Nagendar Sharma: How representative can a world body like the UN be called when it has failed to give due importance to the main countries in the developing world, such as India? Is the UN only club for the rich countries?
Yashwant Sinha: Well this just shows that the situation which existed in certain world level organisations during and after the Second World War, still exists today. The changes witnessed by the world during the past 60 years are not being reflected in these organisations, and this is the reason why they have weakened over the years, and do not have the kind of influence today which such world level organisations should have, and, infact, had in the past decades.
Listener from Lucknow : The UPA government says it is ready to accept the UN Security Council membership even without a veto power. Isn’t it strange that we are clubbing ourselves with countries like Japan for permanent UN seat? Now Japan would get unqualified support from the US, but during past 60 years India has not won any such ally which would support us blindly. Do you think the Indian policy is right?
Yashwant Sinha: Earlier, the UPA government’s stand was that it would accept the permanent membership of UN Security Council only with the veto power. Categorical statement to this effect was given in the Rayja Sabha by the External Affairs Minister of the UPA government, and this was a feeling in the country also. Later on, surprisingly the UPA government changed its position that it would accept the permanent membership even without a veto power. Now, till date, it is not clear what concession has India got in return for having made a drastic change in its position. In terms of diplomacy, and when talks were progressing, I think the timing of the UPA government decision to give up the veto power claim was not correct. The country has a right to know what concessions the government has got for having made a change in its position, as it does not seem that India has managed anything despite this surprising climbdown.
Nagendar Sharma: Mr Sinha, why did the present Indian efforts for the permanent membership fail? Did the UPA government wake up late or the sense of urgency was missing and, in your view, what could be the way forward?
Yaswant Sinha : In 1994, when India first made its claim for a permanent seat in UN Security Council, there was a Congress government in office. Since that time, all successive governments have taken this claim forward. Whenever Indian ministers and officials have been meeting international diplomats, this claim has been pitched forward. I have the first hand experience of the efforts made during the NDA government, and I can share those with you. During the talks at all international fora for the Indian claims, I can say this with satisfaction today that the majority of countries whom we spoke to were in favour of India being a permanent member of the UN Security Council. These talks have been taken forward by the present government.
Now the commonly asked question is: why should India be made a member of the Security Council? The answer to this is that ours is a fast growing and big developing nation. The developing world looks towards India as their powerful voice. I think the present government wanted to enter the security Council as a representative of the developing world, and it was correct to have taken this line.
But the major weakness which I saw in the approach of the UPA government, for this whole exercise, was being a part of G-4 (Group of four: we formed a group with Germany, Japan and Brazil). Now what happened due to this was that India was clubbed as a rival country by those who have problems with Germany and Japan, and, infact, had no troubled relations with India. I would like to give you an example here. Russia has been supporting India at all international fora on almost all issues including that of India’s candidature for permanent membership, since the days of Soviet Union. This time however, Russia also joined China in opposing India’s bid. This happened because China was against Japan becoming a permanent member. Similarly, America and China also opposed India’s bid in almost one voice. So what I am saying is that by joining the G-4, India attracted the opposition of all the countries which were opposed to Germany and Japan, but were not directly against us.
I see no problem in having joined hands with Brazil. Infact, to my mind, a better strategy for India would have been to form a group with developing countries from Latin America, Africa and Asia. In all three of these continents, India has many friends. Look at African Union, it was a big group of 53 countries, a majority of them have good relations with us, but India could not coordinate its efforts properly with them. So I think that having gone with countries of the developed world like Germany and Japan, did not prove to be a beneficial strategy for us.
Listener from Mathura : It is not a question of the UPA government alone, but all the governments, including the NDA government, in which you were the foreign minister for a long time, all have messed up India’s chances of being a permanent member.
Yashwant Sinha: As I was saying earlier, the Indian bid is about 11 years old now. However the real movement in this came after the Iraq War of 2003, with the announcement of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan that he was setting up a high-level committee to suggest reforms in the United Nations, and I can say with satisfaction that this was as a result of continuous pressure exerted by different countries, including the NDA government of India. Kofi Annan had said that this committee would submit its report in a time bound schedule. However, when the report came in 2004, the government in India had changed and it was the responsibility of the UPA government to have followed-up the report. I would say the UPA government made efforts in this direction, but their approach was not correct. Had the Indian government’s approach been correct, I think India could have become a permanent member during the UNGA session starting this week. Therefore, you cannot accuse our government of having been slow or irresponsible on this issue.
Listener from Pakistan : As of today, the UN is an organisation which is a hostage to strong arm tactics of America. This country can do anything and get away, while the hopes of third world countries from the UN have been dashed. What role can a country like India play to revive the importance of UN?
Yashwant Sinha: You have asked a very good question. It is a fact that America has been using strong-arm tactics against the UN. If for a particular action, America gets the UN support, then it obeys its sanction. However, if it fails to get UN sanction, America does not hesitate at all to resort to unilateral action, whether it be Iraq or Serbia. This is happening because a world body like the UN has considerably weakened over the years, and therefore it is of paramount importance for the developing world, countries such as India and Pakistan, that they work for a multipolar world. Now you would ask whether this is possible. Yes, it is very much possible, and for this to happen, countries of the developing world would have to come together. The problem is that due to petty self-interests, countries of developing world have been unable to unite. Unity in the developing world and revival of dormant international movements like Non Aligned Movement (NAM) is the need of the hour to fight this unilateralism.
Listener from Delhi: Don’t you think that time has come for the developing world to form an alternate organisation of its own to protect the interests of third world countries, as the UN has been a complete failure in safeguarding the interests of poor countries even after 60 years of its inception?
Yashwant Sinha: I think forming an alternate world organisation is not possible at this juncture. What is required is that third world countries raise their voice effectively in a unified manner. I mentioned NAM, which represented a powerful voice during the days of a bipolar world, when America and USSR were the two power centres. The world has moved towards unipolarity, but organisations like NAM still exist, they have moved towards dormancy, and need revival. Then there is G-77, a big and active organisation of the third world. In order to have our voice heard, I think the third world countries should work on strengthening these two organisations. I also think there is no need to be disappointed on the failure of India’s efforts to garner support for its bid to enter the UN Security Council. I still think, if we are still successful in building a favourable opinion towards India, we would finally succeed in our bid.
Listener from Jharkhand : You have said India’s bid is 11 years old. What should be done now so that we could be a permanent member of the UN Security Council soon? Do you think India should support America in its campaign against Iran’s nuclear programme?
Yashwant Sinha: No, India should not support the US on the question of Iran. Till the time Iran is using the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, there is no cause for any worry. India has time and again made it clear to Iran that should not go for any secret nuclear weapons programme. Therefore, the Indian policy on Iran should be keeping in mind the clear distinction between peaceful use and secret weapons programme, and India should not come under any pressure of the US, while deciding on its relations with Iran. So far as your question on how could India become a member of the Security Council soon, well, there is no instant solution available. We would have to pass the long drawn out process. Yes, if we adopt the right strategy, we could be a member of the Security Council within a specific time frame, but that would depend on the direction of diplomacy that the present government decides to adopt.
Nagendar Sharma: But Mr Sinha, right before the beginning of UNGA, where Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be meeting President Bush, statements from the American side have been curt that India should not proceed on proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, and Indian relations with Iran could put Indo-US nuclear energy pact in danger. Can the Indian regime still afford to go ahead with Iran?
Yashwant Sinha: Right or wrong, Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline has become an issue. India should totally ignore what America is saying on the issue, since it has its own interests and viewpoint, the American law is not an international law. If this gas pipeline is in our national interests, then we should fearlessly go ahead on the project with the other two countries, and we should also be prepared for the consequences. If due to this gas pipeline, America wants to scrap the Indo-US nuclear pact, it can do so, but we should have no second thoughts on the gas pipeline. Indian leadership needs to tell the Americans in clear terms that they should have not nothing to do with this project, it is a matter between India, Pakistan and Iran, and it is solely their business.
Nagendar Sharma: But after the failure of G-4, in your view what diplomatic line should the Indian government be following so that India could be successful in its bid?
Yashwant Sinha: In diplomacy there are certain steps which cannot and should not be undone. Since the Indian government has gone too far on G-4, I am not advocating that you abandon it. You joined it, now stay with it. Our attempts now should be to widen the support among the developing nations and get as many of these countries -- as many as we can -- especially those who have good relations with India. More importantly, we should listen to the reasons for indifference of these countries towards India’s candidature.
I would like to make it clear here that if at all the G-4 resolution were to be passed by a two-thirds majority during the UN General Assembly session beginning this week, all the four G-4 member countries -- i.e. India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – would have to individually get a two-thirds majority of the assembly for becoming a permanent member, therefore at some stage we would be standing alone for our cause. Also during this UNGA session, we should talk to countries which matter, i.e. the existing permanent members of the Security Council. Until India wins over the confidence of the US, China and Russia on this issue, I think it would not be possible for us to be a permanent member.
Listener from Bihar : Whether it be the NDA government, when you were the foreign minister, or the present UPA government, why is our foreign policy always a failure? NDA government tried to get Pakistan declared a terrorist state after the attack on Parliament and J&K assembly but failed, UPA tried hard to get a permanent seat of UN Security Council and seems to be failing. Has failure become a habit in Indian foreign ministry?
Yashwant Sinha: First I would like to answer your question on terrorism and NDA government. It is incorrect to say that the NDA government’s policy in projecting its case internationally vis-à-vis terrorism failed. Today, if the opinion in the world is that Pakistan is a source of international terrorism, it is because of NDA government’s efforts. After the attack on Parliament, Indian government’s view on terrorism was accepted by majority of the countries and group of countries. Therefore you cannot brand the foreign policy in black and white as a failure of NDA or UPA governments.
There is and always has been a broad consensus in the country on the foreign policy On the issue of permanent membership also, there is a consensus in the country, especially among the political and diplomatic class, and efforts are being made in this direction. Differences are there on whether step A taken by the government of the day was right, or step B could have been more effective, but there are no differences on the goal to be achieved. I still think all is not lost on this issue, if effective steps are taken with a sense of urgency in the right direction, we should see the light finally. I am still hopeful that if India is able to fight its case properly, by the end of the year we should see the UN reforms happening.
Listener from Mumbai : Whenever the UN wishes to send peacekeeping forces in any troubled part of the country, India is in the forefront to provide its forces for such purpose, still we have been given a raw deal for the Security Council, as America does not want to see India there. Hasn’t India been fooled, and does this not reflect a foreign policy failure?
Yashwant Sinha: You are absolutely right. India has been sending peacekeeping forces as and when required by the UN since the days of Korean War. Infact so exemplary has been the record of Indian soldiers that even in far-off, remote countries, where much is not known about India, they recall the track-record of our soldiers. Our peacekeeping experience has been a major factor in our seeking a permanent seat in the UNSC as well. However, I do not agree with linking this to UN working under American pressure. UN also has been opposing America regularly, as was seen during the Iraq war, but America is in a position to over-rule even the UN, as we discussed earlier.
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