(This report was published in DNA edition dated November 10, 2010.)
China on Tuesday stuck to non-committal but positive-sounding formulation on US President Barack Obama’s support for India’s candidacy of permanent membership of the UN Security Council, saying that it “understands and supports” India’s eagerness to play a bigger role at the world body.
China is “willing to maintain contacts and negotiate with other UN member-states, including India”, on reforming the UN and the Security Council, the official news agency Xinhua quoted the foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying. China supports “rational and necessary” reform of the Security Council.
China values the role India plays in international affairs, and is in favour of prioritising an enhancement in the representation that developing countries have on the Security Council, Hong added. China hopes that the process of arriving at a consensus on the reforms would be conducted democratically and the negotiations would proceed patiently so as to “narrow differences”, maintain solidarity and bring “mutual benefits”.
Asked about US support for India’s membership at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group and other agencies, Hong said that countries should respect their international obligation to nuclear non-proliferation.
Chinese academicians sounded a positive note on Obama’s announcement on US support for India’s aspiration for permanent membership. “It is good that the US now supports India’s candidacy,” Fudan University professor Shen Dingli told DNA. “The US should have done this a long time ago.”
However, he added, efforts to reform the UN Security Council will not succeed for at least the next 15 years. Earlier efforts to reform the Council had failed – principally because the US “did not want reforms,” he said.
Asked if, in his opinion, India was a responsible global player, Shen noted that India was “a responsible actor in its own way.” In any case, he added, “a country doesn’t need to be fully responsible to be a permanent member of the Council… The US invaded Iraq, but hasn’t been deprived of its permanent membership.”
The Chinese position is for now non-committal and abides by the formula they’ve invoked for some time now, points out Srikanth Kondapalli, professor in Chinese Studies at the Centre for East Asian Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “But the Chinese are quick to respond to ground realities if they are shifting.”
Kondapalli points to “contextual signals” that indicate China’s thinking on India’s aspiration for permanent membership. “For one thing, the Chinese ambassador to India has been elevated to the rank of Vice Foreign Minister, on par with China’s ambassadors to other UN Security Council permanent member-countries.” That, to him, signals that in Chinese perception, India had been elevated to a “P5 plus 1 level”; these are signals “we cannot ignore.”
China might eventually offer its support in exchange for some appropriate concessions from India, the nature of which could range from territorial issues to cooperation on multilateral forums, such as in Copenhagen, says Kondapalli. The next cue could come when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits India in December.
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