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India should leave the United Nations

By Sukrit Sabhlok - posted Wednesday, 8 July 2020

In 1996, Senator Jesse Helms wrote a scathing critique of the United Nations in an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine. He slammed its power grabs and out of control bureaucracy leading to rising costs and offered an ultimatum: either the UN implements reform or America withdraws its support. Hardly a word of what Helms wrote then has changed in its applicability today.

India is a third world developing nation with a lower GDP per capita than Australia and with millions of malnourished citizens unable to meet basic dietary requirements. Yet it contributes about $33 million per year to the UN. On top of this, India has so far contributed more than $30 million to the United Nations Democracy Fund, while its own elections face allegations of fraud and at least one third of its national politicians face criminal charges.

In effect, the low and middle-class taxpayers of India are subsidizing the luxurious perks of UN officials who have an average salary of about $75,000 per year.


In an environment of stagnating economic growth caused by the Great Lockdown (in response to the novel coronavirus), such largesse needs serious reconsideration.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done much to enhance the living standards of Indians. Since 2014, the Heritage Foundation’s measure of economic freedom shows improvements in the ease of doing business, security of property rights and judicial effectiveness.

To bolster the gains, Modi should immediately withdraw India from the UN and redirect the funds saved toward eliminating a range of taxes that hinder investment and job creation. Studies have shown that each percentage point of rising unemployment contributes to more suicides and other health conditions and increased rates of crime.

Developed countries might be able to afford the UN, but India – which is deeply in debt due to fiscal mismanagement, with a debt to GDP ratio of nearly 70% - simply can’t.

The main counterargument, of course, is that the UN is critical for international cooperation and bringing about world peace. This, however, is a myth.

It’s true that, on paper, the United Nations exists to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. In practice however, the UN has been abused by the superpowers to carry out their own goals. This much should be obvious from the regular power struggles that go on within the organization. Various reform models have been proposed, but none are likely to institute fundamental change in the way the UN operates. Even if the UN were somehow made more democratic, the superpowers are likely to ignore international laws they find inconvenient, as they have done in the past.


If we look beyond the glossy publicity proclaiming the noble spirit of cooperation found at the UN, we find that it operates in much the same way as the Indian Parliament. Undisguised logrolling, shady backdoor deals and incestuous relationships with large multinational corporations are ever-present features.

The inevitable outcome of such machinations is that politics - not morality - wins the day when it comes to deciding where and when the UN will intervene militarily.

Most interventions have served the geo-political ambitions of the American government. President Harry Truman in 1950 committed the United States to war against North Korea, ostensibly to enforce a UN resolution. Of course, the Korean War was a collective security action in name only since Americans led the operation and made key decisions.

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About the Author

Sukrit Sabhlok is a PhD Candidate at Macquarie University Law School.

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