India and UNSC during a pandemic

The Coronavirus pandemic has presented a surprising snapshot of the changing world order amid a global deficiency of inter-state trust and China is being hauled at the epicentre of this inadequacy. As India retracted its blanket ban on essential drugs like hydroxychloroquine and exported a major chunk of its drugs to countries that saw hope in the medicine, many ostensibly perceived it as a strategic gesture from the world’s pharmacy and pushed the country into the spotlight. The need for permanent representation of developing economies at the United States Security Council in such times of a crisis is the need of the hour. 

The virus made its initial outset in Wuhan city, capital of Hubei province in Central China which has found itself in flares since the outbreak was reported in December 2019. While it was consistently assured that the virus did not show any signs of human-to-human transmission, it is now alleged that China remained secretive of crucial information on the intensity of virus transmission and subsequently buried numbers of infected people as well as mortalities. Reports stating that a surge in imports of PPE kits and masks in Chinese markets during the initial days of the outbreak has emerged which is indicative of the intensity of the initial outbreak. China is a source of similar products and is considered as the ‘World’s Factory’. The world overlooked China’s massive imports of this medical equipment and lost crucial time on prevention and early assessment.  

Discussions on research, origins and the need to tackle the coronavirus gained momentum during March, the month that saw a shocking spike in the number of infections in countries like Italy, Iraq, among others. Unsurprisingly, Beijing stalled discussions on the origin of the virus as it held the UNSC’s rotating chair for the presidency in March which is said to have further delayed access to information regarding transmission and prevention. While this has accentuated the rift between the US and China, it has stoked tensions amid other international stakeholders.

Chinese dominance and hegemony deeply hurt global sentiments and democratisation of the UNSC is necessary. China is among the list of P5 or Permanent Five countries which includes the US, Canada, United Kingdom, and France. Transforming global order demands substantial reforms at the council as it faces many challenges.

Many have stated that the UNSC has been restructured into an undemocratic organisation as the permanent members lacked considerable representation. Emerging economies in Africa and Asia have negligible status at the council and have been widely un-represented. The council has been allegedly used as a medium for strategic gains by most of the permanent members. The veto power has been misused on similar lines and nations have vetoed numerous council resolutions for their economic and military benefits.

India’s inclusion at the council is necessary to neutralise these challenges. It has been associated with the United Nations (UN) since its inception and has been a pioneer in deploying UN peacekeepers. While it is one of the fastest-growing economies, India has been at the forefront of collaborative action against the pandemic which was reflected in PM Modi’s call for video conferences with SAARC and G20 members requesting joint effort and cooperation. Its induction in the council will curb China’s geopolitical dominance and expand its geopolitical strength and economic abilities globally. While India has served seven terms as a non-permanent member at the council, its inclusion would maintain a balance of global power and assist in re-democratisation of the UNSC.

India’s leadership in assessing the pandemic and limiting its spread within its borders was appreciated globally. While India satisfies most of the criteria for a permanent membership such as minimum GDP, population, territorial size and economic potential, China has been consistently vetoing India’s induction in the council which is one of the prime challenges that the country is facing in its pursuit for permanent membership.  India should continue this path to achieve its permanent membership, a strategic goal for the nation. 

Ajinkya Kawale


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