Will India Win Coveted UN Seat?

Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao says Pakistan is hypnotically
obsessed with India but she and her bosses too are fixated on a
coveted prize, a permanent seat at the United Nations Security
Council. The mandarins of New Delhi must be pleased as punch to have
had over to visit leaders of all five permanent member countries in
quick succession. Inexorable appears the march but will India find the
pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? And, if it does, what are the
implications for itself as well as for Pakistan?

First in was David Cameron of Britain, who arrived during the summer
and offered unstinting support, whetting local appetite for the main
American course. And, did he fail to disappoint? No sir, Barack Obama
set the cat amongst the pigeons by endorsing India for the seat, the
first time ever by the US. India rejoiced while Pakistan recoiled.

But a careful examination shows him adhering closely to what he told
Bob Woodward in the book, Obama's Wars. In lieu of the seat, he
expects India to resolve Kashmir. At a press conference with Manmohan
Singh, Obama characterized Kashmir as a long-standing dispute making
the latter stutter that the K-word was not scary. Only then did Obama
hand over the endorsement in India's Parliament but couched in such
diplomatese that countless local hair were split over when "the years
ahead" would dawn.

Next waltzed in Nicolas Sarkozy of France. The French, like the
British, have consistently seen merit in India's case. Sarkozy though,
true to type, proved an enigma. He first tagged on the applications of
Africa, the Arabs and pretty much the rest of the world onto India's,
befuddling his hosts, who are willing to concede as equal aspirants
only "self-appointed frontrunners" Germany, Japan and Brazil. Just as
they were about to give up on him, Sarkozy warmed the cockles of
India's heart by throwing in 2011 as early as when it could make it.

But soon came the caveat. Sarkozy, just like Obama before him,
cautioned that with great power status came great responsibilities.
Whereas Obama wanted India to be more mindful of human rights
violations of countries such as Iran and Myanmar, Sarkozy wanted India
to send military forces to keep world peace. With India already being
one of the foremost contributors to UN peacekeeping missions
throughout the world, the mandarins of New Delhi must have been left
wondering what more was being asked of them.

No matter, three down, two to go. By now the state jets were landing
at Delhi airport almost on top of one another. Wen Jiabao, the leader
India was least looking forward to, came with the master key to entry.
Shortly before his visit, WikiLeaks revealed China's opposition to any
council expansion. Indian hopes were up nevertheless but Wen remained
inscrutable, willing only to acknowledge an understanding of India's
aspirations. No one in India knew quite what to make of him and since
Wen was off to Pakistan next, all the country could do was wait with
clenched teeth to hear what he would say there.

Rounding off the passage to India was Dmitry Medvedev. Relations
between Russia and India have frayed considerably since the heady days
of the cold war, so much so that Russia has waffled on India's bid.
Medvedev signaled that the waffle still needed baking, voicing support
for India while reiterating that reforming the council was tough and
required consensus.

All the while Pakistan protested vociferously against what it deemed
an indulgence of Indian hegemonism. But what will India gain with a
permanent UN seat? Could it block Pakistani claims on Kashmir? True a
permanent member wielding veto power can stonewall but the veto seems
unattainable for seekers since they themselves have forsaken it. And,
while India sees red when the K-word is uttered in the UN by Pakistan,
no ascension to permanency can make it strangle the latter. Nor can it
efface any past security council resolutions.

So then, what is it? Nothing comes to mind but the obvious, the
acceptance that any arriviste craves. Even that appears a false
hankering because ever since its early years, Gandhi's legacy and
Nehru's charisma burnished the country with global influence
disproportionate to its economic and military capabilities. A bee once
in one's bonnet is hard to get rid of though. And, as every journey
must have a fitting end, India has found a destination to its liking.

Flush with cash, New Delhi wants to beef up its military. All of the
recent visitors bar China are major suppliers of defence equipment to
India. As bees flock to honey, they arrived armed with catalogues of
the most terrifying stuff. Inherent was a delicate diplomatic
quid-pro-quo. The more arms you buy from us, the more we will push
your candidacy. As Islamabad keeps raising the bar for India's seat,
so too will India have to up its arms binge.

Lost in Pakistan's current rhetoric was its vote in October to put
India in the security council for two years beginning January 1, 2011.
Once on, we will never get off is the new mantra of India's brave.
India seemingly returned the favor by taking in stride the sale of
Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan. Is there more afoot than meets
the eye?

Every country is entitled to its obsession. Pakistan's is obvious. By
continually thumbing its nose at a NATO mired in Afghanistan, it has
put the K-word in spotlight, albeit on the backstage. A deal has been
blessed by the powers that be. Both the seat and Srinagar are not far

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