Obama in India: Why his Security Council overtures ring hollow
President Obama endorsed India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council as part of a push to modernize the body. But as Japan knows, the road to permanent membership is full of obstacles.
In Pictures Obama's Asia trip
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But Mr. Obama’s flattering justification for India to join one of the world’s most exclusive and powerful clubs – he said India is no longer an “emerging” nation, but rather has “already emerged” – does not mean the booming South Asian democracy should expect to see its name engraved on a Security Council seat in New York any time soon.
Just ask Japan.
Japan has had its hopes set on a permanent Security Council seat since at least the early 1990s. President Clinton endorsed the idea of Japan and Germany joining the Council’s five permanent and veto-endowed members: the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France. A decade later, in 2005, the Bush administration made supporting Japan’s accession to a permanent Council seat US policy – (Germany ... not so much).
But time and again Japan has seen its hopes dashed, as a global security body that largely retains a configuration dating from its post-World War II creation finds reform bids stymied by regional suspicions, geopolitical calculations, and plain old power-mongering.
Virtually everyone seems to agree, at least publicly, that the Security Council needs to change to reflect a 21st century of diffused power and new global players. It last saw reform in 1965, when the number of nonpermanent, non-veto-wielding seats was expanded to reflect the UN’s expanding membership in the postcolonial era.
But getting from consensus to actual reform is not going to be easy, for both practical and political reasons, says Michael Doyle, a former UN official now specializing in international relations at Columbia University in New York.
First, there are the “extensive and demanding processes of reforming the UN club,” Mr. Doyle says, noting that it takes not only avoiding any veto by one of the Council’s permanent members, but a two-thirds vote by the full Council and approval of the General Assembly.