Blue helmets all at sea

India must rethink the use of force, not expect the UN to defend its national interests

The clear stream of reason, unfortunately, has lost its way through the dreary desert sand of dead habit. Instead of rethinking the use of military force in securing India’s increasingly global interests, the Indian government appears to want to make emerging realities fit its long-held dogma. We are, of course, referring to India’s call for an international maritime peacekeeping force under the United Nations. (linkthanks: Pragmatic & ST)

That dogma is that India’s overseas military deployments have to be under the UN flag. This is a an undiscriminating bureaucratic position. It never made sense—because UN interventions must be mandated by the Security Council; and the Security Council as it should be to clear to people who follow the news, serves the interests of its five permanent members. So, to expect a UN maritime peacekeeping force to act to secure India’s interests is not only lazy fantasy, but an abdication of a responsibility to protect India’s interests. Why? Because as long as there is no such force, individual states, and coalitions will take action to secure their own interests. But once such a force comes into being, they will have to wait for the wholesomely incompetent UN machinery to swing into action. That’s not all, unilateral or coalition actions will take on a degree of “illegitimacy” if carried out without UN authorisation.

Countries that do not have the capability to defend their interests naturally seek the UN’s help. India is not one of them. Between the UPA government’s general pusillanimity and the bureaucracy’s policy ossification India has taken a unwise position. It must be quickly reversed.

7 thoughts on “Blue helmets all at sea”

  1. The UPA and the bureacracy, since the days of nehru, have the mind of a weak child that is incapable of looking out for itself.

    “(whimper and wail).. he (pakistan, bangladesh, bhutan perhaps) is beating me… UN uncle please step in and make them stop… (whimper, wail)”

    Till the mind keeps thinking of the body as a weakling, no real progress is possible.

  2. 🙂

    Nitin, I wasn’t sure where you were going with the previous post. We weren’t going to fight a war someplace else or set up bases in distant lands for rapid reaction to emergencies. All we did was send a helicopter to shoot at few ragtag thieves. I think we were doing that for years on the far edges of Bangalakatham, a bit south of Malaysia.

    After the Iraq debacle, I doubt any country is going for a shooting war anytime soon – even China.

    Also, I really doubt it’s a UPA thing. This is how our establishment thinks.

  3. Couldn’t quite follow your argument:

    How does

    So, to expect a UN maritime peacekeeping force to act to secure India’s interests is not only lazy fantasy, but an abdication of a responsibility to protect India’s interests.

    follow from:

    Why? Because as long as there is no such force, individual states, and coalitions will take action to secure their own interests.

    Could you elaborate? 🙂

    If I understand correctly, what you’re saying is that it makes sense to send Indian troops under the UN flag only if Indian interests are served. And our bureaucracy sends them no matter what.

  4. The proposal of the government to back a UN-sponsored maritime peacekeeping force is in line with India’s cardinal foreign policy mantra of non-interventionism. Contributing forces to such a body will give India the kind of respect at the international level which countries such as the US and the UK seem to be lacking at the moment – something which they are working hard to, and finding very difficult to restore. The contribution of Indian forces, in the case of Aden, is not only going to benefit India, but a big fat chunk of global commerce – after all, it is as important as the Suez canal.

  5. Dear Krishnan Unni Madathil,

    The point of this entire post is that “cardinal foreign policy mantras” should be less about reverence and more about relevance.

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