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February 23, 2015

Misguided stance


February 23, 2015


In my article last week (‘A threat to the UN’s universality’), I suggested that in countering the ambitions of the Group of Four (G-4) countries, (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan) to get permanent seats on the UN Security Council, Pakistan could do no better than to point to the virtual certainty that if they or any of them were made permanent members, several other large and influential UN member countries would be compelled to leave the world body rather than accept being relegated to the status of lesser states. The so-called ‘reform’ that the G-4 is striving for would therefore actually wreck the UN itself, and defeating their plans is necessary to save the world body from the fate that met its predecessor, the League of Nations.
The G-4 was formed in 2004, a year before the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the UN, to launch a concerted effort to get permanent seats for themselves and to combine their political, diplomatic and economic clout for this purpose. In order to win the support of the 54-member African regional group, they also promised two permanent seats to African countries yet to be agreed. Twice – in 2005 and 2012 – the G-4 circulated draft resolutions of the General Assembly for the creation of additional permanent seats but gave up plans to submit them to a vote after it became clear that the support of the necessary two-thirds majority was lacking.
During 2015, which marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN, they have vowed to make a special effort to realise their dream. The current year again promises to be one of intense campaigning by G-4. India is leading the charge. In his speech to the UN General Assembly last September, Modi called for “fulfilling our promise to reform the UN Security Council by 2015.” In the ongoing inter-governmental negotiations in the General Assembly on Security Council reform, India is leading the push for the commencement of ‘text-based’ negotiations which it hopes

will lead to the adoption of a General Assembly resolution for new permanent members. The US has also said that it would like 2015 to be a “landmark year” on Security Council reform.
The members of the Uniting for Consensus (UfC) group, which opposes new permanent members, are faced with a formidable challenge. As a leading member of the group, Pakistan would be called on to play a major role in coordinating the international effort to counter the ambitions of G-4. This is a question of supreme national interest for Pakistan and it is going to be an issue that could come to a head at the UN during the current year.
There are no grounds to be complacent. This is not a matter that can be left solely to our mission to the UN, as the Nawaz government, like the preceding PPP-led governments and the Musharraf regime, has done so far. The prime minister himself should give the issue high priority and take it up actively and forcefully at the international level. An annual statement at the UN General Assembly is simply not enough.
Nawaz should also appoint a foreign minister who can interact fully with his counterparts abroad on this and other issues. An adviser who has been given the status of foreign minister under our rules might have the perks of a minister within the country but he does not have the same position internationally as a foreign minister.
The prime minister did take up the question of Security Council reform when the US president telephoned him on 12 February for a discussion of “bilateral and regional issues” following his visit to India. According to a statement from the prime minister’s office, the prime minister said that India “doesn’t deserve a permanent seat on the UN Security Council as the country has been violating UN resolutions on Kashmir”. It is not known whether Nawaz made these comments in response to a briefing by Obama on US support for India’s Security Council ambitions or on his own initiative.
Nawaz was of course right in taking up this issue with Obama. In fact, he should have done it much earlier. It is regrettable that he did not raise it on earlier occasions, such as his meeting with Obama in Washington in October 2013. Sartaj too failed to take it up in his many meetings with Kerry, including the last one shortly before Obama’s India visit.
The US first announced its support for India’s wish to become a permanent member in November 2010. It was last reiterated in the Obama-Modi joint statement in September 2014 but there was no official reaction from Pakistan at the time. On his visit to India last month, Obama was in fact only reaffirming a four-year old policy when he again declared support for an Indian permanent seat. Even this time, it seems that Nawaz took up the question with Obama mainly to impress the Pakistani public, much like our protests on US drone strikes in Pakistan.
Even worse, it was ill-advised for Nawaz to give India’s violation of UN Security Council resolutions on Kashmir as the reason for Pakistan’s opposition to India’s ambitions. Nawaz did not even preface his remarks with Pakistan’s long-held stand that it is opposed to any new permanent members.
There are three reasons why the position taken by Nawaz was misguided.
First, it implies that if India were to implement the Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, Pakistan would give up its opposition to the Indian aspiration for a permanent seat. Such a stance undermines the common position held by the UfC that there should be no new permanent members. Pakistan not only subscribes to and fully supports this position, but also played a leading role in its formulation in concert with the other members of the group.
Second, it is completely unrealistic to expect that by linking a permanent seat in the UNSC for India with the implementation of Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, India could be induced to make concessions on the Kashmiri demand for the right of self-determination or that Washington could be persuaded to rethink its policy of support for India’s aspirations for a permanent seat.
Third, the position taken by Nawaz in his telephone conversation with Obama suggests that Pakistan’s opposition to the creation of new permanent members stems essentially from its rivalry with India and the unresolved Kashmir dispute and not from any higher principle. This is also what India has been claiming. No wonder there was no official reaction from Delhi to the stance taken by Nawaz.
That stance also contradicted Pakistan’s official position on the issue as stated by the spokesperson of the foreign ministry in her press briefing on February 6. “Pakistan’s stand on Security Council reforms”, she said, “is not specifically linked to India. It is based on principles.” Nawaz obviously needs to take some lessons on the issue from the foreign ministry.
At the same time, it is true that the foreign ministry has also not been quite strict in adhering to the position that there is no connection between Pakistan’s position on Security Council expansion and the country’s disputes with India. In fact, only a week earlier, the spokesperson had recalled the adviser’s statement on January 27 pointing out that as a country in violation of Security Council resolutions on Kashmir, India did not qualify to become a permanent member.
Citing India’s violation of the UN resolutions to debunk its ambitions to become a permanent member is a double-edged sword and its use in this context is best avoided. Even without it, there are very strong arguments against creating new permanent members.
The strongest of those arguments – one that Pakistan has not been giving – is that some very important countries will leave the UN in that event. They will pay a price but it be will be far less than the costs of remaining in a world body in which important decisions affecting them, their security and their vital national interests are taken by a closed self-appointed group of states acting only to advance their own global and regional ambitions.
The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.
Email: [email protected]




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