India criticises Security Council for failing to act on attacks on peacekeepers

United Nations: India has criticised the Security Council for failing to take action against those attacking its peacekeepers and warned that inaction could have "dangerous implications for the maintenance of international peace and security."

"Any lack of action by member states to penalize those who attack UN peacekeepers reflects poorly on the Security Council," Asoke Kumar Mukerji, India's Permanent Representative, told the Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations Tuesday.

"If the Security Council fails to deter such attacks, the very institution of UN peacekeeping will continue to be targeted across the world, with dangerous implications for the maintenance of international peace and security."

India is invested very heavily in the safety of peacekeepers because, as Mukerji said, it is "the single largest contributor of troops to UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs), and our active participation in 11 out of the 15 active PKOs." Currently 8,145 Indian troops, police and experts are serving in UN operations.

Several countries echoed India's positions on the safety of peacekeepers and several other issues raised by India. Thai Military Advisor Orgrob Amarachgul, speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), condemned the attacks on peacekeepers and said that perpetrators must be held accountable.

Mukerji referred to the several instances of attacks on peacekeepers mentioned in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's report to the committee and said concrete action to bring those attacking peacekeepers to justice had been taken only in Darfur in Sudan and not in the others.

Ban's report said that in the 12-months period to last December, 34 military peacekeepers were killed in attacks and 51 were wounded. In Mali alone, 27 peace-keepers were killed during that period and attacks continued with one soldier killed last month and at least eight were injured. In another operation last year, 45 peacekeepers in the observer force along the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heghts were were abducted by the Islamic State and 72 were surrounded and confined to their base.

In his wide-ranging critique of how the Security Council runs the PKOs, Mukerji warned that the changes in the mandates of UN peacekeeping operations have raised the risk to the blue-helmeted forces in its missions, while also straining its capacity to function effectively.

He said the High Level Panel set up by Ban last year to study PKOs and recommend changes should submit its report in time for the 70th UN anniversary summit in September.

Mukerji cited the case of the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the Council gave "new interventionist mandates" and reiterated New Delhi's concern. Indian troops are deployed there.

Last year, the Council expanded the PKO's mandate from protecting civilians and humanitarian workers to creating special brigades to carrying out offensive operations against militias making them take on an offensive role in a departure from the traditional defensive posture.

Amarchgul criticised the shift towards "proactive" peacekeeping which been done without proper debate or review of its legal implications.

Another area of concern, Mukerji said was requiring the peacekeeping troops to take on humanitarian and development programs. "These activities are essentially relevant to peacebuilding, and not peacekeeping," he said. The two types of activities should be segregated, he added. "It is for humanitarian and developmental actors, and not military troops."

Moroccan Ambassador Omar Hilale, who represented the Non-Aligned Movement, said the Council should draft clear, achievable mandates.

The Council's failure to solve the underlying causes of the conflicts where its forces have been sent to maintain the peace was another area of concern, according to Mukerji. "We are alarmed by the lack of any effective action by the Security Council to address the root political causes of the crisis in South Sudan," he said citing it as an example.

That 100,000 civilians are being sheltered in UN military bases, 1.9 million people are internal refugees, and 2.5 million people are exposed to famine even as "UN peacekeepers are laying down their lives to protect civilians in South Sudan," he said, "places the future of UN peacekeeping in South Sudan into serious doubt."

In the operations in Liberia, spoke of the action taken by peace-keepers, including women from India, to deal with the Ebola crisis and sought clarification on the legal implications of the Council resolution calling on all UN bodies to help the in the fight against the epidemic.

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