Washington/New Delhi: India was on Thursday elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council with 184 of the 192 votes polled as officials said solutions to the Covid-19 crisis, reforms of multilateral systems, and enhanced counter-terror cooperation will be focus areas of the two-year term beginning in 2021.
India was the endorsed candidate of the Asia-Pacific Group of UN member countries and faced no competition in the elections, whose results were announced early on Thursday (Indian time). Afghanistan withdrew in India’s favour in 2013 and the votes secured by India were much higher than the minimum threshold of a two-thirds majority or 128 votes.
The elections were conducted by secret ballot, and people familiar with developments said Pakistan was among the eight countries that did not vote for India. The people, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted the overwhelming number of votes received by India indicated Arab and Muslim countries were not swayed by Pakistan’s campaign opposing India’s candidature.
“Deeply grateful for the overwhelming support shown by the global community for India’s membership of the @UN Security Council. India will work with all member countries to promote global peace, security, resilience and equity,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
“We have received overwhelming support and I’m deeply humbled by the tremendous confidence which the member states of the United Nations have reposed in India,” T S Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN, said in a video message.
“India will become a member of the Security Council at a critical juncture and we are confident that in the Covid- and the post-Covid world, India will continue to provide leadership and a new orientation for a reformed multilateral system,” he said.
Officials said the strong support for India demonstrated the goodwill the country enjoys. This will be the eighth time India will be serving in the Security Council.
Vikas Swarup, secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry, said finding innovative and inclusive solutions to the Covid-19 crisis, reforming multilateral forums and organisations, including the UN, and enhancing counter-terror cooperation will be focus areas for India during its stint.
“We will act as a voice of reason and moderation and a firm believer in respect for international law and peaceful settlement of disputes,” he told a media briefing.
Swarup refused to speculate about the eight countries that did not vote for India, saying: “Focus on the 184 – this reflects an almost universal acceptance, the most widespread support possible.”
Asked about reports that Pakistan had politicised the elections, Swarup replied: “Unfortunately, this is the kind of behaviour we have now been seeing from Pakistan over the past many, many months and years. They always rake up bilateral issues in multilateral forums. They have almost made it a norm for their policy.”
He said one of India’s main priorities is enhancing counter-terrorism action by the UN Security Council. During its last stint in the body in 2011-12, India had chaired the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee and brought in the concept of zero tolerance for terror.
“During our coming term, we will work to enhance the global action against terrorism, their supporters and sympathisers and safe havens by seeking the streamlining of the process of sanctioning of the terrorists and terrorist entities. The process of sanctions also needs to be depoliticised as there is no justification for any act of terrorism,” he said.
He added that India will also work for the finalisation of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism it had proposed in 1996.
The UN system, Swarup said, needs reform urgently and all its bodies, including the Security Council and World Health Organization, need to change to reflect contemporary realities.
Rajiv Bhatia, a distinguished fellow for foreign policy studies at Gateway House, said India should play a calibrated role in the UN Security Council instead of creating unnecessarily high expectations.
“We have to be happy and satisfied with the election result and not euphoric. The global geopolitical situation is very complex. If we think we can push reforms in a big way by sitting in the UN Security Council, that would be unrealistic,” he said.
“We must do whatever we can to strengthen multilateralism and build coalitions that can help some of the common causes of the international community,” Bhatia added.
The others which went through were Mexico, also an endorsed candidate from its Latin American and Caribbean Group, and Ireland and Norway from the Western European and Other Group.
The voting took place in a phased manner for the first time in the world body’s 75-year history. Member countries were allowed into the general assembly, where voting took place, in smaller groups of 20 because of social distancing norms.
The Security Council has 15 members, including five permanent members — the US, the UK, France, Russia and China. Half of the 10 non-permanent members are elected every year for a two-year term, starting on January 1.