Answer by Ugam Kamat:
India probably has the strongest case for becoming a permanent member:
- It's the world's largest democracy with a population that will eventually eclipse that of China.
- It's part of an otherwise underrepresented region, with large unrepresented religions (Hinduism and Islam).
- It's a large financial contributor, and a major contributor of UN Peacekeeping troops.
- It frequently serves as a non-permanent (rotational) member, and usually wins the votes of almost all member states in its bids for non-permanent positions.
- It has the backing of some major players (France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States–or President Obama, anyway), a number of European, Asian, and Latin American nations, and the African Union.
- It's relatively trusted by the Muslim states, and the Security Council could probably use someone other than China that can negotiate in the Middle East.
However, there are a few obstacles:
- China – China's position on India's bid has always been…ambiguous. I think that its current position is that it's open to consideration, but not ready to approve of India's permanent membership. India-China relations are better now than they've been for some time, irrespective of the Kashmir can of worms, China's ties with Pakistan, and other issues. However, China opposes Japan's bid, which India supports, and China will likely not support India for as long as India continues to support Japan. (Confusingly worded, I know.)
- The United States – The official American policy has been, for some time, to oppose India's permanent membership on the Security Council. Apparently this is because India is not a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and possesses nuclear weapons–a source of great annoyance to the US. However, President Obama has declared support for India's bid. It's not clear what the US position is anymore, but we can be pretty sure that there will be no progress in the near future.
- Pakistan – Naturally, Pakistan opposes India's bid, and while it doesn't have as much influence in itself, it has close ties with both China and the United States (though recent events have thrown these alliances into question). Also, the very fact that India and Pakistan are embroiled in conflict that frequently appears on the Security Council agenda is an issue. (Although China is involved in more disputes, it manages to keep them off the agenda through its influence as a P5 member.)
- The structure of the Security Council itself – This is by far the biggest problem. India is already on the verge of having the verbal support of all the P5, yet there's a very slim chance that it will gain a permanent seat anytime soon. This would mean an amendment of the UN Charter, which requires a two-third vote of general members, and the support of the P5. But whatever lip service the P5 may pay to supporting India, they will likely keep tabling the issue because allowing one country to join the permanent members sets a precedent that might open a floodgate and upset the power balance. Why change things when they are comfortable the way they are (if inefficient)? Wouldn't it further legitimize the bids of other countries–Japan, Germany, Brazil, etc. all of whom seem to support each others' bids as G4 nations? The UN can't even seem to manage to raise the number of non-permanent members on the Security Council, an issue that has been on the table for sometime. How many eons will it take for them to add the first new permanent member, if ever?
India is possibly the most obvious and least controversial option to add as a permanent member, and probably long overdue for a seat. But I doubt that this seat is coming anytime soon, as no nation has ever been added as a permanent member (Russia and PRC were sort of default choices after their predecessors). Expanding the number of seats would upset the sort of knowing stalemate that exists between the current members. It would also be handing India a hell of a lot more influence in the UN than it currently has.
This was reiterated by British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama during their visit to India.
A few nations reject the concept of veto power and permanent membership altogether, and while they can't do anything about the current P5, they can sure try to block India from its power grab. Finally, the UNSC is one of the slowest moving international bodies in the world, and rather conservative and reluctant to change–it's not going to be any speedier on the issue of its own membership.
Really guys, it might happen one day, but don't hold your breath. This one's moving at a snail's pace.