UNITED NATIONS: In the face of increased threat to 'Blue Helmets', India has strongly underscored the need of well-trained peacekeepers in UN missions, saying that their importance cannot be overemphasised.
India's remarks came after UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday stressed on the need to make peacekeeping missions 'stronger and safer' during the 2019 United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial here.
Ministers of defence, foreign affairs and high-level officials from more than 130 member states and intergovernmental organisations gathered at the United Nations headquarters for the ministerial to discuss and generate the specialized capabilities necessary for contemporary peacekeeping, with a specific focus on performance, protection of civilians and women, peace, and security.
"India is a signatory to A4P (Action for Peacekeeping) declaration and is ready to play an active role in collectively achieving the shared commitments identified in the declaration. With an increased threat to the Blue Helmets, the importance of well-trained boots on ground cannot be overemphasized," Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Mala Dutt said at the ministerial.
He said as a responsible Troop Contributing Country, India will continue to deploy professional troops in the missions and work towards capacity building of UN missions.
Addressing the Training And Capacity Building session in the UN General Assembly hall, Dutt said since the implementation of the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System (UNPCRS), India has pledged and deployed units and enablers as required by UN.
Presently, India has committed an Infantry Battalion as a Rapidly Deployable Battalion, one Engineer and Signal Company, Force Military Police Platoon and three Formed Police Units in UNPCRS.
She noted that towards India's endeavour on 'smart pledges', the country is happy on the successful co-deployment of a Kazakhstan Contingent with Indian Battalion in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon since October 2018.
This successful venture will pave the way for a new dimension in peacekeeping deployment, wherein Troop and Police Contributing Countries (T/PCCs) with experience can contribute towards capacity building of the new T/PCCs, she added.
Guterres, during his address, said that as conflicts become more complex and high-risk, the peacekeeping operations must keep pace.
Noting that 27 UN peacekeepers were killed by violent acts in 2018, he said making these missions, stronger and safer is one of the key elements of my Action for Peacekeeping initiative, together with refocusing peacekeeping with more realistic expectations and mobilizing greater support for political solutions.
The UN chief thanked the over 150 countries that have signed the Statement of Shared Commitments so far which, among other things, encompasses advancing political solutions and improving peacekeepers' safety and security.
'We are already seeing results,' said Guterres, pointing to a 'significant reduction' last year in the number of peacekeepers killed.
The Secretary-General also highlighted some 'critical' gaps in UN missions, such as the urgent need for armoured personnel carriers and 24/7 evacuation helicopters that can operate from remote areas.
He urged the signatory countries to contribute towards this.
Guterres stressed that the UN has almost doubled the number of female staff officers and observers but more needs to be done in this regard.
"We will present a strategy to increase the numbers of female uniformed personnel to the Security Council next month, and I urge your support," he said.
The Indian additional defence secretary said India is committed towards participation of women in UN Peacekeeping missions.
"We are always prepared to exceed the targets set in this regard, as laid down in Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy," she said.
Dutt informed the high-level meeting that India has always employed its rich UN peacekeeping experience and expertise to partner with UN and other member states for training and capacity building initiatives.
India has a well established institute 'Centre for UN Peacekeeping' (CUNPK) for conducting mission specific pre-deployment training with focus on specialist topics such as 'Protection of Civilians' and 'Sexual Exploitation and Abuse'.
India also has taken initiative in training troops of member states for UN deployment, including through Mobile Training Teams.
During the meeting, participants renewed their mutual commitment to peacekeeping operations.
Ministers voiced their support of the Secretary-General's Action for Peacekeeping initiative and highlighted progress on relevant commitments in the Declaration of Shared Commitments on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.
Member States also announced specific pledges of key peacekeeping capabilities requested by the United Nations, including specialized enabling capabilities for high-risk missions, rapidly deployable units, training and capacity-building support and related partnership initiatives.