France backs India for seat on UN Security Council

Vol 4, PW 6 (26 Apr 00) People & Policy

Mixing business with international politics can be a lethal combination, but to succeed in India it could help if you support Delhi's claim for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

It is an issue close to the heart of prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believes India has for too long been denied its rightful place among the community of nations. Behind the scenes, Delhi is lobbying Western governments to listen.

Nowhere has the message been understood more clearly than in France. On 17th April, President Jacques Chirac, speaking at a banquet in Paris to honour the visiting Indian president Dr KR Narayanan, pledged France's unconditional support.

"India is naturally destined to become a member of the United Nations Security Council," said Chirac, "France will support your candidature." It would be wishful thinking to presume that Chirac's endorsement will hasten approval of French projects in India, but it clearly won't do them any harm. By contrast, British foreign minister Robin Cook, on a visit to Delhi this month, gave only qualified support to India's position.

Equally vague is the United States. London and Washington fear alienating Pakistan, which is alarmed at the prospect of India acquiring veto powers at the UN.

On 22nd April, Pakistani foreign minister Abdul Sattar called an unprecedented press conference in Islamabad to denounce India's bid. Pakistan is clearly worried, and that bodes ill for stability in the region.