- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008


The Allies created the U.N. Security Council at the end of World War II and charged it with maintaining international peace and security. Five nations were granted permanent membership at a time when the Soviet Union occupied half of Europe, China was the most powerful Asian country and Great Britain and France controlled worldwide empires.

During the 60-plus years since then, the permanent membership roster has remained static in a world radically transformed by global economic and security power realignments. The U.N. Security Council was established before anyone ever heard of NATO, the European Union or other effective security and economic alliances. Once formidable European empires have disappeared, and in the past two decades we have witnessed the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a resurgent Russia and the Chinese shift from ideological communism to authoritarian capitalism.

In today’s international landscape, power is diffused and Islamic extremists pose a worldwide threat to moderate governments and democracy. The new foreign policy imperatives of democratic nations are to counter the rise of extremism and roll back global poverty through economic opportunity and enhanced political freedom.

Not all permanent members of the Security Council agree on these core objectives. Accordingly, the council must be reformed to ensure our goals are realized.

Rather than remaining on the sidelines when it comes to implementing reform at the United Nations, the United States and likeminded nations should actively advocate reform of the U.N. Security Council, beginning with permanent membership for the world’s largest democracy: India.

In India, democracy and rule of law, protections for freedom of the press and respect for all religions are woven into the fabric of society. On a continent afflicted with violent extremism and markedly authoritarian, repressive government systems, India has created a peaceful and stable government that respects the human rights of its diverse citizens.

India’s success is propelled by a trillion-dollar economy — the world’s fifth largest with annual growth rates of 9 percent. India provides once-inconceivable opportunities for prosperity throughout Asia. Its current population of 1.2 billion — one of every six humans — is expected to surpass that of China by 2040. Indian society is comprised of 1 billion Hindus and 150 million Muslims — the second-largest Islamic population in the world — reflecting the diverse religious tolerance that is critical in this often-radicalized region of Asia.

India’s million-troop army is one of the world’s largest, and it is well-trained in counterterrorism and a strong participant in peacekeeping and civil-relief activities. Presently ranked as the second-largest contributor of peacekeepers to the U.N., India is one of the few countries that have participated in all major peacekeeping operations undertaken by the Security Council to date. India’s navy, by far the most capable in the region, protects vital sea lanes in the Indian Ocean and projects power and influence across a vast strategic arc spanning southern and eastern Africa, the South China Sea and Australia.

Adding the voice of the world’s largest democracy to the deliberations of the Security Council would be a major improvement to an organization too often paralyzed by the intransigence of anti-democratic members. Moreover, in meeting its mandate of maintaining world peace and enforcing U.N. decisions, the Security Council must have members with advanced force capacity and proven military leadership, most especially ones tempered by a belief in democratic principles like those practiced by the people of India.

There is another important reason for the United States to advocate India’s membership on the Security Council: It is a crucial and proven partner in the global war on terror and is strategically located to combat growing Islamist extremism in South Asia.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, India took the unprecedented step of offering full and immediate use of its bases for U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Moreover, India’s neighbor, Pakistan, is a nuclear-armed power beset by instability and radicalism. The Taliban and al Qaeda have made Pakistan’s tribal regions their base of operations. As the security situation in Pakistan worsens, the chances of nuclear warheads falling into the hands of extremists will certainly increase. A strong Indo-U.S. partnership is essential to confront this threat.

Taking into account India’s importance to future global security and economic growth, I have introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives calling on the United Nations to grant India permanent membership on the Security Council. India’s permanent membership must be embraced if we are to reform the United Nations and effectively address the global challenges of the 21st century.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Florida Republican, serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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