India and the Security Council: Does the Kashmir conflict invalidate a permanent seat?
Jan 6, 2011

India and the Security Council: Does the Kashmir conflict invalidate a permanent seat?

One of the largest developments of Obama's South Asia trip was the announcement of US support for India to get a permanent UN security council seat. There are several geopolitical implications of this move, but one interesting question it raises is the ethical consequences of giving such a powerful position to one side of an ongoing conflict.

Since their independence from British India, Pakistan and and India have engaged in a history of violence and unrelenting animosity. The initial separation, conflict, and flood of refugees left millions dead. The focus point of conflict in recent times is in Indian controlled Kashmir and has sparked numerous battles, violence, subversion and nuclear armed troop buildups. Indeed, after the Cuban missile crisis, the Kashmir conflict represents the next likeliest point in history for nuclear war (although we now know from Musharraf's memoirs that the Pakistani nuclear weapons deployed along the boarder were not operational).

This issue is this: if India is given a permanent security council seat, this represents an enormous advantage being given to this one side in terms of keeping the UN agenda on the pro-Indian side. Regardless of what one thinks about resolving this ongoing conflict, we should be able to agree that its resolution ought not be determined by simply giving one side more power and that doing so represents a considerable moral hazard.

This issue is made very difficult because I am rather for UN reform and think the current order of 5 overly powerful veto countries is neither fair, beneficial, or even representative of the current world order. If any country should get candidacy for inclusion in this cabal it should be India due to its size, population and growing economic, diplomatic and militaristic power. Nuclear powers have conventionally been the candidates for permanent seats and as India and Pakistan are the remaining declared non-pariah nuclear states, India would be an excellent candidate were it not for the India-Pakistan conflict.

Ultimately, I think much larger structural reforms are needed than simply including a few more permanent members according to past guidelines like being nuclear powers. To simply include countries like India into the current regime is an insufficient level of change that inhibits greater reform and the issues of favoritism towards one participant in an ongoing bilateral conflict should give us significant pause.

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