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Sunday, 2 January 2011

"I don't give a damn what the rankings say!"

Does power come from status or does status come from power? The question might seem tricky, but when it comes to the UN, its answer is very simple. In the United Nations, status does not matter, all that counts is simply power. It is therefore not so ironic that when it comes to India's bid for a permanent seat in the UNSC, the only country not fully backing the bid is also the country that least respects the status that comes along with it. 

Even the self styled guardian of the UN doesn’t bother to listen to its voice when it knows it will hear something it doesn’t want to. Consider this: In March 2003 the United States government announced that "diplomacy has failed" and that it would proceed with a "coalition of the willing" to rid Iraq under Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction the U.S. insisted it possessed. The 2003 invasion of Iraq began a few days later. This happened despite several permanent members of the UNSC vetoing the resolution.


On September 16, 2004 Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, speaking on the invasion, said, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." The US government, by this one act, effectively undermined the credibility and the legitimacy of the UNSC. 


Now there are a lot of people in India making a big hue and cry for a permanent seat in the UNSC. Ever since Barrack Obama publicly endorsed US support for India’s candidature, this lobby has only gotten louder. The lobby’s cause is just, but the energy spent is disproportionate. The reason is simple. As India grows stronger, more countries will need India than India will need them. This will create situations where countries will be weary to do anything that upsets India. 



It must be noted that when old world orders become redundant, new ones automatically spring up. What happened to the League of Nations? Or for that matter to the Non Aligned Movement? It is no secret that the G-8 has really become secondary to the G-20. The backdoor entry of India into the NSG is a perfect example. India remains the only NSG member to NOT have signed the CTBT.

If you still do not understand, just Google the list of absentees from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony last year at Oslo. You should get the message.


The fact is that the world cannot stop India's rise just as it cannot stop China's. When a billion people wake up from slumber and join the world's workforce, it is bound to create more than a ripple. My favourite analogy comes from Thomas L Freidman. He says "Pick up a bottle of Champagne and start shaking it. Now keep shaking it for a hundred years. Now uncork the bottle. That's what India feels like today." You wouldn’t want to come in the way of that bottle!


There’s an interesting story from the 1980 Winter Olympics. The American Ice Hockey team at that time were a group of untested college and amateur players in a culture that was hardly hockey-centric, and they entered the 1980 Games as the seventh seed amongst 12 teams. The Soviets, meanwhile, were essentially full-time hockey players who had played together for years, and they were representing a country which had produced eight of the last nine gold medallists in the sport. The odds were against the Americans in so many ways. 


When the legendary coach of the US Ice Hockey Team, Herb Brooks was asked about America’s chances going into the 1980 Winter Olympics Ice Hockey finals, he snapped, “I don’t give a damn what the rankings say! The team that plays better will win.”


Can you guess who won?