As I pointed out earlier, I was asked to pitch ‘an idea to change the world’ at the Fabian Society annual conference this Saturday. The idea was about South Asia and I thought to myself: ‘what one policy would transform our relationship with South Asia (on the cheap) while stabilising the region?‘. Bear in mind, I had 2 min to present the basic idea and argue why Labour should pursue it.
So here was my pitch: Britain should unilaterally suggest that India and Pakistan both be made permanent members of the UN Security Council, with veto powers, in return for signing up to the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty.
It would be justified on the basis that India is a growing power that needs representation, while Pakistan is of vital geo-political importance and the only Muslim state with nuclear technology, and thus justifies its importance at the Security Council. Plus, the SC needs to expand anyway since it is grossly unrepresentative of the shifting balance of power.
There are several aims here:
1) To make British relations with India and Pakistan much warmer, since it is a position both countries covet.
2) To formally accept that both countries have nuclear weapons programme and its better to have them within the NPT, and have their arsenals monitored by the IEAE, rather than outside.
3) There would be less incentive for other countries like Iran to break from the NPT, since right now India/Pakistan are shining examples of countries that have refused to be part of it, developed their own arsenals and not been heavily penalised for it. It would also put pressure on Israel to join the NPT.
4) Makes war between India and Pakistan less likely given they now have much bigger status in world affairs.
5) Accession to the NPT is very important. We need a strong Pakistan which is not stand-offish with the wesrt. And we need a Pakistan which has its nuclear capabilities monitored by the IEAE rather than closed, regardless of who rules it.
I knew that it wouldn’t be a popular proposal with the Fabians, who generally hate nukes anyway. Plus I wasn’t putting forward some pie-in-the-sky idea to create world peace but basically playing realpolitik. It was like a Dragon’s Den session and I was pitching to Dennis MacShane MP, Rachel Briggs from Demos and Paul Hilder from Avaaz.org. Ed Miliband MP, cabinet minister, was chairing the session.
Anyway, after I make my proposal, the Dragons have to give their opinion. Dennis MacShane MP absolutely loved it and said I should become foreign secretary instead of David Miliband. His brother can’t offer an opinion as he’s the chair. The other two were quite sceptical because they thought Pakistan was too unstable and there is little democracy there (agreed about instability, but China/Russia have less freedom domestically). It got quite a good debate going and I was pleased with it. The audience voted it down of course.
Anyway, so yesterday Gordon Brown announces that he supports India’s entry into the UN Security Council as a permanent member. Obviously, the Indian media will now love him up. But he could have gone all the way like I told him – would have been much better. Damn these politicians who only half listen to you.
Unsurprisingly, the Times of India is already saying that if India and the UK had a “partnership of equals”, then India should be given a veto too. Never underestimate Indian pride. I told numerous people at the conference after that a seat without a veto wouldn’t get much traction in India.
Clearly, I don’t expect most of you, being idealists, to like my proposal either.
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Filed in: Current affairs,South Asia