United Nations, Feb 17: India has called for ensuring the safety of peacekeepers deployed in UN missions in a changed and more dangerous landscape and punishing those attacking them.
India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin Tuesday raised the issue of safety of troops deployed in UN operations and said that careful planning and consultations between the Security Council and the troop-contributing countries while formulating the mandates "will go a long way in promoting safety and security of our peacekeepers".
Speaking before the Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations (PKO), he said India wanted to "strongly emphasise" that all the countries where peacekeepers are deployed "must ensure that in cases of attacks on the peacekeepers there is an effective process to prosecute, punish and penalise the perpetrators".
Atul Khare, the UN under-secretary general for field operations, also called for bringing those who kill peacekeepers to justice.
Akbaruddin reiterated the demand for the Council to consult troop-contributors, as required by the Charter, and also suggested broadening it. "All the member states have a stake in the peace process whether or not they contribute directly to these PKOs," he said. "In an inter-connected world, it is very easy for member states to be at the receiving end or at times suffer collateral damage if they are in the vicinity of areas which are unstable and prone to conflicts."
The landscape of peacekeeping operations has changed drastically and peacekeepers are facing new challenges like terrorism and intra-ethnic conflicts, Akbaruddin said.
He said India supported the recommendation made by a high level panel last year against the deploying peacekeepers in counter-terrorism operations. "However," he added, "we understand that these issues need to be viewed with flexibility in response to emerging challenges."
"As a country which has participated in 48 UN peacekeeping operations, we have contributed our share to the maintenance of international peace and security with high standards of professionalism that are troops are known for," he said. More than 180,000 Indian personnel have participated in UN peacekeeping operations so far and currently 7,798 are wearing the UN's blue helmet.
Protecting civilians in areas of conflict has emerged as one of the newer mandates of peacekeeping operations in an environment of massive disruptions of civilian life and refugee crises. Akbaruddin said that even before the adoption of the concept, "our troops have been the leadering peacekeepers protecting civilians".
In the 1960s in Congo, Capain Gurbachan Singh Salaria displayed "great courage" in protecting civilians and has been honored with a Param Vir Chakra, India's highest gallantry award, for making the supreme sacrifice, Akbaruddin recalled.
And last May, Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan protected internal refugees in Melut "against major odds", he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Krovvidi Dinakar was wounded at that time when the refugee camp Indian peacekeepers were protecting came under fire from a faction in the civil war there.
Recently, the UN has faced a crisis of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by peacekeepers. Akbaruddin said: "We have a zero tolerance policy on SEA cases and would like that there is zero tolerance on such issues across the UN too."
He added, India "is appalled by the recent cases of sexual exploitation and abuse which have surfaced in some of the UNPKOs. My delegation strongly condemns these unpardonable acts when the protector becomes the perpetrator."