Friday, 22 April 2022

 My Chapter contribution in 

Net Security Provider: India’s Out-of-Area Contingency Operations

By IDSA Task Force









India is steadily emerging as a global player in the 21st Century. Its stature bestows upon it the onerous responsibility of being a harbinger of universal peace. Therefore, our participation in peacekeeping operations need not solely be governed by considerations of national interests. India needs to perform the role that is in consonance with its growing stature as an emerging power.[1]                – General JJ Singh, Former COAS




India is well recognised as an emerging power. It is set to take up a place as a great power in keeping with its growth credentials, power, size and civilisational stature. The transition to a status commensurate with its achievements can be greatly facilitated, among other factors, by India’s expanding of its peacekeeping involvement. The direction of such extension would be in conformity with India’s approach to the use of force. Its approach to international security is not to reflexively unleash violence in response to violence. Use of force is as a last resort and to be done with peacemaking and peace building being conducted alongside. Therefore, India would prefer preventive deployment to peace enforcement action. If the latter is inescapable, India’s participation, in keeping with its past practiced and policy, would be that such operations are under the UN flag.


This chapter argues for expansion in India’s peacekeeping engagement. Such engagement would require commitment across the board and not merely contributing troops that come to be seen as ‘canon fodder’ directed by other states in control of the UN. Indeed, it is in the ‘software’ – conceptual innovation - that India can and must take lead. This is in keeping with the preference for soft power as against hard power, a characteristic of its strategic culture. Its physical and material contribution is already well appreciated. India’s appropriation of the policy space is a prerequisite for its placing additional troops in harms way that an expanded commitment, including in peace enforcement action, may entail. The proposal here of additional commitment is not to so much to privilege India’s national interest but to rejuvenate the UN in line with Charter ideals. The latter need bolstering in light of the buffeting these have received in the uni-polar moment of American unilateralism.[2]


The chapter first reviews the background both in terms of evolution of UN peacekeeping.[3] Based on the trends outlined, it discusses the desirability of the case for a deepening of India’s engagement and its feasibility in light of enabling the UN to cope with future international security challenges. It then makes out a case for a more ambitious peacekeeping program, one in keeping with India’s growing political clout, economic indices and military credentials.  


Peacekeeping in review


United Nations peacekeeping operations have ‘evolved into one of the main tools used by the international community to manage complex crises that pose a threat to international peace and security’.[4] Peacekeeping has transformed from its ‘lite’ version during the Cold War, termed ‘traditional peacekeeping’, through ‘wider peacekeeping’ in the early post Cold War years to multifunctional peacekeeping of today. The original principles that have come to be associated with traditional peacekeeping include: actual threat to international security; consent of parties; impartiality; continuing co-operation of parties; consensus of international community as reflected in the clarity of the mandate; practicability of the mandate; continuing support of the UN Security Council (UNSC); under operational control of the UN Secretary General (UNSG); and sound financial support.[5] These have continuing relevance in a period of multidimensional peacekeeping. The characteristics that have transformed peacekeeping include:[6]


  • Expanded breadth of operations: military matters; elections; human rights; national reconciliation; law and order; refugee rehabilitation; humanitarian relief; administration; economic reconstruction; co-ordination with other actors; and mine clearance.

·         Increased depth of operations: monitoring; supervision; control; conduct; technical assistance; public information.

·         Enhanced political functions of the UN: Executive (Administrative); Mediator; Guarantor.

·         Mandates under Chapter VII and the authorisation to use force.

·         The intrusive nature of operations lending of credence to non-state actors.


A contrast between the two generations of peacekeeping is drawn below:[7]


·         Latter generation operations are not limited exclusively to military mandates. They are more likely to be a response to an internal conflict.

·         There is a proliferation of actors involved that includes third party states, regional organisations, UN agencies, multilateral aid organisations, national aid agencies, the media, non-state and supra-state organisations and multinational military forces. 

·         The exponential increase in influence of the media on public opinion and thereby on decision-makers.

·         An expanded role of regional organisations is witnessed.

·         The increase in the number of concurrent missions has led to corresponding changes in the UN system, conceptually and organisationally, over the years.


After a dip in peacekeeping activism towards the late nineties, on account of setbacks in the mid nineties in Bosnia and Rwanda,[8] the UN has attempted to reengineer itself doctrinally and organisationally to professionally cope with the demands on peacekeeping. Of the 66 operations so far, there are currently 16 ongoing on four continents.[9] The expanded intent is to provide security and the political and peacebuilding support to help conflict ridden countries make the difficult, early transition from conflict to peace. The aim in addition to keeping the peace is to find and forge it by facilitating the political process, protecting civilians, assisting in the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of former combatants;[10] security sector reform to include supporting organization of elections, protecting and promoting human rights and assisting in restoring the rule of law.[11]


In case of a linear direction to peacekeeping in future, ambitious mandates envisaging enabling permissive application of force may be witnessed. This may be rendered inevitable by the violence perpetrated by parties and states at root to the threat to peace and security. The erstwhile emphasis on non-use of force except in self-defence has long past, with self-defence today including defence of the mandate of the mission, its assets and preserving civilians from violence to the extent resource available allow. UN peacekeeping operations are not an enforcement tool. However, they may use force at the tactical level, with the authorization of the Security Council, if acting in self-defence and defence of the mandate. ‘Robust’ mandates authorizing ‘use of all necessary means’ to deter forceful attempts to disrupt the political process, protect civilians under imminent threat of physical attack, and assist national authorities in maintaining law and order are considered necessary not so much from using force point of view, but deterring its use by spoilers.[12] The riders to use of force currently are: ‘a measure of last resort, be calibrated in a precise, proportional and appropriate manner, within the principle of the minimum force necessary to achieve the desired effect, while sustaining consent for the mission and its mandate.’[13] Peace enforcement action envisaged under Chapter VII is at the next higher level and reserved for multinational operations such as the US-led NATO force, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in Afghanistan.[14]


The UN has attempted to keep pace with the demands since the early nineties. Boutros Boutros Ghali’s Agenda for Peace was path breaking in this direction since it outlined the concept clearly. This was elaborated on by the Supplement.[15] But it was the ‘The Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations’, commonly referred to as the Brahimi Report after the committee’s Chair, Lakhdar Brahimi, that sweeping changes in peacekeeping were ‘conceived, planned, and executed in the wake of tragic failures in Rwanda and Srebrenica.’[16] The momentum has been kept up by the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, that set out a broad framework for collective security for the new century.[17] The Capstone doctrine, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines United Nations, followed in 2008 and the latest on the horizon is the New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping of 2009.[18] Organisationally, the setting up of the Peacebuilding Commission (2005) and the Department of Field Support (2007) have been intended for professionalization of the UN’s peacekeeping function.[19]


Towards enhancing participation


The contours of India’s relationship with the UN had been set out early by Jawaharlal Nehru, who said, ‘We adhere completely and absolutely to the principles and purpose of the United Nations Charter and that we shall try to the best of our ability, to work for the realisation of these principles and purpose.’[20] India has consequently taken part in 44 peacekeeping missions and is represented on 10 missions. The Ministry of Defence Annual Report forthrightly notes that, ‘It has demonstrated unique capacity of sustaining large troop contingents all over the globe, over prolonged periods. Known for their professionalism, compassion, equanimity and forbearance, Indian troops have been popular, effective and always in demand.’[21] Even though a formidable record in itself, it bears consideration if it can be bettered in the future.[22]




India’s policy has been to insist that peace operations be under the aegis of the UNSC so as to enhance the legitimacy and credibility of the UN system. The credibility of the UNSC as now constituted is questionable.[23] The emerging concept of the Responsibility to Protect[24] may compel the international community, represented by the UN and/or regional organisations to take forceful action as ‘last resort’. This would require UNSC reaction, but its being non-representative may make its action less than credible. India’s inclusion in a reformed UNSC will help bring in credibility. Expanding Indian commitment to peacekeeping would help with this as also enable moderating of the unilateralism of the more powerful members of the international community.[25] India’s enhancing of its role will therefore serve not only its interest in terms of taking its due place in the comity of nations, but also that of the UN. Expansion in India’s peacekeeping profile would embellish India’s case for permanent seat in the Security Council, that it would be inevitably positioned to acquire with its rising economy and sober contribution to the international community’s preoccupations ranging from climate change to managing security in Afghanistan. Its increasingly visible and assertive presence in the peacekeeping arena will help with establishing it as a credible pivot in a multipolar balance. It would be beneficial for the UN system too in that the backing of a ‘benign’ rising power would energise the instrument of peace and security that the UN’s peacekeeping innovation essentially is. This would bring the UN back into the reckoning in dealing with international peace and security, a feature that has been under pressure from the western inclination towards unilateral use of force, evident from the Iraq military venture earlier and from the questionable military assault on Libya lately.[26] The several other benefits for India include deeper links with the regional organisation being partnered and the host country; security for the Indian diaspora; and economic.


More ambitious deployments would catalyse evolution of India’s national security system, in that missions would force organisational evolution in face of demands on policy and coordination capacities. India’s military and civilian police (civpol) would be a beneficiary in that it would increase its opportunities for professional engagement and interoperability with foreign forces in possibly hostile environments. The exposure would help modernisation of its work ethic, besides being useful from remuneration point of view of individual members. That this advocacy is in accord with in-Service thinking can be seen from the statement in the doctrine:


India has an enviable record of participating in UN peacekeeping missions, having earned the respect and admiration of all parties for the impartial and professional manner in which our forces have discharged their duties. As a stable and mature democracy it is incumbent on India to continue contributing to peacekeeping efforts of the UN.’[27]




India is currently contributing as much as its fellow SAARC member states. Given its depth in quality and trained military manpower, it can stand out in a separate category by itself. This singular distinction will be useful in displaying unmistakably its power credentials. Over the past decade, India has acquired a policy and institutional capacity for managing a heightened peacekeeping commitment.[28] Even if there is a shortfall in the integration military and foreign policy domains, the deployments would force a closing of any deficit. This is as far as the supply side is concerned. As for the demand side, peacekeeping in the post cold war period has been hampered by shortage in resources in all facets: personnel, equipment, finances and logistics.[29] Therefore India’s placing of additional resources at the UN disposal will get easily absorbed in its addressing ongoing and future commitments.


Other countries do not have the resources for such a ‘surge’. The peacekeeping profile of permanent members has historically been low.[30] This may improve once the current preoccupation of the West in Afghanistan draws down by mid decade. This means middle order powers as the UK and France could rival India in providing quality troops on such missions. However, their unwillingness to place their resources under UN command and in operations that may lead to body bags returning ‘home’ makes this less likely. Other troop contributing countries (TCC), including the other South Asian states, do not have the surplus capacity. India’s contribution will be better handled since peacekeeping reforms over the past decade have made the UN more responsive.[31] Insertion of Indians into leadership and management positions will prove useful in factoring in India’s concerns, although this is mandated vide Art. 44.


However, in step with India’s growing clout, India must also increase its contribution to peacekeeping policy and decision making at the political, operational and strategic level in the UN system. Its current presence on the UN Security Council can productively be used to this end. Since the financing of the commitment would be under UN aegis as the troops would deploy for UN mandated operations, the financial factor is not a deterrent. However, if its current financial contribution can be enhanced in keeping with India’s power to pay with time, it would give India greater credibility. The yardstick of ‘who pays the piper calls the tune’ is useful to remember, particularly since India does not number among the top 10.[32]


Enhancing engagement


India’s historical contribution is too well known to detain us here. It’s record in robust peacekeeping, such as in Congo in the early sixties, Somalia in the nineties and currently in the DRC (Congo), and in politically significant missions, such as in Korea, makes India stand out in terms of quality of its peacekeeping engagement. The work of its military leaders, staff officers and military observers is yet another area that enhances its reputation.[33] This indicates that India could choose to enhance its profile in engaging with the more fraught missions. The greater the degree of difficulty, the more reliant the UN could be on India resources. The UN’s own capacity for managing such missions at its headquarters, both in New York and in the mission area, can receive an injection with Indian resources seconded for the purpose (dealt with later). This will redress the balance against Asian representation witnessed today in the make up of its senior hierarchy.[34] Additionally, given India’s wide acceptability not only in the peacekeeping domain, but also politically as a benign rising power, India can take on more politically sensitive missions. Such Indian self-selection for the challenging missions will ensure that these gain UN attention. India’s ability to deliver will be sorely tested, but this is price to pay for getting to be a power with a difference.[35]


Three hypothetical illustrations elucidate the direction India’s peacekeeping engagement could take. First is a counterfactual in the case of Libya. Although the UNSC authorised the NATO mission with intent to preserve the population of Benghazi from an apprehended atrocity, in the event, the NATO wilfully carried the mission into a terrain not countenanced by the UN: that of regime displacement. In case the UN had resources readily at hand for rapid insertion into Benghazi, it could have fulfilled a ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) obligation in a preventive deployment mode. This could have pre-empted the NATO operation.


This counterfactual suggests that such a capability if with the UN could be useful in addressing many problem areas, such as for instance, the Rwandan genocide.[36] The capability would require deployment and managing in conjunction with regional organisations,[37] in Africa in particular, lest it seem yet another version of the ‘white man’s burden’.[38] An Indian Rapid Deployment Force, of perhaps up to a brigade group strength, could prove invaluable resource in such circumstances. India also has lately acquired an integral deployment capability, both by air and sea as necessary. These forces could be used for peacekeeping in addition to their defence related primary tasks.


In the instant counterfactual case, an Indian Rapid Deployment Force could be inserted into Benghazi for protection of the population. This could well have been done with host nation consent, in that Gaddafi’s Libya could have been prevailed upon to see Indian peacekeepers as a better alternative to NATO operations. The crisis having stabilised, India’s brigade could either have been substituted with blue helmets deploying in due course, or once the two sides had arrived at a mutually agreeable internal settlement, the national authorities could have taken over security responsibility for the population of Benghazi once again. The counterfactual factors-in presence of political resolve in the Indian leadership. It is assumed that this would be the case in case of a considered strategy of enhancing India’s contribution is put in place.


The second illustration is more ambitious, but equal to India’s stature and capabilities. Take the hypothetical case of the end game in ‘AfPak’. Currently it is well recognised that a military stalemate exists. An anticipated draw down in US forces is to witness the better prepared Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) taking on the degraded Taliban. The prognostication is in continuing instability, with potential to vitiate peace and security in the region. This calls for a peacekeeping mission. Such a mission can deploy only if there is a peace to keep to begin with. In other words, if the talks reportedly on between the Taliban and their opponents are taken to their logical conclusion, then peacekeeping become thinkable.[39] The very ability to deploy a peacekeeping force would act as incentive for the talks to make progress, in that, given the more desirable alternative to civil war it could be progressed towards with greater singularity of purpose. The problem of resource scarcity combined with Afghanistan not being attractive enough for countries to volunteer troops, here is a peacekeeping vacuum that could be filled. India cannot prove responsive here unilaterally for obvious reasons. Therefore, India’s efforts to catalysing a UN peacekeeping mission could either be political or could also be military but as part of a joint force under perhaps the SAARC rubric to include Indian, Pakistani, Bangladesh and Nepal.[40] While a conventional UN mission can be brokered politically by India along with other like minded states, the latter would be a regional solution envisaged under Chapter VIII.[41] The obvious assumption is that a ceasefire and negotiations are in place, transforming the peace enforcement missions into a peacekeeping one.


The third illustration is on anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Several navies are contributing in this, including those of the P5. Indian ships have been on patrol. This international maritime commitment from a reading of the situation on-shore has portents of being a long term one. This may involve peace enforcement action in its initial phase under a multinational or regional (African Union) rubric, followed up early with transforming to a robust peacekeeping mission better executed under a UN flag. India could examine such innovations in peacekeeping and spearhead its findings. The maritime domain of peacekeeping can in this case be extended to include land based peacekeeping, since the problem has roots ashore. The current situation, in which there is an AU force in the country, even as Kenyan and Ethiopian military interventions have occurred, could be streamlined in a UN operation covering both the maritime and continental domains. India’s policy input lending tangible direction to an initiative such as this is in accord with its national interests, taken as extending from Suez to Shanghai.[42] 


The illustrations, one a counterfactual and the other two of future potentialities, indicate that India requires challenging itself in both thinking innovatively and in the delivery. Its current policy direction of the economic trajectory taking it to great power status eventually is a plausible one. However, there is a case for also enhancing and displaying its power credentials. Since its historical and cultural tradition does not look kindly on overt display of muscularity,[43] its military felicity can instead be made visible and useful in the delicate domain of peacekeeping. The pay off for the UN would be in terms of availability of quality forces for coping with the enhanced role stemming from its evolving ‘responsibility to protect’ obligation.[44] This feature could come into greater focus into the century in which the plausibility of the UN in its primary role could be severely tested.


Capability requirement


Force related


Thinking on this has already made considerable headway. One recommendation, appropriately expansive for the ambitious proposal here, has it that India could set up an Rapid Reaction Task Force (RRTF) headed by a tri-service headquarters. The land component could include an airborne brigade, a mechanised division, amphibious brigade, an air transportable infantry brigade and special forces elements, along with support elements such as aviation, engineering and logistics assets. The naval component would include transportation and logistics vessels. The air assets will be tailored to the mission, but would include invariably helicopter transportation and firepower assets.[45] The headquarters will have both integral and on call.


The RRTF will have a conventional operational role. It would only be dual tasked for peace operations. Not all these assets require creating on a clean slate. Raisings and re-designation as necessary may be required. The whole force is unlikely to be required for simultaneous deployment, but components can be assembled in brigaded groups as necessary. This caters for the argument that deployment elsewhere will degrade India’s conventional capability in face of a ‘two front’ threat. Deployment of the force or part of it would only be strategic circumstance permitting. Since it would be deployed in robust peacekeeping and peace enforcement action involving danger and violence, it’s demanding conventional role will not be impacted by a peacekeeping ethos.[46] The fact that it has a short-notice conventional role will ensure that it remains trained, flexible, equipped and, on that account, responsive. The force would be employed in operations requiring quick reaction, but could be replaced by troops, not necessarily Indian, in case there is an extended duration requirement in a UN mission. For earlier extraction that possible under bureaucratic UN procedures, India could consider extending its military support to the host country in an ‘over the horizon’ manner as part of bilateral arrangement but in accord with the UN deployment there.


The arrangement would be a welcome and essential step ahead of the standby arrangements system (SAS)[47] in furnishing the UN with an Indian strategic reserve force. Currently, India has on offer a brigade group to deploy in three to six months. This is a fair enough time frame in light of the deliberateness in procedures and processes of UN. However, conflict unfolds in real time, permitting at best a 7-10 day window for a viable preventive opportunity.[48] This can only be exploited by forces readied for the task. India’s known counter insurgency skills can prove useful in the stabilisation and peace building stage, even though the early phase may involve set piece conventional force application. India’s offer of keeping forces at such readiness levels will open up possibilities and options for the UN, the exercise of choice between which will be intimately influenced by Indian planners embedded in the UN system for the purpose. This is important within the mission from point of view of ensuring that its troops are not used as a ‘fatigue party’ for proverbial ‘dirty work’ deployed on tasks that other armies fight shy of.[49] The measure will take India beyond being a merely yet another TCC to being the most consequential one at that.


Currently India, as do many other countries, provisions a brigade group of 4500 troops under SAS to deploy in 30-90 days.[50] While this system needs to be retained, it needs supplementing by offer of a separate formation to function as an ‘on call’ UN strategic reserve, subject to India’s accord with the purpose of its use.[51] This must of course be with full support of UNSC and under its control and with consent of the host government. Such a force in order to be capable of robust peace enforcement action must have the mandate and the requisite rules of engagement. For application of airpower, the rules must specifically lay down the conditions and authority. For the force to deploy, strategic airlift available with the Air Force could be used, suitably reimbursed by the UN. The Indian Navy can perform the role of ‘presence’ if the operation is in a coastal state. Precedence exists in the naval deployment as part of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993-94.[52]


For self-protection and implementation of the mandate, the composite force must have the integral transport and mobility, mechanised assets, force multipliers, reserves, helicopter support, security, communication and observation capability, mission support systems, riot control equipment and special operations forces.[53] A special forces element would help with surveillance, liaison, rapid reaction, rescue and crisis response.[54] The equipment provided to the force must be of the highest order, to project India’s indigenous defence production capability for knock on benefits.[55] The civilian component must be catered for, to include diplomatic personnel, public relations officials, administrators for civil affairs teams, formed police units, women paramilitary contingents[56] and legal, human rights and humanitarian affairs experts. The opportunity for exercising India’s famed soft power is in the peace building stage of the mission using its non-military assets. Certain areas for stabilisation operations include military and police training, strengthening of judiciary, elections support, banking, trade institutions and technical training. These can be progressed bilaterally along side, with the enabling environment created by the deployed force in vicinity.[57] This is the policy direction reckoned by the MEA:


            India’s unique combination of being the largest democracy in the world with a strong tradition of respect for rule of law and the successful experience in post-colonial nation-state building makes it particularly relevant in the context of twenty-first century peacebuilding.[58] 


The peacekeeping doctrine anticipates such employment in its reference to ‘hybrid operations’. In this, non-UN elements ‘fill up resource deficiency’ by deploying ‘‘Quick Reaction’ and ‘Over the Horizon Force’ capabilities’ as a ‘bilateral force, a multinational force under a lead country or (under) regional and subregional organisations.’[59] The role, envisaged as a strategic reserve, is for, ‘rapid intervention before a UN force can be deployed or employed simultaneously.’[60] The force need not necessarily be ‘non UN’, as the doctrine has it. Instead, the Capstone doctrine describes these as operations, ‘in which elements from the United Nations and a regional organization are deployed as part of the same mission under joint leadership.’[61] Since it is a ‘peace operation involving the deployment of military, police or civilian personnel from two or more entities under a single structure’,[62] namely the UN, it would be in keeping with India’s policy of deploying under the UN flag.


Four options have been advanced to enhance effectiveness. The first is the coalition approach based on a lead nation backed by a secondary state; second is the subcontracting to a regional organisation; third is the ‘stand by’ force concept; and, fourth, is the politically nonviable suggestion of having a standing UN force.[63] The latest UN report acknowledges as much, stating, ‘In active conflict, multinational coalitions of forces or regional actors operating under UN Security Council mandates may be more suitable.’ The new thinking is that, ‘Successful crisis management rests on choosing the right tools’ since ‘Peacekeeping is not always the right answer.’[64] Outsourcing peace enforcement action may be an answer, as envisaged under Chapter VII, Art. 48.


The case here is for India’s expanded engagement enhancing the UN’s robust peacekeeping capacities, thereby enabling it to countenance more such missions and their better conduct. India must retain flexibility to meet future demands of a rising profile. These could include its forces operating as part of a bilateral force, as for instance with the AU brigade; deployed in conjunction with a multilateral force, such as that of the NATO; or alongside a lead nation, such as the US. India must therefore be agnostic on the manner UN undertakes to bring about a return to peace, signing up where the action is in keeping with UN ideals and its national interest. In fact, lending its growing weight for UN purposes could help bring balance back by reverting to preventive deployment and peacekeeping, away from western led intervention operations witnessed over the last decade.[65]


This is not an argument for an Indian ‘expeditionary force’ or a ‘foreign legion’. Yet, the capacity of the military staff for managing the extended engagement would require upgrading in terms of operations rooms, real time communication and protocol and procedures between the involved agencies of different ministries. The organization may require taking a hard look at the sections in the Staff Duties Directorate (SD 3) and the Military Operations Directorate (MO) concerned with peacekeeping missions. The lessons learnt from Operation Khukri, the rescue of Indian peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, may be relevant in this regard.[66]


The second edition of the peacekeeping doctrine, due five years after its first publication in 2007, could incorporate the features enabling robust peacekeeping outlined here.[67] Additionally, the HQ IDS could bring out a joint peacekeeping doctrine, in conjunction with the MEA. Since training follows doctrine, both collective and individual training would require a rethink. The CUNPK is the current nodal point in this and follows the principle of train the trainers. The Army Training Command has incorporated the generic elements into curriculum in its institutions. Its Center for Lessons Learnt (CALL) can build up a corpus of peacekeeping lessons. For instance, one lesson could be that of handling the media. Since bad, and sometimes false, news makes news, this must not be allowed to overshadow the good.[68] 


Getting the act together


Capability is not only physical. It is also about the moral. Receptivity to strategic ideas is not the forte of India’s national security system. India’s strategic gait has been likened to an elephant, arguably sure and steady, albeit somewhat slow. The advantage is that changes are incrementally absorbed, enabling stability in the system. The disadvantage is in fresh ideas requiring considerable traction to make any impression. This implies that the idea of an expanded UN commitment is unlikely to be easily appreciated, irrespective of the desirability advisedly covered at the very outset of this chapter. The gains from such a commitment would require winning the debate, in the wider strategic community and internally within the system. The former is likely since the strategic discourse is largely in favour of India raising its international profile in keeping with its growing power indices. The internal debate will require first contending with diverse impediments, not least of which is civil-military relations in which military extension is liable to be seen as expansionism at the cost of civilian policy space, which in this case would include diplomatic space. It is only with peacekeeping and military diplomacy being taken as a useful area for exertion by India, can the second step of an integrated military-diplomatic apparatus be created to materialise the policy. This would involve cross postings between military officers and diplomats in each other’s ministries and HQs. The first steps are therefore inward-outward, with the former possibly being considerably more vexed than the latter. Eventually, an ‘all of government’ approach is required since the agencies involved range from ordnance factories and contractors involved in provisioning equipment, vehicles and clothing to the military at the spear tip. Clearly, troops sent out for such duty need to be looked after, after all they are ambassadors of a kind.


Leveraging India’s UN peacekeeping forte for diplomatic purposes implies that it must command a higher profile in India’s diplomatic strategy. This would be in keeping with India’s heightened usage of military diplomacy lately. The non-military dimension of peacekeeping, involving greater civilian presence to the extent that UN personnel policies of geographical diversity allow, must be reviewed. India’s word as the leading TCC must be influential in determining UN peacekeeping profile. Its Permanent Mission of India (PMI) in New York would require additional staffing as necessary, in particular of a uniformed element. The first military officer has recently been posted-in in May 2011, indicating positive portents of the future. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has already indicated its mind thus:


During its forthcoming term on the Security Council, India’s immediate priorities will include peace and stability in its near and extended neighbourhood including Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa, counter-terrorism including the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors, and the strengthening of UN peacekeeping and peace-building efforts. India is also committed to continue working for bringing about much needed structural reform to the UN Security Council.[69]


This program will be grateful facilitated by a form of ‘public-private’ partnership in that self-selection by qualified Indians to the internship, associate expert, young professional programs etc can be encouraged through dissemination of information on opportunities by appropriate public information exertion by the ministry. Language qualified individuals can be informed of opportunities, increasing India’s presence in Francophone missions and in missions in the Arab world. In addition to the United Services Institution’s Center for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK), the other think tanks can include peacekeeping in their palate of expertise. The IDSA could take up its intent of creating a UN Center that could generate peacekeeping ideas for refining India’s engagement. The Center for Land Warfare Studies could also house a nucleus, making for effervescence in concepts and information in keeping with the heightened profile proposed here. At the regional level, the peacekeeping experience of South Asian states can be marshalled by SAARC, perhaps by the South Asian University,[70] as an area of regional cooperation that can be fruitfully progressed for benefits for the region and the UN. India can also engage in capacity building of other regional organisations and states by sending training teams and optimally expanding the facilities of the CUNPK.




The UNSC’s considerations for undertaking a new peacekeeping operation are a useful start point for India to think about participating in future missions. These include: whether a threat to international peace and security exists; whether regional arrangements are in place; whether there is a peace to keep in terms of a ceasefire or a peace process; whether clear political goals are reflected in a precise mandate; and, lastly, whether and to what extent the safety and security of United Nations personnel can be reasonably ensured.[71] India’s national interest intrinsic is only likely to increase with India’s levels of energy security needs, trade and need for access to resources. The ability or otherwise of India to spare troops in light of the security predicament in the subcontinent, both internal and external, is the second factor that would inform levels of commitment. The decision need not be overly determined by this yardstick, since India is creating surplus capacities.[72] The fact is that India does not have existential threats warranting a war readiness posture militating against sparing of troops. Post the Kargil War it can be reasonably surmised that its strategic warning capacities are of sufficiently high order for it to appreciate with greater equanimity its ability to spare troops for these tasks having great political dividend. India must therefore enhance its peacekeeping profile substantially. Challenges to such a policy initiative would not only be from within the country but also from abroad. These will range from valid arguments on strategic grounds to malicious campaigns questioning Indian motives and credibility. Facing up to this can be better done in case the policy is a stated one,[73] preferably as part of a wider enunciation of India’s national security doctrine in the future. Political ownership would be a prerequisite for successful implementation.




The evolution of UN peacekeeping from traditional inter-positioning missions, through ‘wider peacekeeping’ to multidimensional peacekeeping is too well known to recount. The UN has coped laudably in terms of increasing its institutional capacities through the last decade. However, in the same period the legitimacy of the instrument of peacekeeping has been damaged by over reliance on the application of force, at times outside UNSC mandate. Not only have multinational operations not delivered as evident from the experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, but the UN is unable to address sweltering problems as in Somalia. The problem is that the UN not having a professional force to draw on of the calibre of Western forces, the latter end up extending their core interests with or without UN cover. There is therefore a need to reclaim peacekeeping as a worthwhile tool to address international security problems. Efforts towards this end are ongoing, such as the hybrid peacekeeping mission Darfur that witnessed co-deployment of a regional organisation and the UN under the UN flag. By offering to ramp up its peacekeeping profile India can fill in the gap. This has benefit for it in terms of upgrading its profile as an internationally involved power. The benefit for the UN is in its return to the center-stage as intended by its founders, amongst which numbered pre-independent India. India can make its presence felt and protect its position at the Strategic Assessment stage as the lead troop contributor. It must stay involved beginning with the Technical Assistance Mission with the several reviews thereafter through the life of the mission.[74]  

NOTE: The comments of Lt Gen (Retd) S Nambiar, Distinguished Fellow IDSA, on an earlier draft of this chapter are gratefully acknowledged. The team would also like to thank Colonel Ram Chander Tiwari, currently serving with the HQ MONUSCO, and an anonymous military officer for their comments.


[1] General JJ Singh in the Foreword, Indian Army Doctrine for Peacekeeping Operations, Shimla: HQ ARTRAC, 2007, p. i.


[2] Thomas George Weiss, Humanitarian intervention: Ideas in action, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007, p. 134.

[3] For a useful resource on UN peacekeeping, see Background Note: United Nations Peacekeeping,

[4] Jean-Marie GuĂ©henno, ‘Foreword’ in DPKO, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines United Nations, New York: Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Department of Field Support, 2008,

[5] Charles Dobbie, Wider Peacekeeping, UK Army Field Manual, 5:2, 1994.

[6] See tabulation by S. Ratner, New Peacekeeping, London: Macmillan, 1995, p. 41. Also see Wiseman, ‘International Context’, in I. Rikhye and Skjelbaek (eds.), Peacekeeping, London: Macmillan, 1990, p. 35.

[7] Ratner, New Peacekeeping, pp. 22-24.

[8] The lessons learnt are available in the Report of the Secretary-General on the Fall of Srebrenica (Srebrenica Report, 1999) and Independent Inquiry into the Actions of the United Nations during the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda (Carlsson Report).

[9] UN website, ‘Current peacekeeping operations’,

[10] An additional two Rs have been included of late in the acronym to signify ‘Repatriation and Resettlement’ of foreign fighters.

[11] UN website, ‘What is peacekeeping?’ The mandate of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, lists no less than 45 different tasks (‘A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping’, p. 10,


[12] The Capstone doctrine states (p. 14): ‘The Security Council’s invocation of Chapter VII in these situations, in addition to denoting the legal basis for its action, can also be seen as a statement of firm political resolve and a means of reminding the parties to a conflict and the wider United Nations membership of their obligation to give effect to Security Council decisions.’

[13] ‘Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate’, ibid.

[14] The section on principles of use of force in the UN website ( defines robust peacekeeping as ‘the use of force at the tactical level with the authorization of the Security Council and consent of the host nation and/or the main parties to the conflict.’ In contrast, it states that, ‘peace enforcement does not require the consent of the main parties and may involve the use of military force at the strategic or international level, which is normally prohibited for Member States under Article 2(4) of the Charter, unless authorized by the Security Council.’

[15] Text of ‘Supplement To An Agenda For Peace: Position Paper Of The Secretary-General On The Occasion Of The Fiftieth Anniversary Of The United Nations’ is available at

[16] Sixty-fourth General Assembly Thematic Debate on Peacekeeping, The ‘Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations, Brahimi Report, 2000’ itself is available at

[17] India’s foremost peacekeeping theorist and practitioner, Lt Gen S Nambiar, currently Distinguished Fellow IDSA, served on the panel.

[19] These have room for improvement. For instance, the PMI notes: ‘Department of Field Support needs far greater internal coordination and client-orientation. It has also been our view that the Department of Field Support needs to function as a military support operation with a lean command structure. We feel that there is a need for far greater engagement of Member States on functioning of the DFS.’ Such improvement could do not only with Indian input and participation as at present but also by India impelling the change.

[20] CUNPK, ‘Indian Army and United Nations Peacekeeping Operations’, New Delhi: IHQ of MoD (Army), Information Brochure.

[21] Ministry of Defence, Annual Report 2010-11, New Delhi: Government of India, MOD, 2011, p. 29.

[22] For an excellent account of India’s peacekeeping contribution, see S Nambiar, For the Honour of India: A History of Indian Peacekeeping, New Delhi: USI, CAFHR, 2009, pp. 1-17. 

[23] Ramesh Thakur (The United Nations, Peace and Security: From Collective Security to the Responsibility to Protect, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 315) writes: ‘The UN Charter was written in another age for another world.’

[24] For a discussion of the concept, see ibid., pp. 244-263.

[25] S Nambiar, For the Honour of India, p. 13.

[26] Hands off Libya’, The Hindu, 3 June 2011.

[27] HQ ARTRAC, Indian Army Doctrine, Shimla: HQ ATRAC, 2004, p. 81

[28] The creation of the National Security Council system, post Kargil reforms such as the establishment of HQ Integrated Defence Staff, and the currently ongoing deliberations of the Naresh Chandra Task Force are instances of improvements.

[29] Michael O’Hanlon, ‘Expanding Global Military Capacity to Save Lives with Force’ in Chester Crocker et al. (eds.), Leashing the Dogs of War, Washington D.C.: USIP, 2007, p. 323.

[30] The Chinese have lately contributed largely non-combat forces for peacekeeping missions.  Japan has also made hesitant steps in contributing troops.

[31] For instance, the DPKO is, among other concerns, currently formulating a capability package for infantry units deployed in the field.

[32]Financing peacekeeping’, The number of nationals working at the policy making level also stands to go up with higher contribution as a knock-on benefit.


[33] Notable civilian contribution such as that of C Gharekhan, Shashi Tharoor and Vijay Nambiar also indicates the potential of the vast human capital at India’s disposal. 

[34] Ramesh Thakur describes this as ‘quota politics’ (The United Nations, Peace and Security, pp. 310-12), writing: ‘Senior appointments…are a mix of power politics and money politics through lobbyin by powerful and wealthy countries…’ (p. 314).

[35] While India’s stated aspiration is to provision prosperity for its people, that it would like to number among the great powers is an unarticulated but legitimate ambition.

[36] Michael O’Hanlon (‘Expanding Global Military Capacity’, pp. 319, 322) suggests a capability of 600000 troops for humanitarian intervention and stabilisation operations, with one third available for deployment. Of these, about 50000 would be from the US and the balance from other states. Such ‘expansion’ is unlikely. India can instead provide the ‘surge’ capacity to the UN in conjunction with the affected regional organisations.

[37] Regional organisations are empowered under Chapter VIII (Art. 53) of the UN Charter.

[38] The organisations that are catering for peacekeeping function include African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) (United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines United Nations, p. 85).


[39] C Gharekhan and K Inderfurth (‘What Kabul needs to hear from Bonn’, The Hindu, 5 December 2011) write: ‘Should there be peacekeeping of some sort?’.

[40] These four states consistently number among the top five contributors to UN peacekeeping. See the statistics maintained at

[41] Ali Ahmed, ‘Afghanistan: Lets try peackeeping’, Dawn blog, 19 November 2011,

[42] K Shankar Bajpai, ‘Here, There Be Dinosaurs... Cataracts, Warts And All’, Outlook, 15 August 2011. 

[43] See K Shankar Bajpai’s exposition of India’s strategic culture at the World Policy Conference Workshop on 7 October 2008,

[44] The 2005 UN World Summit adopted the norm. It requires collective action for protection of population from war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in case peaceful means prove inadequate and national authorities do not rise to the occasion. See the UN General Assembly Outcome text (p. 30) at

[45] For details, see S Nambiar, ‘International Peace Operations: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century’ in For the Honour of India, p. 532. 

[46] The UN’s Capstone doctrine, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines United Nations (p. 9), maintains: ‘It does not seek to override the national military doctrines of individual Member States participating in these operations and it does not address any military tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), which remain the prerogative of individual Member States.’ 

[47] The Brahimi Report envisaged several brigade sized forces with readiness levels of 30 days for traditional and 90 days for complex operations (

[48] Interestingly, the peacekeepers in the early period were deployed in near real time: UNEF I in one week, in Congo in three weeks, UNEF II in seventeen hours! See Brian Urquart, ‘Limits of Use of Force’, in Chester Crocker et al. (eds.), Leashing the Dogs of War, p. 271.

[49] India’s increasing presence as Force Commanders and Deputy Force Commanders is very useful, but must expand to include civilians in leadership positions in missions and in the DPKO.

[50] Doctrine for Peacekeeping Operations, pp. 38-39. Alternately, in reality, this is meant to deploy in 90 days for an urgent mission and in 180 days in a peacekeeping one.

[51] See with respect to strategic reserve, ibid., pp. 33, 39. The peacekeeping doctrine notes the AU offer of a brigade as strategic reserve (Doctrine for Peacekeeping Operations, p. 3). When deployed in Africa, Indian troops in this role can act in league with this force.

[52] MDCC, Indian Maritime Doctrine, New Delhi: IHQ of MOD (Navy), 2009, p. 112.

[53] For the capabilities required for robust peacekeeping, see A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping’, pp 21, 27..

[54] For India’s military perspective on various issues referred to here, see Doctrine for Peacekeeping Operations: consent, p. 13; robust peacekeeping, p. 15; rules of engagement, p. 23; air power, p. 23; force capabilities, p. 33; and special forces, p. 36;

[55] There is scope for improvement on this score. For instance, some vehicles with the MONUSCO have been in the mission since 2004. The condition of these can well be imagined.

[56] India’s Female Formed Police Unit of the CRPF has been deployed in Liberia since 2007.

[57] At the Bonn II conference, India has asked for a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan and promised $10 billion investment going beyond 2014, the deadline of ending of military operations by the West.

[58] PMI, ‘India and the United Nations: Peacekeeping and Peace Building’,

[59] Doctrine for Peacekeeping Operations, p. 3.

[60] Ibid.

[61] United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines United Nations, p. 83.

[62] Ibid., p. 96.

[63]  For institutional alternatives, see Paul Diehl, Peacekeeping, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1993, pp. 107-142.

[64] A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping, p. 9,

[65] Peace enforcement ‘involves the application of a range of coercive measures, including the use of military force. It requires the explicit authorization of the Security Council. It is used to restore international peace and security in situations where the Security Council has decided to act in the face of a threat to the peace, breach of the peace or act of aggression. The Council may utilize, where appropriate, regional organizations and agencies for enforcement action under its authority and in accordance with the UN Charter (UN website, ‘Peace and Security’’

[66] Khushal Thakur, ‘Thus proved in Sierra Leone Too’, Sainik Samachar,

[67] The promulgation letter by the Army Commander Army Training Command mandates a review after five years.

[68]UN peacekeepers 'traded gold and guns with Congolese rebels', The Guardian, 28 April 2008.


[69] Ministry of External Affairs, Annual Report 2010-11, New Delhi: Government of India, MEA, 2011, p. 106.

[70] The Department of International Relations, that is to come up in phase 1 by 2014, could focus on this among other aspects.

[71] United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines United Nations, p. 47.

[72] In the last two decades, India created the Rashtriya Rifles, reportedly 85000 strong. It is currently poised to raise an additional 86000 troops for the China front. These figures indicate that India has depths in manpower that can reasonably be exploited to give it an edge as a TCC without unduly compromising security. In fact, the exposure can serve as a professionally enhancing battle inoculation. 

[73] India’s policy for peacekeeping and peace building is explicated at the PMI website,

[74] Consultation with TCCs include development of the concept of operations and the elaboration of the mandate of a new operation; change in the mandate; renewal of the mandate; significant developments; security situation; termination, withdrawal or scaling down in size of the operation etc (United Nations Peacekeeping Operations Principles and Guidelines United Nations, p. 52).