GENEVA: In a noteworthy development, India has been officially removed from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Security Council report on Children and Armed Conflict. This marks the first time since 2010 that India's name has been omitted from the report. The exclusion comes as a result of commendable measures undertaken by the Indian government to enhance the protection of children within its borders.
For over a decade, India had been consistently mentioned in the UNGA report, alongside countries such as Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and the Philippines. The mentions stemmed from allegations of armed groups recruiting and utilizing boys in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The report also raised concerns about the detainment of boys by security forces in J&K, as well as instances of children being killed or maimed by security forces, including through the use of pellets and in crossfire incidents.
In his annual 2023 report, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged and welcomed the Indian government's engagement with his special representative. This engagement played a crucial role in paving the way for India's removal from the list of countries of concern. Guterres noted the technical mission conducted by the Office of his Special Representative in July 2022, which aimed to identify areas of cooperation for child protection. Additionally, a workshop on strengthening child protection was held in Jammu and Kashmir in November 2022, organized by the Indian government in collaboration with the United Nations, demonstrating their joint commitment to the cause.
"I note the technical mission of the Office of my Special Representative in July 2022 to identify areas of cooperation for child protection, and the workshop on strengthening child protection, held in Jammu and Kashmir in November 2022 by the Government, with the participation of the United Nations," he said.
Guterres urged India to continue implementing the remaining measures identified in consultation with the Special Representative and the UN. These measures primarily focus on providing training to armed forces on child protection and prohibiting the use of lethal and non-lethal force against children. Guterres emphasized that the detention of children should only occur as a last resort and for the shortest necessary duration.
The Indian government's proactive steps in child protection were further highlighted by an inter-ministerial meeting held in November 2021. This meeting accelerated India's collaboration with the Special Representative, leading to the agreement to appoint a "national focal point" responsible for identifying priority national interventions to enhance child protection. Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani played a pivotal role in developing a roadmap for cooperation and collaboration on child protection.
Notably, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, led by Virginia Gamba, has been working closely with India for the past two years. Gamba affirmed India's commitment to prevention engagement, emphasizing the progress made by the country in this regard.
Last year, Guterres expressed concern about increasing alleged violations against children in Jammu and Kashmir, appealing to the Indian government to strengthen mechanisms for child protection. In response, India contended that the concerns raised in the 2022 report included situations that did not constitute armed conflict or pose a threat to international peace and security.
Guterres's latest report underscores that children continue to bear disproportionate consequences in armed conflicts worldwide, with a rise in the number of children affected by grave violations compared to the previous year.