United Nations: India has expressed concern over not being given an opportunity to participate in the framing of peacekeeping mandates in the UN Security Council, saying it has a right to do so as a major troop contributor for the military missions.
Noting that the situation relating to UN Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) has deteriorated sharply over the past year, India`s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji said there is an "obvious disconnect" between the PKOs and the theatres in which they are deployed.
Participating at the annual debate of the C-34 Committee on Peacekeeping, Mukerji said it is "our right, as (a) troop contributing country", to "participate in the decisions of the Security Council concerning the employment of contingents" of Indian armed forces.
"This provision of the UN Charter has been observed more in the breach. We have not had the opportunity to openly participate in the drawing up of peacekeeping mandates in the Security Council, although the credentials and experience of India would make our views relevant to this task," he said.
India has been among the original drafters of the UN Charter, a founder member of both the League of Nations and the United Nations, and contributed more than 170,000 troops to 43 of the 68 peacekeeping missions since the inception of UN peacekeeping over 60 years ago.
Mukerji said India`s specific concerns regarding the operation of UN peacekeeping can be demonstrated on the basis of its experience as a major troop contributor to three missions - the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights in the past year.
"As one of the troop contributing countries of the original MONUSCO configuration, we were not invited by the Security Council to participate in this decision. We were therefore presented with the fait accompli of a fractured or dual mandate for the mission," he said.
"This meant that our troops, deployed and equipped in an impartial, defensive posture to monitor the Ceasefire Agreement between the DRC (Congo) and its neighbours, now co-exists with the new troops, deployed and equipped in an offensive, interventionist posture within the DRC," he said.
Mukerji also raised India`s concerns with regard to the growing threat to the integrity and effectiveness of UN peacekeeping operations from non-state actors or armed militia groups as well as the disparity between the resources and the demands of peacekeeping operations.
Troops from India have suffered seven deaths in the UN mission in South Sudan during the past nine months at the hands of armed groups.
He said India would like to know from the UN Secretary General what the UN is doing to prosecute and bring to justice those who killed Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan.
"We request the Security Council to urgently address this problem by invoking applicable international law criminalising the killing and kidnapping activities of such non-state actors or armed militia groups. If the Council fails to act, we are afraid there will be an inevitable increase of such attacks on UN peacekeepers.
This will seriously impair the effectiveness and purpose of the UN peacekeeping operations," he said.
Mukerji noted that the disconnect between peacekeeping operations and the areas in which they are deployed is mainly due to the "mixing up" of the traditional mandate of UN peacekeeping with the new mandates relating to humanitarian and governance issues within member-states.
"What is even more disturbing is that fundamental changes in the way the United Nations uses peacekeeping are taking place without any transparency or discussion, especially with troop contributing countries."
"We therefore need to ask in this Committee as to who is responsible and accountable for making such changes, which endanger the lives of those valiant troops in far-flung places operating under the Blue Flag," he said.
Mukerji said peacekeeping operations are now being conceptualised as the "one-size-fits-all" solution to deep rooted political problems, rather than as a path to restoring international peace and security.
"The headlong rush to deploy UN peacekeepers within the sovereign territories of member states on the plea of foreign humanitarian intervention has not always resulted in achieving the objectives of such intervention," he said citing the example of South Sudan, where UN peacekeepers have been caught between elements of the civilian population of that country fighting violently against each other.
"Ironically and tragically, UN peacekeepers are now being accused of being partial by the government of that country, which is a serious allegation challenging the very core principle of UN peacekeeping," he said.
Mukerji said that "those who wield the pen seek to send those who wield the guns" into situations where political, not military, approaches are needed to maintain and sustain international peace and security.
"Otherwise, we will become the accomplices of those who want to exploit UN peacekeeping to return us to the pre-decolonisation era."
Beyond operational concerns, he said India has "unanswered questions" regarding the implications of the new interventionist mandate in terms of global humanitarian law.