Published On: Thu, Oct 6th, 2011

Before India can deserve a UNSC seat…

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Column by Dr. Richard L. Benkin -

There are so many reasons why India should be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, equipped with the same veto power enjoyed by the current batch of permanent members:  the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China.  India is not, as some are fond of saying, an “emerging giant”; it is a giant—economically as well as militarily.  It is also home to more than one out of every six people on the planet, boasts the second, fourth, and eighth most populous cities on earth (Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata  respectively),and by 2030 is estimated to overtake China as the world’s largest country.

If India expects more than lip service from the United States, however (which is so far all that it has gotten from the Obama Administration), it will have to re-think its foreign policy into one that is not driven by domestic political calculations.  Israel is a great example.  The world over has touted the extremely tight relationship between the two countries, yet on critical UN votes, India consistently casts anti-Israel votes.  The current Palestinian Authority (PA) gambit is but the latest example.

Shortly after the Palestinians announced that they would go to the Security Council for a resolution of statehood, India announced that it would vote in favor of their move—even though it has been clear that the effort will do more to delay Middle East peace than advance it or bring about a functioning Palestinian state.  Indian officials have maintained its position, reaffirming it strenuously seemingly every chance they get.  Similarly, when the Goldstone Report on the 2009 Gaza War was brought before the United Nations for approval or disapproval last year, India unhesitatingly voted in favor of it.  India cast that vote despite the fact that the report was discredited almost from the beginning and eventually disavowed by its director and namesake as “skewed against Israel” from its initial mandate forward.  Does this mean that India must be a “good little boy” if it wants US support for a permanent Security Council seat?  No, it does not.  India, like any sovereign nation, has the responsibility to determine its own foreign policy, but Indian leaders must ask themselves why in the world would the United States support bringing in another veto toting country with a history of casting critical votes that are opposed not only to American foreign policy principles but even against the interests of its own people.

Greater security, economic, and other relations between India and the United States is indeed a strong possibility after the 2012 Presidential election, as both Republican frontrunners have come out for them (along with less cooperation with Pakistan) as basic to their overall worldview.  Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been a strong advocate of that position for years.  In a recent debate, Texas governor Rick Perry did not even have to be prompted on the matter.  When asked what he would do if Pakistan lost control of its nuclear weapons, he responded immediately that stronger US ties with India are the key to US ability to affect events in the region.  Both men advance strong economic and foreign policy reasons for stronger ties with India.  With the US Presidential election still 13 months away, anything can happen to affect the results.  At this point, however, President Barack Obama’s chances of being returned to office appear to be fading with each passing day—which means a potential re-orientation of US foreign policy.  Will US-India cooperation be based on this century’s realities, or will they be mired in outdated and discredited ideologies of the last one?

How discredited?  Less than a year ago, Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil publicly supported Syria President Bashir Assad and his country’s claims in its dispute with Israel over the Golan Heights.  Since that time, Assad’s time and attention has been taken up with his ruthless oppression of democratic forces in his country that so far has claimed over 2,000 lives.  Moreover, while it was highly inappropriate for Patil to inject herself into the bi-lateral dispute, it probably represented little more than her toadying approach to foreign relations rather, old alliances, and fear of jeopardizing trade and foreign receipts from the Gulf States.  Should “fear” drive the foreign policy of a nation that towers over all others with its permanent Security Council seat?

Indian officials tend to justify their anti-Israel votes with reference to their “traditional” support for a Palestinian state—which probably reached its zenith when India voted in favor of the infamous UN “Zionism is racism” resolution—a resolution so embarrassing, politicized, and openly anti-Jewish (as opposed to pro anything) that the UN rescinded it 16 years later, and no one has had the temerity to raise the issue since.  India, by the way, was one of only six nations not formally communist or having a Muslim majority that voted for the resolution.  So much for the past; what about the present and the future?  Israel has now supplanted Russia as India’s major arms partner, and has provided the latter with sophisticated military and intelligence hardware.  India has become young Israelis’ favorite tourist destination, only part of the more extensive bonds being formed by the two peoples.  And the two nations share existential strategic interests.  After 26/11, Israel provided India with extensive intelligence on the jihadi attackers and their keepers in Pakistan; not a rupee came from the holders of the world’s petrodollars.  Israel provided aid to the victims and condemned the act as terrorism.  While top Arab leaders formally condemned the attacks, there was quite a different reaction on the popular side.  Al Jazeera hosted a forum to surfers wishing to identify with the terrorists in Mumbai, with almost unanimous support for the attacks and identification with the attackers.  Hamas, now part of the Palestinian “unity” government that the current UN resolution would advance, did the same without posting a single comment in opposition to the attacks.

The question facing Indian leaders is whether they will recognize that the interests of its people lay with the United States and Israel—which like India are major targets of international jihadis—or will they remain tied to discredited ideologies of a bygone era that not only fail on all fronts to help the Indian people in any tangible way but rather strengthen the forces of anti-Indian jihad arrayed against them?

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