Lt Gen (Ret) Satish Nambiar on BBC HardTalk

Gen Nambiar was the first force commander of the UN protection force for former Yugoslavia and is a member of UN panel appointed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to identify new global security threats to world peace and security. He heads a think tank in India now, and was interviewed by the inquisitorial Tim Sebastian on BBC HardTalk today. Unusually, Tim Sebastian meandered around several subjects. After starting the show on as broad a topic as the relevance of the UN, he strayed into Gen Nambiar’s performance during the Balkan civil war and the current India-Pakistan peace talks.Gen Nambiar came out quite convincingly in spite of the rather (intentionally) prejudiced questioning from Sebastian.

On UN peacekeeping & Yugoslavia
Gen Nambiar’s main point was that the political vested interests at the UN Security Council gave an inadequate mandate to an underprepared peacekeeping force. He came out quite convincingly that he acted according to his mandate to be even-handed – especially he could not risk the lives of multi-national troops in any operation that overstepped his mandate. Sebastian claimed that (later) evidence showed that the Serbs were largely the bad guys while Gen Nambiar’s view was that while every party had the good and bad guys, it was only the Serbs who had the conviction to own up to their own bad ones. And had the West defined the peacekeeping mandate correctly, the Serb atrocities could have been prevented. [See NATO’s flaws]

Gen Nambiar’s view is that there is nothing wrong with the UN organisation – it is the political will of the countries in the Security Council that needs to change. As he put it, while the developed world may be dismissive of an ineffective UN it still remains the hope of much of the developing world.

On Indo-Pak relations
Sebastian suddenly strayed into very different territory when raised the usual arguments about Kashmir and war. Gen Nambiar pointed out that while war was undesirable and idiotic, India cannot be expected to take everything that was thrown at it from across the border. He clarified his position that the 2002 mobilisation was useless if it was not intended to strike against terrorists. When Sebastian argued that the international community had the right to scrutinise India’s record in Kashmir, Gen Nambiar agreed but qualified it by saying while scrutiny was all right intervention was not.

The best point Gen Nambiar made was one he did not explicitly make – that the Indian armed forces are professional, principled and believe in working within the mandate provided the institutional leadership – be it the UN Security Council or the Indian Government.

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