Global peacekeeping role: Brave forces march ahead

Updated 26 January 2014
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Global peacekeeping role: Brave forces march ahead

AS one of the founding members of the UN, India’s contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security has been second to none.
In no other field of activity has this been manifested more than in UN operations commencing with our participation in the operations in Korea in 1950.
The operation in Korea, led by the US, was a major military undertaking. India participated militarily with a medical unit and later provided a Custodian Force for the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission.
India also contributed significantly to the Indo-China Supervisory Commission deployed in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam from 1954 to 1970.
The use of armed military contingents was first authorised by the Security Council for deployment with the UN Emergency Force (UNEF 1) in the Gaza Strip and the Sinai after the Arab-Israeli war in 1956.
From Nov. 15, 1956 to May 19, 1967, eleven infantry battalions from India successively served with this force.
The success of UNEF-1 led the Security Council to readily accept a request by the Congo in 1960 for intervention on attaining independence from Belgium.
The UN accepted responsibility for ending secession and re-unifying the country. The rules of engagement were modified to cater for use of force in defence of the mandate, in carrying out humanitarian tasks, and in countering mercenaries. India’s contribution to this operation (ONUC) was not only substantial, but most vital.
Between 14 July 1960 and 30 June 1964, two successive Indian brigades participated. 36 Indian personnel lost their lives in the operation, and 124 were wounded.
(The operations in Cyprus, launched in 1964, saw three Indian force commanders; Lt. Gen. PS Gyani, Gen. KS Thimayya, who died in harness on Dec. 18, 1965, and Maj. Gen. Diwan Prem Chand. Major Gen. (later Lt. Gen.) Prem Chand also distinguished himself as the force commander in the operations in Namibia in 1989, which oversaw that country’s transition to independence.)
With the increased commitment in peacekeeping assumed by the UN in the post Cold War era, India continued to provide commanders, armed military contingents, military observers, and staff officers, as also Indian Air Force attack and utility helicopters, to many of the UN missions deployed to keep the peace in various parts of the world. In Iran and Iraq in 1988/90 after the bloody conflict in the region; on the Iraqi-Kuwait border after the Gulf War in 1991; Angola in 1989/91, and again in 1995/99; Central America in 1990/92; El Salvador in 1991; Liberia in 1993; Rwanda in 1994/96; Sierra Leone in 1998/2001; Lebanon from 1998 to date; Ethiopia-Eritrea in 2001/2009; the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1999 to date; Cote d’Ivoire from 2003 to date, Burundi in 2003/2006; Sudan/South Sudan from 2005 to date, and the Golan Heights from 2006 to date. India has also provided police personnel to a number of UN missions.
As in Namibia, Western Sahara, Cambodia, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Congo, Liberia (where it has created history by providing all-women formed police units that has drawn acclaim locally as well as internationally) and in Sudan/South Sudan. In so far as the former Yugoslavia was concerned, the Government of India had, at the request of the then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali, deputed the author as the first Force Commander and Head of Mission, in which capacity I set up the operation (UNPROFOR) that comprised uniformed personnel from 36 countries, together with civil affairs and administrative personnel from many more (a total of over 28,000), and ran it from March 3, 1992 to March 2, 1993.
The current deployment of 7,864 personnel as on 31 October 2013 reflects the commitment of troops, military observers and staff officers and civilian police from India in nine of the 15 current UN operations. (Which includes 4038 personnel with MONUSCO in the Congo, 2030 personnel with UNMISS in Southern Sudan, 895 military personnel with UNIFIL in Lebanon; and a contingent of 193 personnel with UNDOF in the Golan Heights. In addition, military observers and/or civilian police personnel are deployed with UNFICYP in Cyprus, UNOCI in Cote d’Ivoire, and MINUSTAH in Haiti).
India has provided 11 force commanders and five deputy commanders to date, and three military advisers at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations including the first one Maj. Gen. I J Rikhye; later Lt. Gen. RS Mehta, and most recently, Lt. Gen. Guha. The country has also provided two Police advisers at the UN HQ in R.S. Rathore and Kiran Bedi.

India’s spontaneous and unreserved participation in UN peacekeeping operations over the years has been a clear demonstration of the country’s commitment to the objectives set out in the UN Charter. Not in terms of rhetoric and symbolism, but in real and practical terms, even to the extent of accepting casualties to personnel (about 150 fatalities to date). This commitment has been acknowledged by the international community, successive Secretaries General and the United Nations Secretariat. But even more significantly, the effectiveness of such participation and commitment to United Nations peacekeeping efforts has drawn respect and praise from fellow professionals of other countries and many others that have served jointly with our commanders, observers, police monitors and contingents, in various parts of the world. Hence, the image of the Indian forces in the international arena is that of highly competent and well-trained professionals.
In preparing ourselves for continued participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, it would be appropriate to take stock of the changes that have taken place in the environment in which such operations are being increasingly mounted in recent years, and the manner in which they are being executed and take into account the radical changes in the nature of the peacekeeping commitment. UN peacekeepers are increasingly being sent to regions where civil-war type situations prevail; where there are no agreements, or if there are, these are rather tenuous, or broken without compunction; where the consent or cooperation of the belligerent parties cannot be relied upon; where constitutional authority does not exist in many cases, or if it does, has limited authority. In such situations, today’s peacekeepers are not only required to keep the warring parties apart to the extent they can, but are increasingly called upon to safeguard humanitarian relief operations, monitor human rights violations, assist in mine clearance, monitor state boundaries or borders, provide civilian police support, assist in rebuilding logistics infrastructure like roads, railways, bridges, and to support electoral processes. In much of this the Indian Armed Forces have practical experience based on the conduct of counter insurgency operations in some parts of our own country and thus have a marked advantage over most other forces from other parts of the world. This was more than amply demonstrated by the performance of our contingents in Cambodia, Somalia, Mozambique, Angola, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. And continues to be demonstrated by the contingents deployed in the Congo, South Sudan, and in Lebanon.
It was therefore most appropriate that in order to exploit our expertise and experience in this arena, a Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping was set up in September 2000 under the aegis of the United Service Institution of India in New Delhi, with the support of the Ministry of External Affairs of the government of India. This Centre besides overseeing the training of contingents earmarked for peacekeeping operations, has undertaken conduct of training courses for our sub-unit commanders, military observers, officers earmarked for deputation on staff appointments, and police personnel. These courses, now formally endorsed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at UN HQ, are also being attended by officers from a number of friendly foreign countries. In addition, the Centre conducts national and international seminars and conferences on the subject of peacekeeping. As it matures, the Centre will also be a repository of our experiences in United Nations peacekeeping.

— Awarded Padma Bhushan by the president of India on the occasion of Republic Day 2009 for his contributions to National Security Affairs, Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar (Retd.) is currently a "Distinguished Fellow" at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi and can be reached at [email protected]


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
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How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”