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`Character of U.N. peacekeeping has changed'

By Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI OCT. 18. India has pointed out that since U.N. peacekeeping missions in the post-cold war tend to escalate into `peace-enforcing' operations, the troop strength should be large and suitably equipped with lethal equipment such as armoured personnel carriers, attack helicopters and artillery.

The views have been expressed at a time when the U.N. has passed a resolution on a multinational force for Iraq under a unified command.

The post-cold era not only saw an increase in outside intervention but the character of U.N. missions also changed. Most of them began as peacekeeping operations but escalated to peace enforcement because they "invariably lacked the consent of both sides", noted a study providing the Indian perspective to U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Dividing U.N. peacekeeping operations into two phases — during the cold war and post cold war, it says the consent of both parties was obtained during the first phase, so peacekeeping missions were fewer, smaller and lightly armed.

In the post-cold era, not only did the number of U.N.-led interventions increased, but most of them escalated to peace enforcement. This was because they "invariably lacked the consent of both sides", noted an internal paper providing the Indian perspective to U.N. peacekeeping

The post cold war tendency of U.N. operations to become messier due to the lack of consent by the other side involved in the conflict requires a larger troops presence because a smaller detachment is generally considered weak and invites attack by the other side.

Many missions such as those in Congo, Somalia and Congo suffered escalations from peacekeeping to peace enforcement and a concomitant expansion in the size and scope of the contingent.

India had rich experience of participating in peacekeeping missions and its troops were not deterred by the difficulty of the task.

It has provided 10 force commanders and three deputy commanders and 109 Indian personnel have so far sacrificed their lives in U.N. peacekeeping operations. Indian troops were totally committed to the overall aim of U.N. missions.

India had always held the view that many instances of peacekeeping units from other countries awaiting orders from their national commanders before executing U.N. orders "needs to be discouraged''.

The main shortcoming in U.N. missions was training. Peculiar situations that could arise must be war-gamed and response options clearly laid down. But institutes to conduct such studies were rare.

Countries should emulate the Centre for U.N. Peacekeeping jointly set up in India by the Ministries of Defence and External Affairs since U.N. missions are distinct from conventional operations and need-specialised training.

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