Rajeev Shukla, the Congress MP, would better stick to cricket, bollywood and petty politics.
Rajeev Shukla, Congress Rajya Sabha MP with pretensions of being a serious journalist, had attended the 63rd session of UN General Assembly in New York late last month. In a piece in the Indian Express, he puts his foot in the mouth on the issue of India’s financial contribution to the UN.
On one hand we are keen to assert our new status as an emerging superpower, on the other our contribution to the UN’s regular budget matches those of Third World countries. India contributes a mere US$9.5 million per year to the regular budget.
What surprises me even more is that we contribute a massive US$80 million per year for a large number of welfare schemes run by the UN. If we were to divert even half of this amount to the UN’s regular budget, the world would immediately start giving us our due respect. In any case, India’s participation in peacekeeping operations in many parts of the world and our huge population living in poverty together ensure that our country is ultimately a net beneficiary of UN’s budget. We receive some US$200 million a year from the UN under the World Food Program and for our participation in peacekeeping missions alone. In view of the financial and political interests at stake, I wonder why India has not voluntarily raised its obligatory contribution and at least matched China or Japan.
Countries contribute financially to the UN in two basic ways: through assessed contributions to the UN regular budget and to the budgets of the specialised agencies of the UN, and through voluntary contributions, both cash and in kind, to special UN programmes. The contributions of member states to the regular UN budget are based broadly on “capacity to pay”, which is determined every three years on the basis of the economic strength of each country (the proportion of the world-wide economy for which it accounts) with various adjustments. Thus a ceiling rate is determined and approved by the General Assembly which spells the maximum amount any country can pay for the regular budget. For the years 2007 to 2009, the ceiling for India’s share to the UN regular budget was fixed[pdf] at 0.469% . The comparable figure for the period 2004 to 2006 was 0.421%.
Focusing on the factual inaccuracies in Shukla’s contention, however, is to miss the larger point altogether. Firstly, India doesn’t have to give more to the UN budget (voluntarily or otherwise) to earn due respect from the world. If financial contribution to the UN was a barometer of world respect, Japan’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UNSC, as part of the G-4 proposal, would not have met the kind of stiff opposition it met at the UN. Japan is the second highest contributor to the UN regular budget while Germany and Brazil, other members of the G-4, are third and twelfth on the contributor’s list. It should clarify that India’s (or for that matter, any other nation’s) status as a regional or global power is not a function of its contribution to the general budget of the UN.
Secondly, New Delhi is not morally obliged to repay 200 million USD to the UN just because India receives the same amount from the UN under various developmental programmes and for UN peacekeeping missions. The payment for the UN peacekeeping assignments are for bona fide duty — services rendered by the Indian soldiers and equipment used under the flag of the UN. The UN developmental programmes are international programmes covering specific areas of concern the world over. India happens to benefit from these perchance and not as a sole targeted recipient nation.
The larger question is — Does India benefit in any significant manner by contributing more to the UN? Other than the boasting rights and a certain grandstanding, the enhanced contribution serves no worthwhile purpose for the Indian state. The bureaucracy-ridden UN is a twentieth century organisation — corrupt, redundant and inefficient — with little relevance to the world problems of the twenty-first century; the recent happenings in Sudan, Congo and Iraq are ample proof of the ineptitude and impotence of the UN. It is another matter that Indian bureaucrats and politicians still clamour for UN bodies to tackle piracy in Somalian waters, when a stand-alone mission by the Indian Navy has achieved spectacular results.
For New Delhi, that one experience of Kashmir, referred for arbitration to the UN eons ago, continues to hang as an albatross around India’s neck even today. Unlike other peacekeeping missions of recent vintage, UNMOGIP on Kashmir is funded from the regular budget of the UN. If a further squeeze on the Indian contribution to the UN could lead to the much needed demise of the UNMOGIP, New Delhi should act contrary to Shukla’s prescription and give a timely burial to the UN mission in Kashmir. Even otherwise, India has gained little from UN peacekeeping missions despite having the highest number of soldiers who have laid down their lives while serving under the UN flag.
Mr. Shukla, with his position in the world’s richest cricket body, perhaps doesn’t realise the need to properly account for and use public money. New Delhi can make better use of the amount, that Mr. Shukla proposes for the UN, by providing bilateral aid to particular countries, which furthers India’s geopolitical and economic interests. Reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and extended lines of credit to resource-rich countries of Africa have paid rich dividends to India in the recent past. Bilateral defence and security pacts — with Japan and Qatar in the recent months — have already shown the way ahead. India should focus on similar bilateral arrangements for disbursing financial aid to specific nations and forget about voluntarily increasing its contribution to the UN.
Oh yes! And Mr. Shukla should forget about funding the UN and stick to his core competence — cricket, petty politics, Page 3 parties and Bollywood.