Context: Recently, India was elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member from the Asia-Pacific category for a two-year term.

More on the news:

  • Member States elected India to the non-permanent seat of the Security Council for the term 2021-22 with overwhelming support. India got 184 out of the 192 valid votes polled.
  • India was the only candidate for the vacancy from the Asia Pacific. Its candidature for the seat was endorsed unanimously by the Asia Pacific group, which comprises 55 countries, including Pakistan and China, last year.
  • That endorsement meant that India would be a “clean slate” candidate for the elections, with an assured victory.
  • Due to the COVID-19 situation, special rules were made for voting, with diplomats submitting their ballots at pre-arranged time slots in the General Assembly hall.
  • Apart from India, Mexico, Norway and Ireland were also elected as non-permanent members.
    • Kenya and Djibouti, will face another vote as neither of them won a two-thirds majority required.

India’s history of membership at UNSC:

  • India has earlier been a non-permanent member of the Security Council in 1950-51, 1967-68, 1972-73, 1977-78, 1984-85, 1991-92, and 2011-12. 
  • For the 2011-12 term, India won 187 of 190 votes after Kazakhstan stood down from its candidacy.
  • Unlike Africa, which has formalized a system of rotation of its three seats, the Asia Pacific grouping has often seen contests for seats
    • For example, In 2018, there was a contest between the Maldives and Indonesia. 
  • Also, on the occasions, when there is a contest, the elections for non-permanent seats can go on for several rounds
    • Back in 1975, there was a contest between India and Pakistan, which went into eight rounds, with Pakistan finally winning the seat. 
    • And in 1996, India lost a contest to Japan.


United Nations Security Council (UNSC)


  • The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
  • Under the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.
  • The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression.
  • It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. 
  • In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.


  • The Security Council is made up of fifteen member states - consisting of 
    • five permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States and 
    • Ten non-permanent members elected for a two-year term by the General Assembly on a regional basis.
  • "Veto power" refers to the power of the permanent member to veto (Reject) any resolution of the Security Council.
  • Each year the General Assembly elects five non-permanent members by 2/3rd majority (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term. In accordance with the General Assembly resolution 1991 (XVIII) of 17 December 1963.
    • To be approved, a candidate must receive at least two-thirds of all votes(which is a minimum of 129 votes, if all 193 member states participate) cast for that seat, which can result in a deadlock if there are two roughly evenly matched candidates. 
    • A retiring member is not eligible for immediate re-election.
  • The 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis as follows
    • five for African and Asian States; 
    • one for Eastern European States; 
    • two for the Latin American and Caribbean States;
    • two for Western European and other States.
  • Elections for terms beginning in even-numbered years select two African members, and one each within Eastern Europe, the Asia Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. 
  • Terms beginning in odd-numbered years consist of two Western European and Other members, and one each from Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Functions and powers 

  • to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
  • to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
  • to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
  • to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
  • to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
  • to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
  • to take military action against an aggressor;
  • to recommend the admission of new Members;
  • to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in "strategic areas";
  • to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.


What will be India’s objective during the tenure?

  • India’s overall objective during this tenure in the UN Security Council will be the achievement of N.O.R.M.S: a New Orientation for a Reformed Multilateral System.
    • India will highlight international terrorism, United Nations reforms and Security Council expansion, streamlining the world body’s peacekeeping operations and technology initiatives.
  • India will work with all member countries to promote global peace, security, resilience, and equity.
  • India would also demand transparency in mandates for UN peacekeeping missions and push for the India-led Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Way ahead

  • Achieving the objectives would depend on how India will conduct diplomacy in the global body, build alliances and raise issues that go beyond the interests of the big five permanent members.
  • Need of strengthening multilateralism and multilateral institutions
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has already shaken up the global order and sharpened the rivalry between the U.S. and China
    • It has also opened up fresh debates on strengthening multilateralism and multilateral institutions.
  • The UNSC is one of the most important multilateral decision-making bodies where the contours of global geopolitics are often drawn. However, India should avoid the temptation of taking sides at a time when the Security Council is getting more and more polarised.

To serve its interests and push for its agenda of multilateralism and reforms, India should adopt value-based positions that are not transactional, aspire for the leadership of the non-permanent members of the Council, and be the voice of the weaker nations.