India and UN Peacekeeping Operations

The UN peacekeeping operations were established in 1948 as a means to maintain peace in conflict ridden areas.  The United Nations Charter enables the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to make decisions on running peacekeeping efforts. This article explains the role of UN peacekeeping forces with respect to India’s contribution. It also explains difficulties faced by Indian troops and possible solutions to improve their situation.

Top 10 Contributor Countries

The following tables give the list of the top 10 contributors of troops as of July 2016.

Apart from maintaining peacekeeping and security, UN peacekeepers are increasingly involved in assisting in:

  • Political processes;
  • Reforming judicial systems;
  • Preparing local police forces;
  • Disarming and reintegrating former combatants;
  • Rehabilitation of refugees

Issues with Indian Peacekeeping Forces

By providing around 7000 troops, India plays a significant role in UN Peacekeeping operations. However, a recent special investigation by the UN observed that 2200 Indian troops stationed in South Sudan suffer from lack of protective equipment. This articles describes this and other practical difficulties and lacunae in peacekeeping operations, and also suggestions for improvement and development of India’s role in UN Peacekeeping.

Further:

  • Out of 3263 total deaths in UN peacekeeping, India has suffered 157. The operation in which India suffered the most deaths ( is the ONUC – United Nations Operation in the Congo
  • Historically, India is the largest contributor to UN Peacekeeping- 180000 troops to 48 missions.

In recent times, India has offered to supply 850 more troops and three police units with a high proportion of women for UN operations.

Practical difficulties in peacekeeping operations

Low serviceability of equipment
  • Serviceability refers to the degree to which the servicing of an item can be accomplished with given resources and within a specified timeframe. In other words, how effectively and how quickly the equipment can be made ready to face wartime situations.
  • Serviceability depends on both the quality and quantity of equipment present, i.e more number of equipment will result in surplus equipment and better quality means low servicing is required.
  • According to the investigation, the Indian troops have a serviceability of basic equipment such as helmets and jackets of 60%. China have a serviceability of 120% and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka score more than India.
  • One cause is the lack of qualified domestic vendors according to army guidelines.
  • For example, the Indian army have acquired only 5000 Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJs) in 2016, compared to the 3,53,765 that were given approval in 2009. This was after 39 vendors had applied to the Request for Proposal (RFP), but were found to not meet required standards.[1]
  • These shortcomings in procurement have resulted in low amount of quality equipment being available to the troops.
Lack of adequate support
  • The peacekeeping troops have to deal with growing and well armed enemies. [2]The peacekeeping troops have had to face kidnapping, rocket and IED attacks, etc. in Northern Mali.
  • Similarly as conflict grows in other places like Congo, Darfur etc. it will be difficult for India to manage peacekeeping with its current troops.
  • In total deployed forces, the Western contribution to peacekeeping has fallen to 2% from 25% since the cold war. Also the budget for UN Peacekeeping for the fiscal year 2016-2017 is  $7.87 billion, which is less than 0.5% of world military expenditure.[3]
  • This shortage of support has to come both in terms of troops deployed and money hinders India’s efforts.
Lack of actual influence in UNSC decision making
  • The UN Security Council(UNSC) decides when and where peacekeeping efforts should take place. As India is not a permanent member of the UNSC, it does not have a say in making decisions on peacekeeping. So this results in India sending its troops to areas where
Domestic problems
  • India faces both external and internal threats to its security. These include the Naxalites, border problems with Pakistan etc.
  • It also faces security shortages to meet these threats. There is a growing sentiment in India as to why India should continue to  contribute to UN Peacekeeping efforts when it cannot handle its own problems.
  • This is best summarised by the quote from Lt. Col. A K Sharma “If India needs to flex its muscles, pretensions to which it is credited with, or our diplomacy wants to strut and do its stuff, it should be done in the immediate neighborhood where its writ is likely to run,  where it will be of some benefit to at least a portion of its citizenry. Not halfway around the world in some remote corner of Africa”.
  • This sentiment may cause budget cuts to the Indian blue helmets, especially if tensions back in India’s rise.
Lack of awareness of local culture
  • Apart from exhibiting force when necessary, the peacekeeping success also depends on the ‘soft power’ i.e being able to win over the hearts and minds of the locals. This is achieved by adapting to the values of the local communities and is also known as cultural intelligence. [4]
  • This includes knowing local customs such as language, practices etc. For example the lack of fluency in the Congolese local languages has hindered Indian peacekeeping efforts in Congo[5] .

What can be done to improve the solution?

Bigger say in UNSC peacekeeping decisions

India can contribute to peacekeeping effectively only if it’s views are considered  during decision making by the UNSC. This can be achieved by granting India a seat in the UNSC.

More funding and troops

The UN peacekeeping budget of $ 7.87 billion and total number of peacekeepers are not enough to meet today’s challenges. Greater contributions from its members in both these areas can make India’s peacekeeping efforts more effective.

Transparency

Due to the opaqueness in the UN Security Councils handling of peace operations , it is not clear how the resources are allocated in the UN. This has led to resource constraints in the UN, thus leading to issues such as lack of helmets and other protective equipment.

Implementation of a more transparent system will ensure adequate resources are allocated to the peacekeeping forces.[6]

Conclusion

India is a significant contributor to UN Peacekeeping efforts and this may rise considering the growing violence across the world. Despite the practical difficulties, Indian peacekeeping has performed well.  If the solutions can be implemented, then the impact of the Indian peacekeeping efforts will be more profound.

CSE Mains Question for Discussion / Answer Writing Practice

While keeping in focus India’s role in the UN peacekeeping operations, critically examine the practical difficulties and lacunae in peace keeping operations in current times. Make feasible suggestions for the improvement and development of India’s role in UN peacekeeping. {Source}

References

[1] http://zittara.com/2016/11/23/indian-army-gets-5000-bullet-proof-jackets-7-years-after-planning-to-procure-3-54-lakh-sets/

[2] http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/documents/HL-remarks-brookings.pdf

[3] http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/financing.shtml

[4] http://tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13533312.2016.1244485?journalCode=finp20

[5] http://thediplomat.com/2010/12/why-south-asia-loves-peacekeeping/?allpages=yes

[6] http://www.timesnow.tv/india/article/india-dismayed-at-lack-of-transparency-in-un-peace-operations/16348

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