The United Nations Organisation was conceived at London in 1941 as the successor to the League of Nations, which was perceived to have failed in its most important function, that of preventing a second world war. 26 countries at war with Germany and Japan met in Washington on 1st January 1942, where they expressed their conviction that the anarchy of international relations must be controlled. The Charter of the United Nations, as signed in 1945, set out a code of behaviour by which nations would work together to eliminate aggression, and promote economic and social security.
The central aim of the United Nations Charter is to “maintain international peace and security, and to that end, take collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression”.
In the early years of the existence of the United Nations therefore, while the use of military personnel on a large scale, and under the exact terms of the Charter, was being discussed with diminishing prospect of agreement, experiments in using them on a far Smaller scale evolved almost by accident. Small groups “of unarmed military observers” formed part of the United Nations missions in West Asia (UNTSO) and India/Pakistan in 1949. This became a regular feature of United Nations peacekeeping missions, and continues to this day, even in missions where “armed military contingents” are deployed.
It is not very widely known that there is no specific provision for “peacekeeping” in the United Nations Charter. It is an invention of the United Nations Secretary General and the Secretariat, which evolved as a non-coercive instrument of conflict control, at a time when Cold War constraints precluded the use of the more forceful steps permitted by the Charter. During the Cold War, neither of the two Super Powers was amenable to United Nations intervention against their allies or within their spheres of influence. Hence an improvisation – ‘peacekeeping without combat connotations’ – emerged.
As it evolved over the years, peacekeeping became an extraordinary art that called for “the use of the military personnel not to wage war but to prevent fighting” between belligerents. To ensure the maintenance of cease-fires, and to provide a measure of stability in an area of conflict while negotiations were conducted. To that extent, it is important to distinguish between the concept of “collective security” and peacekeeping in the international environment.
Whereas “collective security” is a punitive process designed to be carried out with some degree of discrimination, but not necessarily impartially, “peacekeeping” is politically impartial and essentially non-coercive. Hence peacekeeping was, and has always been, based on a triad of principles that give it legitimacy, as well as credibility; namely, “consent of the parties to the conflict, impartiality of the peacekeepers, and the use of force by lightly armed peacekeepers only in self-defence.”
India’s participation and its impact: UNPKF
India’s spontaneous and unreserved participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations over the years has been a clear reflection of the country’s commitment to the objectives set out in the United Nations Charter; not in terms of rhetoric and symbolism, but in real and practical terms, even to the extent of accepting casualties to personnel (130 fatalities to date). This commitment has been acknowledged by the international community, successive Secretaries General and the United Nations Secretariat.
But even more significantly, the effectiveness of such participation and commitment to United Nations peacekeeping efforts has drawn respect and praise from fellow professionals of other countries and many others that have served jointly with the Indian commanders, observers, police monitors and contingents, in various parts of the world. Hence, the image of the Indian Armed Forces and Police in the international arena is that of highly competent, professional, and well-trained forces.
It is important to emphasise that much of India’s participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations also relates to her national security interests. The country’s participation in the Korean and Cambodian operations was a reflection of her stake in the stability of East and South East Asia. Her vital interests in West Asia, both in terms of her energy requirements and historical connections, have been more than adequately reflected in her participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations undertaken in the Gaza Strip and Sinai, the Golan Heights, Iran/Iraq, Iraq/Kuwait, Lebanon and Yemen.
Her geostrategic interests in the stability and well-being of the newly emerged states of Africa have been under-scored by her contributions and participation in the operations in the Congo, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Ethiopia/Eritrea, Sudan, Burundi, and Cote d’Ivoire. It is important to record here that uniformed personnel from India have participated in every peacekeeping operation undertaken by the United Nations in Africa. Also, India possibly is the only country in the UNPKF that has deployed a dedicated Female Police Unit in Rwanda. This was for the first time that a female only police force was deployed anywhere in UN Peace keeping mission.
Another new avenue of participation of India in UN can be in the field of disaster management and humanitarian relief. India has had an extremely successful and envious record in the field of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. Whether it is the deserts of Libya or Yemen, the beaches of Sri Lanka or the mountains of Nepal; India in the last decade have perfected the art of rescue and relief. India’s efforts in evacuating its citizens from Libya and Yemen have been applauded by almost all the countries worldwide. In fact, the US, UK, Japan, Germany and scores of other countries had requested India for assistance in evacuating their citizens from war torn Yemen.
In the recent and devastating earthquake of Nepal, India’s role as a rescue and relief nation have been just brilliant. Led by the NDRF (National Disaster Response Force), the Indian contingent was on the ground within 4 hours of the quake. There has been a call for India and the NDRF to become a part of INSARAG. International Search and Rescue Advisory Group is an UN body which specializes in rescue and relief work during disasters. NDRF, which is the world’s largest dedicated rescue force, is being called upon by all quarters to be part of this UN body.
India has played a pivotal role in the UN even before her inception. It has been one of the founders fathers of the UN. India was a signatory to the UN Charter even before it was an independent nation in 1945. In the field of peacekeeping, no other country have contributed and sacrificed more than India. With their professional and well trained manpower, Indians are revered as saviours in every corner of the globe.
What the need of the hour is for India to be granted a permanent UN Security Council seat, so that it is given her rightful place in the UN and also her dues.