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National Strategy Lecture - UN Peacekeeping & India's National Strategy

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  • March 04, 2011
    Speeches and Lectures

    Chair: Mr. N.S. Sisodia, Director General, IDSA

    India’s sustained contribution to UN peacekeeping apart from generating goodwill among nations has acted as one of the key factors that support India’s aspiration for playing a greater role in UN affairs. In this context, a lecture on India’s well acknowledged contribution to peacekeeping and a 2020 perspective of the same was provided by Lt Gen Satish Nambiar.

    Evolution of UN Peacekeeping: Lt Gen Nambiar began by providing a brief history of UN peacekeeping. Although Chapter VII of the UN charter provided allowance for use of military personnel from different countries in maintaining international peace and security, there was no agreement on size, location and balance of forces. As a result, its practice has evolved on an experimental basis. In fact, peacekeeping was an invention of the UN Secretariat and it is not explicitly stated anywhere in the Charter.

    Peacekeeping as a non-coercive and a politically impartial instrument has always been based on a triad of principles viz. consent of parties to the conflict, impartiality of the peacekeepers, and the use of force by lightly armed peacekeepers only in self-defence. Although peacekeepers were not deployed in many instances during the cold war, the scenario post 1989 changed in that there was a spurt in peace-keeping operations. Despite a decline in the middle of 1990s, the operations have increased in the 21st century. As of January 2011, 115 countries have been contributing about 120,000 personnel across the world. Quantitative change apart, there has been a change in the nature of conflicts; Intra-state conflicts are requiring more and more peacekeepers as compared to inter-state conflicts.

    India’s contribution and impact: India has been actively contributing to the UN peacekeeping missions since independence in different forms beginning with a medical mission in Korea. Ever since military personnel began to be deployed for peacekeeping, India has been a key contributor beginning with 1956 Arab – Israeli war. Later, India’s contribution towards ensuring peace in Congo proved vital to the country’s stability after decolonization. At present, there are 8680 Indian personnel in 9 of the 14 peace-keeping operations. India’s contribution is not only reflective of the objectives set out in the UN charter, but also has generated goodwill in different parts of the world especially in the developing world. Furthermore, it has served India’s national security interests in her near and extended neighbourhood.

    Challenges to India in the 21st Century: New and diverse threats, often vague, have begun to question our assumptions and existing mechanisms. Sovereignty is being challenged by norms such as Responsibility to Protect (R2P). India has a role to play regionally as well as globally. This role is imposed on her by sheer size, demography, capacities, military prowess and her strategic location. India should get its political, diplomatic and military acts together, and must continue to be proactive in terms of demanding greater participation in decision making.

    Demands will be placed on New Delhi to be a part of multi-national operations as this is the trend in contemporary times. There would be situations where even bilateral participation might be called for. Behavioural changes including change in style of leadership will then become necessary. In this context, there is a compelling need for a sizeable Rapid Reaction Force for the purpose of intervention, stabilization, deterrence and disaster response among others. The force should be one of tri-service corps along with a civilian component including diplomats, police personnel and human rights.

    India should continue to strengthen existing cooperative mechanisms with regional and global players. Joint working groups comprising diplomats and military personnel should be set up to interact with multi-lateral forums, and exchange knowledge and perspectives. As the mandate of peace keeping expands, India should share its expertise and experience, and play its part in realizing the core objective of the UN Charter - maintenance of international peace and security.

    Discussion: Ambassador S. K. Bhutani began the discussion by commenting that peacekeeping enabled projecting our foreign policy as in the case of Korea in the fifties. He also opined that India should continue providing training to personnel from other countries as that might prove handy in future multinational operations led by us. He recommended for better leveraging of India’s peacekeeping expertise in pursuing its national interests. Answering the Director General of IDSA Mr. Sisodia’s question of preventing genocide by UN contingent, Lt Gen Nambiar said that in such scenario, it is essentially a combat operation. In such cases, regional organizations should take up the responsibility to prevent the perception of extra-regional intervention. It is also time for Indian foreign policy establishment to resolve its own ambiguity about the notion of intervention.

    Indian policy makers and military need to think big in order to fulfil India’s aspiration of being a global power. The next two years at the UNSC will be a serious test of India’s ability to play a bigger role in world affairs. Sitting on the fence is no longer a viable option. After differentiating peace-building and peacekeeping, Lt Gen Nambiar said that India has an important role to play in peace-building with its democratic experience and developmental capacities.

    The DG of IDSA thanked Lt Gen Nambiar for a very stimulating talk and concluded that it is important to seriously consider his suggestion of creation of a Rapid Reaction Force.

    Report prepared by Dr.Sundar M.S., Research Assistant at IDSA

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