Mention the word UN Security Council (UNSC) and the thoughts of most Indians interested in international affairs turn to questions such as why India is not yet a permanent member of the UNSC despite our decade-long efforts, whether and when that expansion is likely, and who is thwarting India’s aspiration. But going behind and beyond these issues, we need a better understanding of the Security Council itself, how it came to be constituted, its legitimacy, its record over seventy years, and its relevance or inconsequence in the world today.
Dilip Sinha’s book is an excellent read on these larger issues. Sinha, who was our Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, examines the issues by taking into consideration three distinct strands in his analysis: the historical side, tracing the formation and the evolution of the UNSC since 1945; the legal aspects, especially emphasising that the Council is not so much concerned with legality as with power; and the political dimension that has ultimately prevailed in the Council's functioning in following its mandate to uphold international peace and security. He brings to the book his background as a diplomat and insight into how negotiations are conducted in the ‘real’ world by great powers. At the same time, as a serious student of history, he is objective in describing how the concept of the use of force by States has been dealt with over time in thought and in practice.