During the Cold War, India's participation in the UN was notable for its efforts to resist the imposition of superpower disputes on UN General Assembly debates and to focus international attention on the problems of economic development. In the early 1950s, India attempted unsuccessfully to help China join the UN. India's mediatory role in resolving the stalemate over prisoners of war in Korea led to the signing of the armistice ending the Korean War. India chaired the five-member Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission while the Indian Custodian Force supervised the process of interviews and repatriation that followed. The UN entrusted Indian armed forces with subsequent peace missions in the Middle East, Cyprus, and the Congo (since 1971, Zaire). India also served as chair of the three international commissions for supervision and control for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos established by the 1954 Geneva Accords on Indochina (see Peacekeeping Operations, ch. 10).
Although not a permanent member of the UN Security Council, India has been elected periodically to fill a nonpermanent seat, and during the 1991-92 period served in that capacity. In the early 1990s, New Delhi supported reform of the UN in the hope of securing a permanent seat on the Security Council. This development would recognize India's position as the second-largest population (possibly the largest in the early twenty-first century) in the world, with an economy projected by some to become the fourth largest, after China, the United States, and Japan, by 2020.
India also has served as a member of many UN bodies--including the Economic and Social Council, the Human Rights Commission, and the Disarmament Commission--and on the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In addition, India played a prominent role in articulating the economic concerns of developing countries in such UN-sponsored conferences as the triennial UN Conference on Trade and Development and the 1992 Conference on the Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
Commonwealth of Nations
India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the multinational association of Britain and its former colonies. Although Nehru initially considered withdrawal from this organization, he decided to retain membership to prevent isolation in the bipolar international system, to prevent the Commonwealth from becoming pro-Pakistan, to have access to Western economic assistance and military equipment without excessive dependence on the United States, and to convert the Commonwealth from an extension of the British Empire to a multiracial association of equal states. India actively participates in Commonwealth affairs and has found the organization a useful forum in which to voice its concerns on such matters as apartheid, race relations, and citizenship rights, as well as a source of economic assistance under the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific (Colombo Plan--see Glossary). In 1989 the Indian government under Rajiv Gandhi sponsored Pakistan's reapplication for Commonwealth membership under the civilian leadership of Benazir Bhutto. In the early 1990s, with Indian approval, Commonwealth priorities were enlarged to include the importance of democratic institutions and human rights.
Data as of September 1995