The world affairs we witness today are no doubt very complex. The problems the humankind
and the basic territorial units—which we may call states—face are diverse with issues like peace,
human rights, development, environment protection, trade, and so forth. States—whether big or
small—are unable to address these problems individually, without working with other states,
near and far, for negotiating, for narrowing differences and expanding areas of agreement. Since
the problems and the parties (states) involved are multiple, country-to-country contacts may not
always be sufficient. Forums engage governments in dialogue and negotiations on pressing or
long standing issues on a regular basis and have become beneficial features of the modern world
affairs. India has gained long and rich experience in tackling issues of concern to itself and also to
the international community in global forums like the United Nations and the Non-aligned
Movement and the regional level organisations like SAARC, ASEAN.
To India, the United Nations holds the key to a world order wedded to peace and prosperity.
The United Nations represents universal values like democracy, equality and justice, which guided
India’s history through ages. In fact, one of the basic principles of India’s foreign policy has been
active cooperation with the United Nations and international bodies, which are seen as protectors
of the interests of the newly independent countries. India has actively participated in the activities
of the United Nations with reference to the maintenance of world peace, peace keeping,
achievement of economic progress, protection of human rights, etc. Let us turn to some of these
issues and India’s role.
War and Peace
Independent India saw its security as part and parcel of the world security. But world security
and stability has faced problems of different kind right from the early days of the establishment of
the United Nations in 1945. Those days, the prime cause for worry to India was the East-West
Cold War, pitting the United States and the former Soviet Union against each other as rivals.
While constantly engaged in the acquisition of sophisticated nuclear and other weapons, these
two big powers acquired superpower status with global influence. They fought their battles (proxy
wars) not in Europe but by fanning tensions and conflicts between states in Africa and Asia.
Divided Korea became the first major battle ground for staging the Cold War competition. In
addition, neighbouring countries fought wars often with the military and political support from the
Cold War blocs over disputed borders or over other problems. Wars in West Asia between
Israel and the Arab countries, the Iran-Iraq war, in the horn of Africa between Ethiopia and
Somalia come under this category. Besides, the United States or the Soviet Union militarily
intervened in some countries. Dominican Republic, Grenada in the case of the United States and
Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan by the Soviet Union exemplify this trend. There has been clear
Cold War dimension to the conflicts in Cambodia, Nicaragua, and last but not the least in India-
Pakistan subcontinent. In all, nearly 250 small and big wars occurred during the Cold War
Although the clouds of Cold War had vanished in the early days of the decade of 1990s, global
order of peace and stability has continued to be threatened in both old and new ways.
Notwithstanding the two wars on Iraq, foreign invasion as a major danger to peace has diminished
in importance. Instead, the civil strifes in state after state in Africa, Asia and Latin America have
played havoc with political systems, economies of nations and even the lives and rights of innocent
men, women and children. Societies of Yugoslavia, Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Afghanistan,
Sierra Leone and many more countries have become victims of this disturbing trend. Nearly 6
million people lost their lives in such wars in the past 12-13 years.
At the United Nations, India disapproved forcible occupation of the territory of any state or
interference by one state in the matters of other states, which are violation of the principles of
sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and advocated settlement of problems through
negotiation and other peaceful methods. India strongly supported the sovereign rights of Egypt,
Hungary, the Congo, Lebanon, and demanded immediate and unconditional ending to fighting
whoever started it for whatever reason. India remarkably was flexible in its approach for peace.
We preferred moderation whereby the countries that might have violated rules are given an
honourable escape route for restoration of normalcy. This approach was successful and effective
in the context of the invasion of Egypt by the United Kingdom, France and Israel in 1956.
Similarly after the 1967 war between Israel and its Arab neighbours, India joined other members
in the Security Council in providing a framework for the coexistence of both Israel and its Arab
neighbours within secure boundaries after withdrawal from occupied territories.
The blend of principles with pragmatism became more necessary to respond to situations after
the end of the Cold War. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and refused to withdraw, India
supported the military action by the US-led coalition—blessed by the United Nations Security
Council—to free Kuwait. Although many would see softness towards the United States in India’s
positions in the United Nations, India opposed the American military action (2003) to remove
president Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, an action the United States launched unilaterally
in violation of the UN Charter. India is among the many countries that are worried about the
weakening of international institutions and the tendency to impose unilateral preferences over
To guard against these unhelpful trends, the wings of the United Nations must be suitably
strengthened. There is no more important organ of the United Nations than the Security Council,
which needs to be reformed to correct some of the founding weaknesses in its composition and
powers. India has argued since 1992 that the Security Council needs democratisation in tune
with the changed realities. There is something specific to be noted here. Based on its contribution
for world peace and security, the appreciation it receives as the world’s largest and functioning
democracy, its economic performance and potential, many in India are convinced that India
deserves a permanent seat along with a few other developing countries. With only China as a
permanent member presently, Asia is grossly underrepresented, whereas Africa and Latin America
do not have any representation in the inner circle of this important organ. Although consensus on
the issue is yet to be reached, India is patiently waiting for a favourable outcome at a future date.
India believes that the cause of peace could be promoted not just through cautionary advice but
through concrete action on ground. The peacekeeping activity is the strongest symbol of that
action under the United Nations umbrella. UN peacekeepers in military uniform and also from
various civilian professions worked to cool tempers in a war-torn nation either by impartially
helping the warring armies, honour their word not to resume fighting or helping reconciliation
through implementation of a negotiated accord already signed. Among nearly 55 peacekeeping
operations the United Nations launched so far in Europe, Asia, Central America, Africa and
Europe, India is counted among top 10-15 nations contributing soldiers and civilians not to fight
wars but terminate them peacefully. As a nation we should be gratified about our contributions in
35 such operations – whether in Suez, the Congo, Cambodia, Mozambique, Haiti, Rwanda,
Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The United States sought India’s contribution in a force being
mobilised outside of the United Nations framework for restoring order in the occupied Iraq in
2003. India refused to send its troops without an explicit UN mandate.