India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both countries begin their term as non-permanent members of the Security Council on January 1.
Angela Merkel met Manmohan Singh in Berlin on Saturday
The Indian premier was in Europe to attend the 11th India-EU summit in Brussels. Berlin had not originally been on Manmohan Singh's itinerary. Singh extended his Europe trip by another eight hours at the invitation of Chancellor Merkel and visited the German capital on Saturday.
Eyeing permanent seats on the Security Council, India and Germany have decided to work together in reforming the United Nations. Both agreed that it is high time to push the matter "hard".
In October, the UN General Assembly elected both Germany and India as non-permanent members of the Security Council
Close cooperation After discussing the issue with Chancellor Merkel, the Indian Prime Minister said, "India and Germany will both be in the United Nations Security Council in 2011 and 2012. We will work closely with Germany both bilaterally and within the G4 to enhance the effectiveness of the Security Council as well as to support the expansion of the permanent and non-permanent categories of its membership."
The G4 is an alliance of four countries (India, Germany, Japan and Brazil), whose members support one in their effort to obtain a permanent Security Council seat. Under the leadership of India and Brazil, many other developing coutries have been pushing for reforms in the UN setup, demanding that the Security Council include members from all parts of the world.
Growing support for India
As a superpower in the making, India has made tremendous efforts to secure its place among the world's elite of UN veto powers. Recently, it received a major boost when US President Barack Obama, during his trip to India, supported the Indian demand for permanent membership in the Security Council. A few weeks later, French President Nicolas Sarkozy echoed Obama's commitment.
Barack Obama in New Delhi
As Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao are also visiting India soon, New Delhi is hoping to get their endorsement too. Both China and Russia are permanent members of the UN Security Council. Besides that, many other countries have already given their nod to the Indian request.
Chancellor Merkel especially hailed President Obama's endorsement of India. Germany being the biggest economic power of Europe and India the biggest democracy in the world, both countries know that together they can move faster and further than on their own. Chancellor Merkel said, "Now that India and Germany have got non-permanent membership in the Security Council, both countries will have an interest to see that the reform gets done."
Re-thinking the post-war world order After World War II, when the world was desperate for stability and lasting peace, the United Nations were formed with the Security Council as its core institution. This body is meant to ensure international peace and security. It has 15 members including five permanent member states. The US, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), Great Britain, France and China are in this elite group that can veto any resolution passed by the world's supreme body.
The United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York
Every January five non-permanent members vacate their seats for new member states and thus every two years all the ten non-permanent members are changed. Colombia, South Africa, Portugal, India and Germany are new on the Council, while Austria, Japan, Mexico, Uganda and Turkey are leaving it in January 2011.
In 1945, Germany did not qualify to become a member of the Big 5, having started and lost the war. As for India, it was just a colony of Great Britain which was later divided into two countries, India and Pakistan.
But in the course of time, the equations have changed. After China, India is today the leading country in the so-called Third World. Germany has recently questioned the "improper" representation in the Security saying that Africa and South America have no permanent seat, while Asia is also under-represented.
But despite their joint effort, the path towards fundamental UN reforms will not be easy. Both the General Assembly of the 192 members strong United Nations and the Security Council would have to agree on it.
Author: Anwar Jamal Ashraf (Berlin)
Editor: Arun Chowdhury