Thursday, 1 October 2015

International Peacekeeping | India's New Approach

  • Why in news?
    • India and the US will jointly train troops of six African nations for peacekeeping duties.
  • Status:
    • Cumulatively, India is the biggest troop contributor for these UN peacekeeping operations. Over the decades, India has sent nearly 1,80,000 peacekeepers to 44 missions. 
    • While India’s armed forces and the foreign office recognised the utility of working with America and others on international peace operations, there was little enthusiasm in the defence ministry.
      •  As a result, India’s expansive contribution to international peacekeeping seemed to have only one objective — to reinforce India’s campaign for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council
      • But over the last few years, many developing countries, especially India’s neighbours, began to contribute in a big way to UN operations. 
        • Bangladesh now has the top spot with 9,432 troops deployed in UN peace operations. 
        • India stands third with a contribution of 7,794 men and women. 
        • Pakistan is close behind India, with about 7,533 soldiers. 
        • Nepal, with 5,346 peacekeepers, is among the top 10 contributors.
        • Meanwhile, China has begun to steal a political march over India in the international discourse on peace operations. 
          • Ending its traditional wariness about international peacekeeping, China has moved quickly into the list of top 10 troop contributing countries in recent years. 
            •  Although the number of Chinese troops currently deployed is modest at 3,079, China has put peacekeeping at the centre of its defence diplomacy and made it a priority military mission for the People’s Liberation Army. 
            • These precisely have been the missing elements of India’s approach.
  • Limitations of UN-Peacekeeping 
    • Islands of success notwithstanding, UN peacekeeping is largely seen to have failed in achieving its stated aims. 
      • Lack of consensus and political direction has seen missions drag on aimlessly, as in Congo and Haiti. 
      • There are often strong disagreements between the host government and the UN over the command, control and employment of peacekeeping troops. 
      • Attacks - In Côte d’Ivoire in 2005-06, government-backed militia attacked UN personnel, leading to UN staff deployed in government-controlled territories being evacuated to The Gambia for six weeks.
      • The more significant disagreements are between countries which approve and fund UN peacekeeping missions, and those that provide troops for them. Funders blame troop contributors for the poor quality of soldiers, outmoded equipment and unwillingness to join combat under the blue flag. They also point to recent cases of sexual abuse, corruption and smuggling by peacekeepers.
      • Troop contributors — India is the leading contributor to UN forces — accuse the P-5 of choosing missions that suit their narrow national interests, and of asking troops to take needless risks. An
        • US provides just 40 of the nearly 1,20,000 soldiers and policemen in 16 UN peacekeeping missions worldwide — a number that Obama pledged to double at the summit.
          • Having emerged from two politically lacerating military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US is not willing to push its troops into any more dangerous missions abroad. But it recognises the need to tackle Islamist terrorists in Central and West Africa militarily — and is thus willing to train African peacekeepers, while urging other countries to provide more and better peacekeepers. A quarter of the $ 9 billion UN peacekeeping bill is paid by the US — but it’s still much less than the cost of sustaining an equal number of American troops.
      • The motives for troop-contributing countries are very different. Most pay lip-service to the ideals of the UN, but their interests essentially boil down to either the foreign exchange it brings to the country and troops in case of poor African and Asian countries, or strategic interest — such as China looking at commercial gain in Africa or India seeking to bolster its claim to a permanent Security Council seat. These countries are thus more interested in peacekeeping than in active combat missions.
      • To overcome this challenge, the Security Council created a Force Intervention Brigade of UN peacekeepers in Eastern Congo. While South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi contributed troops to this more active combat mission, India remains opposed to a change in the nature of UN peacekeeping.  
  • India's new approach:
    •  put peacekeeping at the centre of its defence diplomacy 
    • expand its strategic cooperation with the US, France, Japan, Australia and other partners to reshape the norms and mechanics of international peace operations. 
    • At the same time, India should also seek partnerships with its South Asian neighbours. 
      •  While the Pakistan army might be reluctant, the security forces of Bangladesh and Nepal may be more open to collaboration with India on peacekeeping, disaster management and humanitarian relief operations. 
    • The first step is to start sharing their expansive experiences in peace operations.
      Second, South Asian military and civilian policymakers on peacekeeping should be meeting in Delhi, Dhaka and Kathmandu and not just in New York
      Delhi must look beyond mere troop contribution to other critical activities, such as training, logistics and operational support. 
      • The latest agreement between India and the US on training African troops provides a good basis for this. 
    • Military cooperation with the major powers and neighbours is also important for another reason — not all peace operations today are run from the UN. India needs to develop military coalitions that can respond to crisis situations in the Indian Ocean and beyond on short order. 
  • Conclusion
    • In the end, reforming UN peace operations is only a small part of the answer to the larger questions that India must ask itself about the use of military force. Way back in the 1950s, our first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, recognised that our armed forces had duties beyond borders in discharging India’s responsibilities as a good global citizen.
      As the world today looks up to India as a net security provider, Delhi needs to recast its peacekeeping strategy by modernising its decision-making structures, expanding domestic defence capabilities, and strengthening its military diplomacy.
    • Despite its unhappiness, India has few real options today. At the turn of the century, an Indian pullout would have finished the UN peacekeeping system. Today, China is willing to commit more troops. Indonesia aims to be among the top 10 contributors. At the Obama summit, most South Asian countries said they would send more troops.
      India should perhaps assess the extent to which its contribution to UN peacekeeping missions has helped its quest for a permanent Security Council seat. And then review its commitment and, perhaps, choose missions that further its national interest — either by projecting power or by building strategic alliances.

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