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Army wants more muscle for UN missions

New Delhi, Oct. 19: India has made a case to send larger, reinforced armed contingents to the UN’s peacekeeping missions because of increasing attacks from warring parties.

More and more, an Indian military think tank has pointed out, third-party interventionists are becoming primary targets of attacks in conflicts around the world.

In the context of the US — and, now, a UN appeal — for a multinational force in Iraq, the Indian perspective is based on operational requirements. It does not debate the policy or the ethics of the UN or UN-supported military intervention.

The Indian stand has been articulated in a concept paper prepared by National Defence College, an elite institution for select senior officers equivalent to the army rank of brigadier and upwards. Officers deputed to the National Defence College are usually earmarked for command tasks for national and international security duties. The paper was circulated in a conference of defence universities from Asean countries this week

The brief for UN military missions has changed from “peacekeeping” to “peace enforcement” in the post Cold War period from 1990-1994, the paper has noted. This is because of two reasons: first, while the consent of both parties to a conflict was a given earlier, this is not the case now. Second, the UN is getting increasingly involved in intra-state and not inter-state conflicts.

Against the backdrop of mounting pressure on India despite New Delhi’s reluctance to send troops to Iraq, there is a growing consensus within the security establishment that a time will come when India will have to commit itself militarily.

Last week, the Turkish Parliament approved a government resolution to despatch troops to Iraq in aid of the Anglo-American forces. Turkey, with whom India has strong diplomatic ties and an exchange of information and understanding on the situation in West Asia, is seen as an unfriendly force in Iraq because of a history of colonialism. Desperate though the British and the Americans are to reinforce an international military presence in Iraq, Turkey gives them only cold comfort. The US-nominated Iraqi governing council, too, has voted overwhelmingly against the presence of Turkish forces in Iraq.

This is the kind of situation, India fears that can result in taking a toll on any international force of which it may be a part. India has been among the readiest to contribute troops to UN military missions even after the change in brief from “peacekeeping” to “peace enforcement”. More than 67,000 Indian personnel (from the military and central police forces) have been deployed in 37 UN missions. More than a 100 Indian personnel have been killed in line of duty for the UN.

The National Defence College has recommended that henceforth, participation in UN military missions must:

have an unambiguous mandate and take into account ground realities

lay down rules of engagement (such as when forces should or should not open fire)

be equipped appropriately (heavily) so that military asymmetry is assured

ensure interoperability, knowledge of local languages, integration of radio communication

coordinate between military, political, UN staff and police forces.

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