At the end of WWII, nations came together to help maintain world peace and decided to set up the United Nations. The Security Council (UNSC) was setup to act as a watch dog over conflicts throughout the world. The structure of the UNSC represents the geo-political realities in the aftermath of WWII. The power structures and alignments have changed significantly in the last 65 years and so the structure of the UNSC is not only archaic but exclusive in nature (existence of veto powers for the 5 permanent members). The UNSC is like a special club which allows commoners to peep in once in a while, but does not let anyone come in. Based on the history of the world in the last 6 decades, it is quite obvious that the UNSC has failed miserably as an organization to satisfy its Charter requirements. The UNSC has taken action led by one of the large powers only when its interests were at stake and only very rarely when they were not. The Kuwait issue brought about a swift reaction whereas thousands of people died in Darfur before anything substantial was done. People who want to create trouble still do so with impunity. The UNSC is like a toothless tiger, nay a toothless goat which bleats useless and ineffective resolutions at offenders. Winning a seat on the council is like being selected as an extra player on a Division IV team which has been disqualified.
In spite of this, the media and the government have been drumming this up as a “great victory” and that it will put India at the helm of world affairs. This seems like a typical reaction from the center where people think that an official position is what puts you at the "helm" rather than the ability to bring about meaningful change. Winning a seat is also more tangible to the general public than establishing a very favorable free trade contract with a country. This also allows the politicians to toot their horns, based on this seemingly important announcement. Based on media reports, there was an amount of effort put into garnering this position. There is an opportunity cost associated with this, which needs to be looked at. The foreign ministry could have utilized its resources and energy in trying to build better diplomatic relations with other countries, focus on humanitarian issues (e.g. Myanmar) and provide help in establishing economic ties with other countries with respect to R&D, training, free trade etc. It is important to know that India will become a heavyweight in the world and gain respect not by occupying useless positions in organizations, but by a vibrant and growing economy, stable and fair democratic institutions, intellectual capacity and strong relations with the world.
What is really needed is a very rational approach to foreign policy which is very pragmatic, which relies on substance and economic sense, protects India’s long term interests and does not rely on holding inconsequential positions. This will help the country turn into a big and strong, yet responsible tiger in the long run.