UN-IOR Diplomacy: Changing Geopolitical Scenarios and the Relevance of Neorealism


International relations is a global quest, but every Nation has its own theoretical orientations, preoccupations, and debates. In international relations, one of the most controversial practices is humanitarian interventions. Structural realism or neorealism is an international relations theory which indicates that power is the most important factor in this concept. The classical realist school pays close attention to the human factor in politics such as ambitions and aspirations by merging neorealism’s structural focus with traditional realism’s attention to unit attributes and interactions.

Neorealism or structural realism continues to be the most important and extensively used paradigm within the sphere of study defined as mainstream security studies. Neorealism is a consequence of traditional balance of power theories of international relations. Neoclassical realism attempts an approximate amalgamation of the two positions. The notion of legitimacy materialises in numerous guises, and the UN is considered the site for the legitimation of a particular order. Concerning the prominence of key actors and notions of classical realism and neorealism, each has its own strength and weakness in clarifying the actors in the UN system and their collaborations.

The San Francisco Charter was the foundation of the United Nations (UN) that was laid seventy seven years ago. The UN Security Council is composed of fifteen members, including five permanent member states. India had the support of four out of the five P5 nations; the US (United States of America), UK (United Kingdom), France, and Russia, in its bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council. As one of its founding members, India has held several historic and significant positions in the UN. The rise of Asian powers can be seen at present with the Indian Ocean fast emerging as a massive economic and human resource potential. In the attempts of world powers to exercise dominance and influence, the five islands in the Indian Ocean have been dominant factors.

A key feature in the external policies of Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Réunion Islands has been the synchronisation of policies with the multipolar system in the South Asian region. The Maldives is another important player in this multilateral UN organisation. India and Sri Lanka have also held the UNGA presidency in the past years. The five small island states tend to see the region through the United Nations lens. India has continuously been a solid ally of the Maldives. India has strongly backed the Maldives for the post of the UNGA presidency as a current non-permanent member of the UNSC. This is the first time that the Maldives will be holding the office of the President of the General Assembly.

India and the UN

Being among the fifty countries to sign the UN Charter on 26 June 1945, India joined the United Nations after ratifying the UN Charter. India also played a chief role in the collective adaptation of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In addition, India has participated in UN peacekeeping missions since its inception. Holding two-year terms as a non-permanent member, for the eighth time India joined the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). While assuming the presidency of the UNSC, India is set to centre its focus on three major areas: maritime security, peacekeeping, and counter-terrorism. Through its presidency, India’s agenda will be to concentrate on UN reforms for a more equitable representation of the new global order. India is steering for wide-ranging amendments at the UN Security Council. India also belongs to the G4 allies that include Brazil, Germany, and Japan who uphold each other’s bids for permanent seats in the council.

Sri Lanka in the Multilateral Framework

Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, had the distinction of serving in the UN Security Council just five years after joining the UN. In 1960, Sri Lanka contributed to the United Nations peacekeeping mission for the first time by deploying six peacekeepers to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, with thousands of men and women from the Tri-Forces and the Police deployed in missions abroad,
Sri Lanka is a member and a committed partner of the United Nations Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.

The Maldives’ UNGA Presidency

Maldives has been a strong advocate of multilateralism and international cooperation to address global challenges. Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid was elected as the 76th president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This is the first time in the history of the UN that the Maldives will hold this office. Abdulla Shahid’s election is significant given that he is the first Maldivian and the sixth person from amongst the fifty two-member Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to hold the prestigious post in the UN’s history. The Maldivian Foreign Minister’s rise to the top position in the UNGA will boost the country’s standing in global affairs, providing the opportunity to focus on issues such as climate change and sustainable development.

Mauritius, Seychelles and the UN

The new regional order currently underway offers exclusive prospects for Mauritius, Seychelles, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Réunion to establish their added value. These five island nations have key checkpoints on either ends of their borders. The United Nations Multi-Country Office for Mauritius and Seychelles is located in Port Louis. Providing a platform for common policy that consolidates the work of the UN system in a single coherent framework, Mauritius and the United Nations entered into a Strategic Partnership Framework (SPF) agreement in 2019.

In October 2020, the United Nations Global Compact launched its first regional network in Africa covering Mauritius and Seychelles. In order to support the country’s vision of an inclusive, sustainable, and high-growth economy, The United Nations Global Compact launched its first regional network in Africa covering Mauritius, Seychelles, and the other island States of the Indian Ocean Region. Two years ago, Seychelles presented its first Voluntary National Review report to the United Nations High Level Political Forum. In order to fulfil its human rights obligations, the UN has been providing capacity-building to the Seychelles’ Government.

Neorealism and the Indian Ocean Island Alliance

In the course of seven decades, UN’s diplomacy with India and its island neighbours Mauritius, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Réunion has changed extensively. The good relations the UN has with India and its five neighbouring islands could lead to further development in the mutually beneficial association in the IOR (Indian Ocean Region). The five Indian Ocean island nations’ foreign policy formulation and the relationship with the United Nations have gone through a metamorphic change.

About the Author :

Dr. Srimal Fernando has a PhD in International Affairs. He was the recipient of the prestigious O.P. Jindal Doctoral Fellowship and SAU Scholarship under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) umbrella. As a Lecturer, he focuses on comparative politics of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Dr. Fernando is an academic specialist in International Relations and an adviser on New Regional Diplomacy. He has received accolades such as the 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ in South Africa (GCA) Media Award for 2016 and the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) accolade. He is the author of ‘Politics, Economics and Connectivity: In Search of the South Asian Union.’

By Dr. Srimal Fernando