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Politics & Security

UN Security Council Needs Japan and India to be Permanent Members

As the only nation to have suffered under the impact of the use of nuclear weapons, Japan’s role in the United Nations has been pivotal in helping prevent once again the outbreak of any major conflict such as the two World Wars.

Rupakjyoti Borah

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Now that India has been inducted as a non-permanent member of the UNSC (United Nations Security Council) for a two-year term, it presents a big opportunity for India to collaborate with countries like Japan.

Japan has been playing an important role in the United Nations (UN). As the only nation to have suffered under the impact of the use of nuclear weapons, Japan’s role has been pivotal in helping prevent once again the outbreak of any major conflict such as the two World Wars.

It was on December 18, 1956, that Japan became the 80th member state of the United Nations. Though its role in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations has been largely restricted by Article 9 of its post-war constitution, this has not prevented Japan from playing an important part in the international body. Moreover, it is a major financial contributor of the United Nations.

In order to contribute personnel to the UN, Japan enacted the Act on Cooperation with United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations (the International Peace Cooperation Act) in June 1992. Since then, Japan has increased its contributions to international peacekeeping efforts under the United Nations-umbrella. However, the law stipulates that Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) may participate in UN peacekeeping operations “only if a ceasefire is in place, the consent of the host country has been obtained, the operations are impartial, and the use of force is limited to self-defense.”

For a long time, Japan was the second largest contributor to the United Nations after the United States. But now China has overtaken it to become the second biggest contributor, while Japan has been pushed to the third spot. 

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to nation-building through “fostering human resources, offering utmost in humanitarian assistance and upholding women’s rights” while speaking at the UN General Assembly on September 29, 2015. It was during the 70th anniversary celebrations of the United Nations.

Areas of Cooperation

Both India and Japan have been trying to become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, along with countries like Germany and Brazil. They represent what has been dubbed as the G-4.

Japan has also been playing an increasingly greater role in the Indo-Pacific. It has dispatched the JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self Defense Force) to Djibouti, which presents another area of cooperation between India and Japan in the Indian Ocean region. 

The Indian Navy has a huge presence in this region. In addition, the Andaman and Nicobar islands represent a huge advantage for India and also for Japan, given that the two nations have already signed the ACSA(Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement).

In addition, there are also other areas where Japan and India can work together, including anti-terror cooperation. Anti-terror cooperation would also be important in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which Japan is scheduled to hold later this year.

It is worth noting here that cooperation between India and Japan has been increasing at all levels. India is one of the biggest contributors of peacekeeping troops under the United Nations umbrella, and hence there is a lot for Japan to learn from India’s experience. It is also important for the two to pool their efforts, given the fact that China’s power and importance has been growing in the United Nations.

Areas of Divergence

There may be some areas of divergence between India and Japan with regards to cooperation in the UN, especially given Japan’s constitutional limits. In addition, while Japan is a part of an alliance with the United States, India has always insisted on contributing troops under the United Nations flag only.

Japan is expected to maintain its proactive role in the United Nations under the Suga Administration, especially as the focus on a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” continues. It has been more than 75 years since the United Nations was first set up, and hence there is an urgent need for its reform to address current day realities. On the other hand, India has been making its case for permanent membership of the United Nations. India has the second largest population in the world and is a fast-growing economy.

It is very clear that as in other areas, cooperation between Japan and India is only going to increase through their participation in international organizations like the United Nations. 

Author: Dr. Rupakjyoti Borah

Dr. Borah is a Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, Tokyo. His forthcoming book is The Strategic Relations between India, the United States and Japan in the Indo-Pacific: When Three is Not a Crowd. He has also authored two other books. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge, the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), Japan and the Australian National University. The views expressed here are personal. Twitter @rupakj

Dr. Rupakjyoti Borah is a Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, Tokyo. His forthcoming book is The Strategic Relations between India, the United States and Japan in the Indo-Pacific: When Three is Not a Crowd. He has also authored two other books. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge, the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), Japan and the Australian National University. The views expressed here are personal.