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Essay on “The Processes and Precedents of U.N. Peacekeeping” Complete Essay for Class 9, Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

The Processes and Precedents of U.N. Peacekeeping

Outlines: It is one thing to maintain peace between two sovereign States and a totally different thing to get involved in a civil war situation, as has happened in the case of Somalia or Bosnia.

One may go back a little to 1962 when a serious situation arose between Indonesia and the Netherlands, in regard to a former Dutch colony in South-East Asia called West New Guinea. East New Guinea, called Papua New Guinea, was under the Trusteeship of Australia at that time. Later, Papua New Guinea became a Member of the United Nations. The western part of the island, now called Irian Barat, was part of the Dutch colonial empire in South-East Asia, and Indonesia claimed that this territory should also be handed over to Indonesia by the Dutch when they gave up colonial control over Indonesia. The Dutch refused to do so, because they felt that this very large territory, with a population of some 750,000 people, mostly aborigines, would not get proper attention in respect of the economic and social needs of the population, from Indonesia. Anyhow, the tension between the two countries became so serious that Secretary-General, U.Thant, undertook a major effort to bring about the settlement of the dispute. Ambassador Bunker of the U.S. acted as the Secretary-General’s representative and made an arrangement  by which, for a period of seven months the territory would be handed by the Netherlands to the United Nations which would have temporary executive authority over West Irian. At the end of the period, the territory would be handed over to the control of Indonesia but with the provision for ascertaining the wishes of the people a few years later.

This arrangement was approved by the General Assembly, and led to the establishment of the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). On October 1, 1962, the Dutch flag was taken down from the capital of this territory which was then called Hollandia, and is now called Jajapura, and the U.N. flag was raised. Seven months later, on May 1, 1963, was handed over the control of this territory, on behalf of the Secretary-General, to the representative of Indonesia, the then Foreign Minister Subandrio. The Secretary-General invited Pakistan to provide the peacekeeping force in West Irian, and a battalion under the command of General Saiduddin Khan was stationed in West Irian. The other interesting fact about this operation was that the entire cost of the peacekeeping force and the Temporary Executive Authority was met by the two countries concerned, namely the Netherlands and Indonesia, Therefore, there was no net financial expenditure by the U.N. in regard to the entire exercise of UNTEA.

The two peacekeeping operations that took place, one in Somalia (UNISOM), which brought to an end in the early part of the year, the withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces stationed in that country and, more recently, the second in Bosnia. There are important lessons to be learnt from the present and future peacekeeping operations. In the case of UNISOM, the U.N. was a involved in a civil war, where basically there was internal fighting between rival groups to establish their claim for ruling the entire country. At one point, General Aidid, leader of one group, was con side-red the villain of the piece, and there was even a proposal t declare him a war criminal. Subsequently, he became a central figure in some mediation efforts held in Addis Ababa, under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity, and the United States eve provided a special plane to enable him to attend these meeting Subsequently, the U.N. position in Somalia became untenable b cause some U.S. military personnel were killed in a crossfire, al there was a demand on the part of the U.S. Con to withdraw the U.S. Force.

Two important points may be noted in connection with the Somalia operation. The first is the futility o using the U.N. peacekeeping forces to contain, what is basically, a civil war. It is one thing to maintain peace between two sovereign states, whether they be Istael and the Arab States, or India and Pakistan; and a totally different thing to get involved in a civil war, as happened in Somalia and later in Bosnia. The other is the wisdom of Hammarskjold and Bunche to keep the forces of the major powers out of participation in peacekeeping exercises. For example, in Somalia, both Indian and Pakistani troops suffered casualties but there was no big outcry, either in Islamabad or in New Delhi, that the entire Pakistani or Indian force should be withdrawn. But the moment some American lives were lost there was a big outcry in the U.S. Congress that the peacekeeping operation be brought to an end.

The futility of using the U.N. peacekeeping forces to maintain peace in a civil war situation has been amply demonstrated by the problems that have arisen in Bosnia. The Bosnian situation is extremely complicated politically, because the parties involved, on the one hand, the Bosnian Government which is predominantly Muslim, and the Bosnian Serbs, who claim a very considerable part of the territory of Bosnia Herzegovina, have their own supporters in various European capitals. Support for the Serbs has also changed from time to time; at one time, certain European countries had some sympathy for them, but their behaviour led to a situation where the U.N. peacekeeping forces have been stripped of all dignity and have been made pawns in a game between the rival forces.

Two or three other points in the context of this overview must be mentioned. The U.S. is now the only superpower in the world. As a Permanent Member of the Security Council, it can exercise Its veto any time. The charge has been made in the Congress that the U.N. is running U.S. foreign policy. In fact, opposite is the case. The U.S. is dominating U.N. action in every area of peacekeeping because of the strong support that the U.S. can give either in terms of manpower, as in the case of Bosnia.

The recent invasion of the Krajina region by Croatia shows that the civil war has widened. Threats and appeals by the European Powers are ignored by Croatia, and the resolutions of the Security Council are treated with scorn bordering on contempt. With some 1,50,000 Serbian refugees on the move, the only role left to the U.N. is humanitarian. The U.N. military presence has become irrelevant.

The financial situation of the U.N. is nearing a breaking point. The U.S. contributes 25 per cent to the regular budget and 30 per cent to the peacekeeping accounts. Here again, the Republican majority in Congress is in no mood to release the funds needed to honour the good name of the U.S., to enable the U.S. administration to meet its international obligations. From the financial point of view also, Bosnia seems to be a bottomless pit, dragging the U.N. down to the verge of total financial ruin.

For the future, the U.N. must be extremely careful not to get involved in peacekeeping exercises where there is a major ethnic conflict or civil war situation. The U.N. forces left Somalia some months ago, and the position of that country is no better and no worse than it was when there was a strong U.N. presence in that country.

In concluding this overview, I might mention the notable contribution made by India to the peacekeeping operations of the U.N. Even in the first major operation, UNEP, the Indian contingent was the largest. In the case of the Congo, I can say without the fear of contradiction that it was the Indian brigade which made it possible to end the secession of Katanga, and to restore the unity and territorial integrity of the Congo. India has contributed forces practically to every major peacekeeping operation, and where there is no Indian contingent present, there has been an Indian Force Commander, as had happened for example in the case of UNFICYP, with General Thimmayya as the Force Commander. India can take legitimate pride in the vital contribution it has made to the peacekeeping operations of the U.N.


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