other hand, has no such plan and already lagged behind Japan in winning the non-permanent seat, for which Asia has a quota of only one each year.

The author is a research fellow of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies and a visiting fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.

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