Modi proposes plan for India's UNSC seat as China border standoff continues

A file photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan, Hubei Province
With India and China enmeshed in a standoff on their border with each other, New Delhi on Friday unveiled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new ‘panchsheel’, or five principles, that will shape its approach in its bid to get elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar launched a brochure outlining India’s priorities for its forthcoming campaign to secure an elected seat on the UNSC at elections slated for June 17, 2020.

India’s bid is likely to succeed for it's the sole endorsed candidate of the Asia-Pacific Group, said the External Affairs Ministry. This would be India’s eighth term at the UNSC, and this two-year tenure will start in January 2021.

The Council is composed of 15 members: five permanent members in China, France, Russia, the UK, and the US, and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.

These ‘five S’s’ are samman (respect), samvad (dialogue), sahyog (cooperation), and shanti (peace), to create conditions for universal samriddhi (prosperity).
This isn’t the first time Modi has proposed his version of panchsheel. During his bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan in April 2018, Modi had proposed another version of panchsheel as the guiding principles for India-China relations.

These were soch (thought), samman (respect), sahyog (cooperation), sankalp (determination) and sapne (dreams). However, the formulation enunciated amid efforts to stoke a 'Wuhan spirit' found little traction, including with the Chinese side.

Panchsheel, or the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, were first formally enunciated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed on April 29, 1954, between India’s then-prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai.

The five principles were – mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful co-existence.

The vision of ‘panchsheel’ became the guiding principles for several countries and international groupings. It was subsequently incorporated into the ‘Ten Principles of International Peace and Cooperation’ in the declaration issued by April 1955 Bandung Conference of 29 Afro-Asian countries. The UN General Assembly adopted it on December 11, 1957 and in 1961, the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in Belgrade accepted it.

As for India’s upcoming stint at the UNSC, the MEA said its overall objective during this tenure will be the achievement of “N.O.R.M.S: a New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System”.

Launching the brochure, Jaishankar referred to the international context that the Security Council will confront, both new and continuing traditional challenges to international peace and security.

The Covid-19 pandemic has further contributed to a more complex international economic and political environment, including by limiting the capacity of countries to respond to local, regional and global challenges, he said.

Jaishankar emphasised India’s long-standing role as a voice of moderation, an advocate of dialogue, and a proponent of international law.

The priorities paper, issued as a brochure by the minister, set out the key priorities for India. These will be new opportunities for progress, an effective response to international terrorism, reforming the multilateral system, a comprehensive approach to international peace and security and promoting technology with a human touch as a driver of solutions.

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