The Presidential Visit, Part Doh

Obama has had a busy visit to India, filled with international announcements, domestic interviews with college students and a state dinner. Nothing shocking but many indicators to show how strongly the United States wants to move forward in its relationship with the subcontinent giant.

One of the biggest shows of support was Obama’s speech in the Parliament which broke the silence on the American stance on the possibility of India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Nonetheless, though the speech was filled with rhetoric and promises, there was no real timeline (probably a lesson learned from being embroiled in two wars that continue to drag on) or plan on how to actually increase the number of permanent seats and make sure that the seat would go to India. Since the Indo-American relationship has seemed to be driven exponentially in the last decade by the idea of countering and containing the rise of China,it is yet to be see how this development will play out. It is no coincidence that the President is skipping both China and Pakistan on his Asia tour. With Beijing calling Pakistan its Israel, it will be interesting to see China’s reaction to the announcement since the Chinese stance on UN reform has been highly unfavourable.

And of course, we come back to the always fun round of “What is Pakistan going to say/do?”. Though there is going to be a lot of decrying and sabre-rattling over this, the reality remains that there is not much that Pakistan can do on its own to change the Indians’ escalating trajectory towards a permanent seat on the UNSC. It really comes down to how much Islamabad pushes Beijing into blocking the seemingly inevitable. With the Britain, France and Russia backing inclusion of the G-4 (Brazil, Germany, Japan and India) and the United States having already backed Japan’s bid to a permanent seat, only China has been reluctant to increase the number of permanent members and thus dilute its influence. With the UN becoming more symbolic (apart from its peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, in my opinion), China has no real reason to hold out its approval for long; however, the longer it seems like it will exercise its veto, the more likely it will be able to accrue benefits from the other member states who have a vested interest in UNSC reform.

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