India, G4 nations open to forgo veto for now if granted UNSC membership

India and the members of other G4 group of countries, Brazil, Germany and Japan have stated that they are willing to consider temporarily suspending their veto rights when and if they are made permanent members of the UN Security Council.

In a joint statement, delivered by India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin at an inter-governmental negotiations meeting on Wednesday, March 8th, the G4 nations of India, Brazil, Germany and Japan emphasized that an overwhelming majority of the UN member states supports the expansion of both permanent and non-permanent membership in a reformed Security Council.

On the issue of the veto, Akbaruddin said the question of veto has been addressed by many from differing perspectives but the G4 approach is that the problem of veto is not one of quantity (of extending it immediately to new permanent members) but of quality — of introducing restrictions.

“Our position is imbued with this spirit. While the new permanent members would as a principle have the same responsibilities and obligations as (the) current permanent members, they shall not exercise the veto until a decision on the matter has been taken during a review,” the G4 statement said. This change of heart is meant to hasten the process of making the G4 countries – India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – permanent members of the elite UN body sooner rather than later.

A proposal to this effect was set forward on Tuesday, March 7th by India’s Permanent Representative, Syed Akbaruddin, who was speaking on behalf of the G4 at the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on Council reforms.  In the scenario G4 proposes, the new permanent members will, in principle, have veto powers that the current five members have. They just won’t exercise the veto until a decision, specifically on this matter, has been taken during a review.

That may sound reasonable to G4 members but it is strongly opposed by Uniting for Consensus (UfC), a 13-member group that includes Pakistan. Veto or no veto, Pakistan remained stoutly opposed even to this new G4 proposal.

UfC wants to create a new category of elected membership with longer terms than the current two years. For two decades, it has been blocking the reform process and waging a decades-long battle against expanding permanent membership. And as far as India is concerned, it’s UfC member Pakistan, which has been a thorn in its side.

Akbaruddin called the UfC proposal “old hat”. Any proposal for Council reforms without an expansion of the number of the permanent seats does “grave injustice to Africa’s aspirations for equality”, he said.  G4 also believes UfC’s proposal is counter-productive and a ploy to block the addition of new permanent members.

“It will actually widen the difference between permanent and non-permanent members even more, tilting further the scales in favour of a dispensation that was valid in the special situation in 1945 but is no longer now,” the G4 statement said.

The bloc warned that the issue of veto was important but member states should not allow it to have a “veto over the process of Council reform itself.” Akbaruddin, on behalf of the G4, said the grouping was open to “innovative” and differing ideas compiled in a composite text to achieve UN reform. He asserted that the mere expansion in the category of non-permanent Security Council members will not address the “malaise” afflicting the UN body.

The statement points out that a negotiating text is a basic requirement for work at the UN. “While we are aware of no other way to proceed but this, we are open to innovative ideas to rework the UN system,” the statement said.

The G4 nations said it unfortunate that they have not heard any innovative ideas but a few countries bringing old rejected models for consideration of the member states yet again. “Merely possessing veto power, even without its use, has a telling impact on the Council’s working methods. But some of us propose more veto-wielding members in the Council, while calling for improved working methods of the Council. How can this dichotomy be justified,” said Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, Samaa.tv reported.  The veto, Lodhi said, could be counterbalanced in the Council by strengthening the voice of elected members.

The G4 member states believe that some have “conflated and confused” regular elections to the Council with accountability.  “Ensuring a perpetual campaign mode is not the best form of accountability,” the G4 statement said, without naming UfC or Pakistan. “No side is happy though with the current impasse in security council reform. “The issue of veto is important, but we should not allow it to have a veto over the process of Council reform itself,” said Akbaruddin.

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