As per this article, India was offered a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in 1955 but Jawaharlal Nehru turned it down and the seat went to China. In light of the current lobbying that India is making for a permanent seat, what prompted Nehru to turn it down?

Update: As per this news item, India did not receive any offer. So I believe the question becomes, who to believe, The Washington Post or The Hindu?

  • 1
    Note that Nehru was big on friendship with China (at least till 62), and this might have been a token of friendship.
    – apoorv020
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 20:39

3 Answers 3


China had a permanent seat since 1945

As one of the "Big Four" allies in World War II (China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the Republic of China (ROC) was one of the founding members of the United Nations. President Franklin Roosevelt had acknowledged China's war effort in World War II and stated his desire to allow China to "play its proper role in maintaining peace and prosperity" in the world, even though China was not socially influential or militarily strong1. Thus, despite opposition from other leaders, especially Winston Churchill, [3] China became a permanent member of the Security Council from its creation in 1945.

However after the Chinese Civil War, China was represented by the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the UN until 1971.

As for India being offered a seat in the UN in 1955 - I don't know how true that is but there is another reference from 2008 mentioning the same thing. I'm not sure how trustworthy that reference is though. In addition the term "offer" is very vague - it could simply mean that the US indicated support for an Indian permanent membership. If the UN had formally agreed to let India in, it would have been very big news probably requiring a vote in the General Assembly. So it's pretty much impossible that India had the choice of taking a permanent seat in the council in 1955.

If the incident (in whatever form) did happen though, then Nehru probably meant that the People's Republic of China (mainland China) should be given permanent representation in the Security Council as part of an ongoing effort at that time to improve Indo-Chinese relations.


From independent sources, I'd go with the India.com version: India never received any such offer.

The UN actually existed during WW2. This is what the group of countries allied against the Axis powers called themselves. The Security Council was the group of countries that were actually the major allies supplying large numbers of troops in the fight, and thus needed to periodically get together to coordinate grand strategic war plans. If you read Churchill's history of WWII, he mentioned that China was included in these meetings because they were actively fighting Japan (in a way, those two were the first belligerents of the war) and Roosevelt insisted they be included. I get the impression Churchill didn't share Roosevelt's view of the value of Chinese involvement. However, their relative feelings about France were essentially mirror images of this, so both France and China were put on as sort of a compromise.

This explains why votes from permanent members of the Security Council of the UN require unanimity. During the war, it would have been actively harmful to the UN alliance (which had to be maintained if they hoped to survive) for one group of members to engage in a major action the rest were dead set against.

After the war, some of these countries became enemies with each other, so there was no way they'd agree to change the rules in a way that significantly lessened their own power. This is why this little club has never really changed, and the "non-permanent" members do not get vetoes. This is also why I highly doubt there ever was (or ever will be) any real offer to add India, or anybody else.

In short, permanent membership is not a statement of your country's value or size or anything. At this point its just a historical accident.

  • 9
    Personal note: I'm not advocating the status quo here, just explaining it. It would actually make a lot of sense IMHO to take the UK and French seats and just give them a single permanent "EU" seat, and then give India a permanent seat. However, I'm sure the UK and France would be horrified at this idea. Probably China would be too, for different reasons. So I highly doubt any such thing will ever happen.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Apr 20, 2012 at 20:03
  • 2
    Besides, for a series of reasons too long to be summarized in a comment, it is unlikely that India will ever have a place at the UN SC before settling all border disputes with China and (especially) with Pakistan.
    – astabada
    Commented Dec 18, 2012 at 14:03
  • Are you saying that the UN literally existed during WW II or are you referring to the Combined Chiefs of Staff by analogy? I am not (yet) aware of usages that equate the two terms.
    – Drux
    Commented Jun 27, 2013 at 4:55
  • 2
    Sorry, but this is alternative history. There was no security council and the United Nations Organization during WWII.
    – Anixx
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 9:39
  • 2
    @Anixx There is nothing in this answer saying that UN organisation existed, though? "The UN actually existed during WW2. This is what the group of countries allied against the Axis powers called themselves." - this is correct. On the other hand, might be good to change the wording to make it obvious that there was no body calling itself Security Council at the time. Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 2:58

Late Prime Minister Nehru himself has explicitly stated in Parliament that India was not offered a permanent membership on the UN Security Council.

News item from "The Hindu" (dated September 28, 1955) - UN seat: Nehru clarifies:

Prime Minister Nehru has categorically denied any offer, formal or informal, having been received about a seat for India in the UN Security Council. He made this statement in reply to a short notice question in the Lok Sabha on September 27 by Dr. J.N. Parekh whether India had refused a seat informally offered to her in the Security Council.

The Prime Minister said: "There has been no offer, formal or informal, of this kind. Some vague references have appeared in the press about it which have no foundation in fact. The composition of the Security Council is prescribed by the UN Charter, according to which certain specified nations have permanent seats. No change or addition can be made to this without an amendment of the Charter. There is, therefore, no question of a seat being offered and India declining it. Our declared policy is to support the admission of all nations qualified for UN membership."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.