January 30, 2015

India for greater female participation in UN peace efforts

Posted:Jan 30, 2015 
By Arul Louis
United Nations, Jan 31: To protect women caught in conflicts, India has called for greater female participation in UN peace efforts and a broader approach that focuses on "peacebuilding" rather than concentrating on traditional peacekeeping operations.
India's Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji told the Security Council Friday: "The participation of women in all aspects of the prevention and resolution of conflicts is an important policy measure which the Council should encourage while mandating peace operations."
Speaking in a debate on protecting civilians in armed conflict, he drew on Indian women's participation in peacekeeping operations and said, "Our experience in Liberia showed that the actual requirements for addressing issues confronting women in armed conflict were related to the concept of peacebuilding, rather than peacekeeping."
A representative of non-governmental organizations (NGO), who was invited by the Council to speak about the issues facing women, said the UN should increase the number of women staff in peacekeeping operations, in both military and police components. Ilwad Elman of the NGO Working Group On Women, Peace and Security said that when there are female peacekeepers and police, women in areas of conflict are better able to communicate their concerns about safety and request protection.
Mukerji said India was the first UN member to bring about the active participation of women in peacekeeping operations when it sent an all female police unit to the UN peacekeeping operations in Liberia in 2007. He recalled what the then-US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said of India at the Council in 2009: "They have set an example that must be repeated in UN peacekeeping missions all over the world."
India now has a total of 137 women participating in UN Peacekeeping Operations, 112 of whom are from the police and 13 are from the military. Of them 102 serve in a police contigent in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).
Setting out a strategy to deal with the problem, Mukerji said the Council should now split up "the complex multidimensional nature of its peacekeeping mandates, and focus on addressing issues confronting women in armed conflict situations through focused peacebuilding activities, so that the transition to a post-conflict society can be sustainable."
This approach would give greater scope to humanitarian and development programs and fight the exploitation of women caught in armed conflicts, he said.
The nature of armed conflicts has changed since India first contributed troops to UN operations under the traditional mandate when "keeping the peace, was the best guarantee for protection of civilians caught up in armed conflicts," he said.
"Whereas earlier, our peacekeepers were deployed to keep the peace between states," he said, "we are now witnessing a steady increase in the deployment of UN peacekeepers in situations of internal conflicts within member states."
The impact of the instability and violence in the areas of conflict due to the breakdown of government "has been felt by the most vulnerable of the civilian populations, especially women and girls," he said.
Mukerji pointedly drew attention to how the working of the Council itself has contributed to the situation. "The evident inability of the Council to address and nurture sustainable political solutions to such conflict situations" was a major reason for the "open-ended" situations of conflict and instability that took a toll on women.
India speaks authoritatively on UN peacekeeping operations as it is the single largest contributor to these missions, having sent over 180,000 troops to 43 of the 68 operations which have claimed the lives of 156 Indians.
Nearly 70 nations spoke at Friday's session because of the growing concern over the victimisation of civilians - - and women in particular - - in conflicts around the world.
"Sexual violence during armed conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law," Helen Durham, a director at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said. "It is not inevitable. It must and can be stopped. What is required is a concerted effort by everyone concerned to prevent and put an end to it."
(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in)
IANS, January 31, 2015

Jaishankar: Man to implement Modi’s foreign policy agenda

Updated:Jan 29, 2015 
By C Uday  Bhaskar

The appointment of   S. Jaishankar as the new Foreign Secretary (FS) of India and the rather unexpectedmanner in which it was announced late at night on January 28  should not come as a surprise. Delhi's grapevine had been anticipating this for some months, given that the preference of PrimeMinister (PM) Narendra Modi in the matter had been doing the rounds.  

This announcement was expected soon after the Modi visit to the US in late September but one can only conjecture that the Obama visit may have led to adelay of a few months.  Concurrently, the fact that Dr. Jaishankar was due to retire on January 31would have necessitated that the announcement be made before that date.

As for the abrupt manner in which the incumbent, Ms Sujatha Singh 's tenure was "curtailed", it's  a reflection of the Modi's style of governance where decisions are taken and implemented  with  neither past practice nor  institutional protocol  being a constraint. And neither is the abrupt change ofa serving FS unprecedented, for PM Rajiv Gandhi had 'sacked' his FS, the late A. P. Venkateswaran, in a press conference.

Dr. Jaishankar, till yesterday, the Indian ambassador to the US, is undoubtedly an accomplished diplomat and was in the running for the post in mid-2013. However, considerations of seniority and the decision taken by the UPA government led to Ms Singh being appointed as the FS with a two year term.

At the time Jaishankar was the ambassador to Beijing and later moved to Washington DC andhit the ground running as he had to deal with the fallout of the arrest, and what India saw as humiliation, of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade over the immigration status of her housemaid from India.  The new FS's careerprofile is distinctive and is amongthe very few Indian diplomats to have such a wide spectrum and of domain expertise.  A Ph.D in international relations with a nuclear specialization, he has dealtwith the former USSR and later served in the US, apart from being an ambassador in Eastern Europe and ASEAN before moving to Beijing and then Washington DC.

A key official in the India-US civil nuclear agreement of 2005, it is a measure of his  contribution,  that  even as High Commissioner in Singapore, he was often consulted by South Block to  participate in the negotiations. Credited with  managing the India-China relationship  adroitly  even when incidents such as the Depsang  incursion  tested the resilience of the bilateral relationship, he was able to  bring about a radical change in the India–US relationship  and managed the Modi visit  in  a manner that clearly made a strong impression on  the PM .

It is understood that Modi had first noticed Dr. Jaishankar when the former was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and had visited China to further trade and investment for his state.  The PM's ability to spot talented and highly competent civil servants and place them in important positions was evidenced in Gujarat and some of the key appointments made in Delhi since May 2014 reflect a similar pattern.

A  PM taking charge of foreign policy directly is not new to India and from Nehru to Manmohan Singh, this has been differently discernible. Some have been hands-on to an excessive degree (Nehru), while others have relied on key officials (Narasimha  Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee  and Manmohan Singh). The Modi template from all accounts is going to be distinctive and the traditional organizational chart,  bureaucratic hierarchy and division of labor will be radically altered.

Creative problem-solving and innovative  policy initiatives are the Modi hallmark and   the appointment of Jaishankar will see greater synergy between the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Ministry of  External Affairs (MEA). The possibility that the new FS will gradually assume the role of ade facto National Security Adviser (NSA) with a foreign policy and strategic affairsfocus is reasonably high.  This combination is reminiscent of the UPA – I when the late J N Dixit – a former Foreign Secretary was appointed NSA by Dr. Manmohan Singh - and the later induction of M. K.Narayanan, a former Intelligence Bureau chief,  as the NSA after the sudden death of Dixit.

Modi has  an ambitious foreign policy agenda and within less than a year of assuming office he has made many confident and assertive moves on the diplomatic chessboard.  The need to have a nimble staff thatwill be able to implement what the PM has outlined and, if need be, advise him if the policy is imprudent and could adversely impact the larger national interest isthe hallmark of thehigh-calibre civil servant.  

Modi had demonstrated that after a decade plus of vacillation, the political leadership will now recognize and reward professional competence and not be constrained by the straitjacket of seniority and perpetuate post-retirement sinecure. Jaishankar's appointment is indicative of this new determination.