UNITED NATIONS: India voiced serious concern over the growing IED attacks against UN peacekeepers, calling for concerted efforts to upgrade the security infrastructure and resources to help missions counter such threats.
In the last four years, of the 176 fatal casualties due to acts of violence against UN peacekeeping missions, 43 were due to Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) attacks, India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Tanmaya Lal said during an open debate in the Security Council on the collective action to improve UN peacekeeping operations.
Voicing "very serious concern" over the increasing loss of lives of UN peacekeepers due to attacks on the peacekeeping missions, Lal yesterday said that missions facing IED threats should have dedicated resources for countering such threats.
He stressed the need for concerted efforts to upgrade the security infrastructure of the camps as well as providing capabilities to ensure timely and reliable medical evacuation and casualty evacuation.
The use of helicopters with night flight capability and night retrieval operations is "absolutely essential", he said.
"To respond in a timely manner to crisis situations or accidents, force commanders should be given a direct authority for commanding such air assets in the mission," Lal said.
Lal said the Council meeting comes against the backdrop of a year which saw the highest number of fatalities among UN peacekeepers since 1994 caused due to attacks on them.
India is the largest cumulative troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, having provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 peacekeeping missions mandated over the past six decades, including 13 of the current 16 missions.
About 168 Indian personnel have laid down their lives in the life of duty, he said.
India, with its long experience in UN peacekeeping, believes that the success of UN peacekeeping should be judged by the capability of missions to sustain peace by enabling political solutions through integrated responses, Lal said.
This is, of course, the shared responsibility of the UN Secretariat, the Security Council and Troop and Police Contributing Countries, the envoy said.
Listing the growing challenges faced by UN peacekeeping, Lal said that besides the changing nature of armed conflicts themselves, there are serious chronic shortcomings of the lack of clarity of mandates, mismatch with resources available to peacekeepers, lack of consultations with troop contributing countries and lack of focus on political solutions to building and sustaining peace.
While these challenges are all well known, "a coherent approach to jointly address these continues to elude us, even as we look for shortcuts and focus narrowly only on enhancing efficiency, effecting savings, improving logistics, expanding availability of troops and their rapid deployment. We are not addressing the core issues".
On the question of mandates, he said of the 15 ongoing peacekeeping missions, six missions have 15 or more mandate components and five missions have mandate components in the range of seven to 10.
"We wonder if there is any assessment on whether such missions can do justice to all the mandated tasks within the limited resources made available," Lal said.
Several recent mandate renewals have shown again the limitations of a process that continues to be "led by a few and primarily driven" by troop numbers or respective national agendas rather than providing adequate resources for realistic mandates, the Indian envoy said.
On the issue of greater women participation in peacekeeping, Lal said the actual progress in this context still leaves a lot be desired.
According to the latest data of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the overall percentage of female UN Military Observers and Staff Officers is around eight per cent currently.
India was the first country to contribute a female Formed Police Unit to peacekeeping and is among the only 26 countries that have reached the level of 15 per cent of women Military Observers and Staff Officers, he said.
"The fact remains that most other countries are yet to reach this target," Lal added.