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  • Stephen P. Cohen said despite Modi's overtures, China was unlikely to accept India while Pakistan was sure to raise the issue of Kashmir.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch for India’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council during his recent visit to the United States. A powerful orator, he gave world leaders a brief discourse on present-day socio-economic and political situation in the developing world. India has long maintained that giving 137 developing countries in the world just one permanent representative in the UN was untenable. The US, Britain and France have reaffirmed their support to India’s claim. But it remains to be seen whether this will translate into a seat for India.

Stephen P. Cohen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, said despite Modi's overtures, China was unlikely to accept India while Pakistan was sure to raise the issue of Kashmir. There are, however, other things that India can do to bolster its claim.

Cohen said India should shape up its regional policy and engage effectively with Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka and enter into a series of dialogues with Pakistan. “But India is so far from dialogue with Pakistan at the moment,” he said. India will also need to remember that countries with their individual equations of profit and loss with Pakistan will also be a factor.

Given India and Pakistan’s verbal and military sparring that has occurred at regular intervals, it is difficult to foresee how a dialogue will take place in the present circumstances. “The strongest approach would be a direct one (as Modi did with China), like if he goes to Pakistan,” said Cohen. “Pakistan cannot be defeated militarily because of its nuclear weapons. So dialogue seems to be the smart alternative.”

For the optimists who believe that India can make it to the UN without Pakistan’s formal nod with help from the G4, there is bad news. The resolution passed by the G4 carries little weight. As a pressure group, “the G4 works much like the Indian bandobust,” said Cohen. In his view, India’s best shot at a UN seat can come from another route. He said things might look up if India could establish its position as the regional leader by promoting cross-border cooperation, achieving higher economic standards and if it was backed by its neighbours.

But achieving these economic and political highs will require more than Modi’s political will. The question is, does Modi’s style of politics lend itself to this goal? “Modi reminds me of Ram Manohar Lohia and his politics. But the BJP, which systematically sabotaged the Congress, now has the Congress meting out the same treatment to it,” said Cohen. “This might slow or shut things down for the PM and, in turn, the steps he wishes to take to solidify India’s bid for a permanent membership in the UN.”

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