How China Has Stalled Negotiations On UN Security Council Reforms

Parul Chandra New Delhi 14 March 2019

The tweet said it all. “Big, Small & Many…1 big state holds upon, again….1 small signal @UN against terror….”. Shortly after China blocked the UN Security Council proposal to list Jaish e-Mohammed (JeM) leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin tweeted thus.

He did not name China, nor did the Ministry of External Affairs which only said that the proposal of the 1267 Sanctions Committee “was not able to come to a decision on the proposal for listing Mohammed Masood Azhar Alvi under the UN Sanctions regime on account of a member placing the proposal on hold.”

The restrained statement this time was quite unlike the one issued by the ministry in December 2016, which found China being mentioned thrice. Expressing “concern” over China’s decision to block the proposal, New Delhi had also said, “We had expected China would be more understanding of the danger posed to all by terrorism and would join India and others in fighting the common challenges of terrorism.”

Perhaps, it was the Wuhan spirit that prompted New Delhi to issue a statement that did not name China this time. But the Wuhan Summit appears to have had no salutary effect on the Chinese in terms of extending support for the listing of the Pakistan-based JeM chief by the UNSC’s Sanctions Committee.

The larger problem is the issue of UNSC reforms. Like many other countries, New Delhi has been seeking the expansion of both the permanent and non-permanent membership of the UNSC. It has been lobbying for years for the reforms, with little success. And here again, China has effectively blocked attempts to move forward. As India’s former Permanent Representative at the UN Asoke Mukerji told SNI, “From 2016 onwards, China has destroyed the negotiations process.”

Mukerji, who was then India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, referred to the decision by the UN General Assembly in 2015, saying, “It was a big victory for us when 122 countries tabled their views on each of the five areas of reform including the question of veto. The framework document was adopted unanimously by the UNGA”.

Hailing it as a “significant development”, India had said it meant that “we can now commence text-based negotiations”. Among those who had supported the document were the 54 African nations that had worked as a block and the G-4 countries (India, Japan, Brazil and Germany).

However, Mukerji says that since 2016, “China has taken the ball and even run away with it.” At the same time, he notes that China had been part of a unanimous decision in 2005 to reform the UNSC and in 2008 to include the veto power for negotiation.

According to Mukerji, China has stalled text-based negotiations with support from Russia and a grouping known as Uniting for Consensus whose members include Pakistan, Argentina, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Turkey.

China succeeded in blocking the reappointment of Douglas Rattray as Jamaica’s ambassador to the UN as he was the chair of the inter-governmental negotiations (IGN) on UNSC reforms and had deep knowledge of the negotiating text. China, said Mukerji, also spearheaded the move by anti-reform countries to slow down the momentum for starting negotiations in the IGN. All this, he said, has meant procedural delays instigated by anti-reforms countries like China.

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