United Nations: In a bid to protect civilians from violence during armed conflicts, India asked UN to focus on peace-building missions rather than focusing on transitory peacemaking operations.
In his first address to the Security Council, India’s newly appointed Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said on Tuesday, “Efforts at peace building should be initiated right at the beginning and the cause of the armed conflict addressed through national reconciliation and inclusive political processes giving all sections of society a stake in peaceful co-existence.”
Speaking at a debate on protection of civilians in armed conflict, Akbaruddin said the world body should “consider disaggregating the complex multidimensional nature of the UN peacekeeping mandates, and address issues confronting protection of civilians in armed conflict situations through focused peace-building activities so that the transition to a post-conflict society can be sustainable.” Because protection of civilians is primarily a national responsibility, he said that “contribution to national capacity building rather than intervention mechanisms should be the priority.”
Invoking the heroism of Gurbachan Singh Salaria, an Indian Army captain who was killed during the UN operations in Congo during the 1960s, Akbaruddin, said however that peacekeepers have and will continue to rise to the defence of civilians when they are in danger.
“Even though the notion of ‘Protection of Civilians’ was not part of the mandate” of the UN peacekeeping operations then, Akbaruddin said, Salaria and about 45 Indian soldiers made the supreme sacrifice to protect civilians.
Salaria of the Gurkha Rifles led his company in December 1961 against the secessionist Katanga forces loyal to Moise Kapenda Tshombe, who were on a mission to encircle the UN headquarters in Elisabethville, now known as Lubumbashi. With bayonets, khukris and hand-grenades, they charged the much large force of Katanga gendarmes routing them. Tshombe, a supporter of Belgian colonialists, opposed the UN and its peacekeeping operations to restore peace in newly independent Congo.
Salaria was posthumously awarded India’s highest military honor, the Param Vir Chakra. Akbaruddin pointed out that it took the UN 35 years to recognise his sacrifice with a Dag Hammarskjold Medal.
Akbaruddin reinforced the case for the Council consulting with troop-contributing countries. “As a developing country with years of peacekeeping experience, we feel frequent and regular consultation between the Council, the Secretariat and Troop Contributing Countries will enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the Council in protecting civilians,” he added.
The lack of consultations hurts “the troop contributing countries who put their troops lives at risk in the service of the UN,” the host countries, the Council and, ultimately, the entire UN.
Last month, the Council acknowledged that the consultation process with troop contributors was flawed and called “importance of substantive, representative and meaningful exchanges.” (IANS)(Arul Lois)
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