India at the UN High Table

NEW DELHI – Indian diplomacy began 2011 with election to the chair of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee, a body of some importance to the country (and one which many thought India might not be asked to lead, given its strong feelings on the issue). Coming in the wake of India’s record margin of victory in the race for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, this news confirms India’s standing in the world and the contribution it is capable of making on the Council. With such endorsements, however, expectations are high, and India’s government will have to think about how they can best be fulfilled.

This is an unusual year at the UN high table. Several powerful states, whose growing global role has made them aspirants to permanent seats on a reformed Security Council, will serve alongside India. Germany and South Africa were elected as non-permanent members at the same time, while Brazil and Nigeria are halfway through their two-year-terms.

This also means that four international groupings will be represented on the Council in 2011: the Russia-India-China triumvirate, whose foreign ministers meet twice a year; the BRICs, which adds Brazil to the list; the India-Brazil-South Africa alliance of the three largest southern hemisphere powers; and BASIC, which brought Brazil, South Africa, India, and China together during the climate-change negotiations in Copenhagen last year. India is the only country that belongs to all four.

That not only highlights the extent to which India has become a fulcrum in global politics, but also points to the exceptional composition of the new Security Council. Half the members of the G-20, the grouping that is now the world’s premier forum on international economic questions, will be on the Council, dealing with issues of global peace and security.