Nepali Times
The UN, India and Nepal


India is lobbying hard for expansion of the UN Security Council despite staunch opposition from the US and China, a move that could in turn have a bearing on its role in resolving the crisis in Nepal.

Indian diplomacy has moved into high gear with officials fanning out to world capitals to garner support for expansion being pushed by the G-4, which also includes Brazil, Japan and Germany. Indian PM Man Mohan Singh was on a state visit to Washington this week to make the case. Despite American plans to enlist India to contain China, however, Singh was not able to sway Washington from its now-is-not-the-time policy on Council expansion.

India has ASEAN endorsement and has amassed more than 100 of the 128 votes needed. Indian Minister of State for External Affairs, Rao Inderjit Singh, arrived in Kathmandu on Thursday to secure Nepal's nod. "This is the quarter finals and every vote counts," quipped one diplomat here.

The G-4's proposal is to expand the Council from 15 to 25, with six permanent and four non-permanent members. But the fact is that the G-4 are firmly opposed by some of their own neighbours. China doesn't want Japan in. Brazil doesn't have the Latin bloc, India has only Bhutan's support from South Asia and Italy doesn't want Germany.

"Nepal's vote is quite important," says a foreign policy analyst in Kathmandu, "the question is what will India give us in return?" Rao is said to be meeting King Gyanendra during his three-day stay.

The government may feel it can use the 'Security Council card' to soften the Indian stance vis-?-vis the royal takeover, and thereafter use New Delhi\'s influence on the US and UK. But the Indians seem to be sticking to their guns.

At the Oval Office on Monday morning, Prime Minister Singh and President George W Bush agreed that, "'s going to be critical for the king of Nepal to restore civil liberties." A US Embassy press release Thursday pointedly stated, "The Oval Office conversation represents the highest level American conversation on the state of democracy in Nepal, and the president and prime minister were in close agreement on the issue."

To be seen as a world player worthy of a permanent Council seat, India can't be seen to be supportive of autocratic tendencies in the region. It may also have to review its opposition to UN mediation in the Maoist conflict. New Delhi today needs Kofi Annan's goodwill, knowing he has taken a keen interest in helping Nepal resolve its conflict. Besides, there is a real danger the revolution could spread to India.

The palace and the army do not like the idea of a UN role, while in their search for a soft landing the Maoists have sought UN or international mediation.

There is heightened concern at the UN Secretariat about Nepal's crisis after the fact-finding mission by the secretary general's special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, returned from Kathmandu last week. The expansion of the royal cabinet, announced on 14 July hours after the king met Brahimi, is seen here as a retrogressive step.

Some officials say India's desire for a Council berth and its need to be seen as a regional stabilising force present a window of opportunity to lift objections to UN mediation. But that leaves the palace.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)