Reading this headline, one might be inclined to ask: “what does the current crisis in Kashmir have to do with the UN”. The answer is that in a just world, the UN Security Council would have already convened in order to call for an immediate end to Indian aggression against Kashmiri civilians, which last night erupted hours after Pakistan performed a good will gesture by handing over Indian airman Abhinandan to New Delhi. Because the cessation of violence in Kashmir would necessarily prohibit India from blaming the indigenous anti-occupation resistance on actions allegedly taken by Islamabad, such a UN Resolution could accomplish not only a much needed reprieve for the civilians in Indian occupied Kashmir, but could likewise dial down tensions between two nuclear armed neighbours.
Realistically, the India-Pakistan border remains the world’s top nuclear hot spot. Contrary to the occasional scaremongering, the idea that the three nuclear superpowers (America, China, Russia) would ever deploy nuclear weapons against each other is simply absurd. Likewise, the DPRK’s nuclear arsenal is almost certain to be internationally normalised in one respect or another: either thorough full or partial de-nuclearisation. In any case, whilst Pyongyang is engaged in a peace process with South Korea and the United States, not even Donald Trump seems to be worried about the DPRK’s nuclear weapons. Whilst the nuclear weapons of Britain and France are little more than auxiliary American weapons and whilst Israel’s nuclear weapons remain a cause for concern, because both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons and are hostile neighbours, it is safe to say that this remains the world’s foremost nuclear flash point.
Although, the UN has yet to get involved in the recent and ongoing crisis in Kashmir, the US and Russia (both permanent security council members) have both put themselves forward as possible mediators in the crisis.
At present, neither Pakistan nor India have a seat on the Security Council, but many who have called for UN reform, argue for an expansion of the Security Council’s permanent membership and as such, many such proponents of UN reform call for India to have a permanent seat on the Security Council, based on the fact that unlike in the 1940s, India is today a more prominent nation than Britain or France. And yet, giving a country with a history of aggression against its nuclear armed neighbours a permanent seat on the Security Council, would be grossly irresponsible.
An India veto at the UN’s highest security body would effectively mean that the Kashmir crisis could never be solved as clearly, the civilians of Indian occupied Kashmir do not want to be ruled by New Delhi. And yet, by giving India a permanent seat Security Council, India’s Ambassador could simply veto any motion put forward calling for peace, justice and calm in Kashmir. If certain and generally well-meaning proponents of UN reform had their way, this is just what would happen as due to its size, India is typically considered as a potential permanent member of a reformed Security Council, far more often than Pakistan is mentioned in such a context.
Due to India’s own reckless behaviour, even supporters of a would-be permanent Indian seat on the Security Council will now think twice. It is simply not in the interests of the wider world for a nuclear power in a virtual state of war with its neighbour, to hold veto power over an international body charged with promoting peace and win-win conflict resolution.
Ultimately, the only way that the Security Council could be fairly reformed is for the General Assembly to begin fulfilling the current functions of the much smaller Security Council. Under such a reformed system, every nation in the world would be able to vote on crucial security issues and in place of the existing Security Council veto mechanism, a resolution before the General Assembly that deals with security ought to require a majority of 75% to pass. This would disallow a 51% vs. 49% vote breakdown from holding the world hostage to any obviously contentious Resolution.
But whilst this would clearly be an equitable solution, it remains highly unlikely that any of the permanent five would surrender their current veto powers in this way. This is the reason why whenever any of the permanent five discuss UN reform, they prefer to entertain proposals which if implemented would modestly expand the permanent membership of the existing security council, rather than move to a fully democratic and accountable General Assembly in the realm of security issues.
Because of this, India’s aggressive antics have clearly set back the cause of UN reform, possibly for a decade. This is so because it would be difficult to imagine an expanded Security Council that did not include India because of its size. At the same time, because of India’s reckless behaviour, it would be equally impossible to envisage an expanded Security Council that did include India.
Therefore, in order to skirt around the Indian elephant in the room of UN reform, most people are happy to allow the status quo to prevail based on the fact that the only realistic alternative could be far worse.