By Arul Louis
Admitting that its consultation process with countries contributing troops to peacekeeping operations was flawed, the UN Security Council has called for regular and broader consultations, a demand India has consistently pushed throughout last year. These developments cap the tenure of Asoke Kumar Mukerji, who is retiring as India’s Permanent Representative. He had waged a constant battle to get the Council to properly consult with troop-contributing countries as it issues and monitors peacekeeping mandates.
The Council recognised that the consultation process involving it, the troop contributors and the UN Secretariat “do not meet their expectations and have yet to reach their full potential,” US Permanent Representative Samantha Power, the Council President for December, said in a statement released Thursday.
“The Security Council stresses the importance of substantive, representative and meaningful exchanges and underscores the importance of full participation by the three stakeholders so that meetings are useful and productive,” Power said.
In June in one of several speeches at UN debates, on peacekeeping, Mukerji had crticised the Council saying it was “enforcing the will of a small privileged minority within the Council to look at peacekeepers as instruments to wage war.” He cited its disregard of the UN Charter requirement for tions contributing troops “to participate in the decisions” of the Council on their deployment.
“India, for example, has not been so consulted,” he said. “This despite the fact that India is the single largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations, having contributed more than 170,000 troops in 43 of the 69 peacekeeping operations mandated so far by the Council.” India currently has 7,798 personnel serving the peacekeeping operations.
In her statement released Thursday, Power called for extending the scope of the interactions between the Council, the Secretariat and the troop-contributors. “These consultations must extend beyond the issue of mandates of operations, and to areas such as safety and security of peacekeepers, strategic force generation, gender, conduct and discipline, including allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse, implementation of protection of civilian mandates, capability, performance, equipment and tiol caveat,” she said.
The US role in shepherding the commitment through the Council in the waning days of 2015 during Power’s presidency adds to its weight. With the US military capability overextended, President Barack Obama has in a break from the past shown interest in rejuveting UN peacekeeping operations. He had convened an intertiol summit on the subject in September.
The Council also recognised the troop-contributing countries’ on-the-ground expertise. Power said, “The experience and expertise of troop- and police-contributing countries in theatres of operation can greatly assist the planning of operations.”
India has stressed the importance of continuing consultations to make use of the reservoir of experiences peacekeepers have. During a recent interview with IANS, Mukerji gave an example of the situation in South Sudan where Indian peacekeepers are deployed. Rights to graze cattle sparked conflicts between groups and these escalated, he said. While the Indian troops on the ground, who had been trained professiolly to observe the conflict environment, were aware of it, the information had no avenue to reach the Council or the higher UN echelons, thus missing an opportunity to prevent the situation from escalating, he added.
Power said the Council also asked the Secretariat to consult with troop-and police-contributing countries when planning any change in military tasks, mission-specific rules of engagement, concept of operations or command and control structure or early peacebuilding that would impact personnel, equipment, training and logistics.
This meets another of the peacekeeping issue that India has raised about the Council changing mandates midway through a mission or introducing new elements that could affect the security of peacekeepers. The Council added a so-called intervention brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo where Indian peacekeepers are deployed. India fears that its troops could become vulnerable to attacks stemming from the aggressive tactics mandated for the intervention brigades.