India expects to sail through UNSC vote

India expects to sail through UNSC vote

All eyes on tussle between Canada, Ireland and Norway for Western European group

India expects to sail through as the 193-member United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) votes on Wednesday for contenders to five non-permanent seats at the UN Security Council for 2021-22. India is standing unopposed as the nominee for the Asia-Pacific seat, and needs two-thirds of UNGA members, or 129 votes, to be confirmed. Mexico is also unopposed in its bid for the Latin American and Caribbean seat, while there is a straight contest between Kenya and late entrant Djibouti for the African seat.

All eyes are, however on the contest between Canada, Ireland and Norway, who are vying for the two seats allotted to the Western European and Others Group (WEOG), with each making a pitch for India’s vote, including a late evening call on Tuesday from Canadian PM Trudeau to PM Modi. The two leaders had spoken last as recently as on April 29.

‘Not complacent’

On Friday, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide held a videoconference with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. Eliciting votes for the UNSC was “one of the topics discussed” said Norwegian Ambassador Hans Jacob Frydenlund. “We count on support from a number of friendly countries. We are confident, but not complacent of securing the seat at the UNSC,” he told The Hindu when asked if India had assured Norway its support.

Irish Ambassador to India Brendan Ward would not comment on whether India had specifically offered support. PM Modi spoke to Irish PM Leo Varadkar on April 22, and had also met him on the sideline of the UNGA in New York last September.

“Both Ireland and India have the advantage that neither is a member of a military alliance,” Mr. Ward told The Hindu. “India has led the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), while Ireland has a unique position as a member of the European Union that is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) alliance,” he added, also alluding to the other “common bond”, that PM Varadkar is of Indian origin.

Canada in fray

While Ireland announced its candidature in 2005, and Norway in 2007, Canada has been a relatively new entrant in the fray; with PM Justin Trudeau announcing its bid for the UNSC in 2016, shortly after being elected to power.

Mr. Trudeau has pitched Canada’s campaign as a push for multilateralism in the post COVID-19 global recovery, and has reached out personally to many countries.

In its own campaign brochure, India had highlighted its commitment to multilateralism; demand for transparency in mandates for UN peacekeeping missions; push for the Indian-led Comprehensive Convention for International Terrorism (CCIT); and joint efforts for UN reform and the expansion of the UNSC.

As a result, some have suggested that Canada’s membership of the “United for Consensus” grouping that includes Pakistan, who oppose the expansion of the permanent members of the UNSC and push for more non permanent or “elected seats”, could hamper its chances of securing India’s votes.

‘Transactional votes’

However, former UN envoy Asoke Mukerji says that the decision for India and other countries will be made by balancing “favours” each country does for others within the UN system, and not as much on ideological differences.

“UN votes now are more transactional. It all depends on trade-offs, particularly where these countries have supported each other and what favours have been granted, run more like a banker’s ledger than political decisions,” he said.

The campaign for votes is made more difficult by the fact that the UNGA election process will be done by “secret ballot” and countries frequently break promises of support when they go to vote.

As a result, India is taking no chances with its campaign, and has added to its diplomatic push amongst UN missions and through its embassies in different countries, with telephone calls between PM Modi and his counterparts in more than 60 countries and multilateral groups like SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) and NAM, as well as dozens of others made by External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, since March this year.

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