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India's attempt to regain a seat at the United Nations Security Council among the 10 non-permanent members has hit multiple roadblocks. As reported in this newspaper on Sunday, candidatures for the UNSC non-permanent seats have been announced till 2038, and India finds itself against one contender or another for the two seats allotted to the Asia-Pacific group. Its last term at the UNSC ended on December 31, 2012 — a term secured after a gap of almost two decades. Its plans for the 2019 elections, targeting the 2020-21 term, have run into trouble as Vietnam — the Asian contender for the one Asia-Pacific seat vacated each year — has declined New Delhi's request to stand down, and instead offered to support India's permanent membership and to sign the G-4 draft on UNSC expansion. Over the following years, India would have to contend with Afghanistan, the UAE and Mongolia, while Pakistan, currently holding one of the Asia-Pacific slots, has already announced its candidature for the 2023 elections.
India's UNSC predicament demonstrates Delhi's lack of foresight and planning. While it cannot be gainsaid that a two-year term at the UNSC sometimes forces a state to take a stand on certain issues it might otherwise dodge, it is equally true that the Security Council confers a status that the UN General Assembly does not. It allows a state the diplomatic chance to project power, help others and gather IoUs. Why else would India be a part of the G-4 grouping and lobby for a permanent seat that, in any case, would only be an acknowledgement of the changed global geopolitics? To look credible as a major power, it is necessary to sit at the right forums and also participate in their decision-making.
Vietnam has a growing economic and defence partnership with India, and is intrinsic to the "Look East" policy. It is also in India's interest to bring Mongolia closer in a strategic outreach. Afghanistan's UNSC debut would offer Kabul the international exposure and experience India would want, not least in its own interest. Bilateral stakes with these countries are pretty high. Delhi has to decide how important the UNSC seat is in its current calculus and take a call on contesting a contender in the near future. What must be avoided at all costs is any bilateral unpleasantness.