Responding to the call of the United Nations, Nepal Army is in the process of dispatching an infantry battalion to South Sudan. Around 800 Nepali peacekeepers are expected to beef up the peacekeeping efforts of the United Nations Mission in the
Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) in the aftermath of the ethno-political clashes which have engulfed the youngest nation since December 2013. To stabilize the degenerated situation, UN Security Council envisaged an immediate additional need of 7000 peacekeeping troops on the ground. Similarly another Nepali Army’s contingent, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Company, is also on the mark to set off to Mali, where the situation is also not promising.
The engagement of Nepali Army in extending support to United Nations in the endeavor of maintaining global peace and security dates back to 1958 when five Nepali Army officers participated in United Nations Observer Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL) as United Nations Military Observers (UNMO). Likewise in 1974, under the flag of Purano Gorakh Battalion, the first Nepali contingent took part in Second United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF–II) in Sinia Desert in Egypt. Since then Nepali Army has been a regular troop contributor in UN Peacekeeping missions. At present around 3500 Nepali Army’s peacekeepers are engaged in 13 different missions around the world donning blue helmet. As a result of this relentless commitment and continuous engagement, Nepal currently occupies seventh position amongst the 116 Troops Contributing Countries (TCC) in UN Peacekeeping.
Since security challenges have been evolving from traditional to multidimensional levels, contemporary peacekeeping missions are turning into more complex and dynamic operations. For instance, the responsibility parameter of a peacekeeper no longer remains conventional and orthodox. His functional horizon ranges from peace ambassador to development worker, mediator, humanitarian agent, human rights defender and administrator as well as the protector of vulnerable civilians. Therefore modern day’s contemporary peacekeeping requires a soldier with vibrant aptitude.
Today South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Syria, Iraq and Mali are among the most vulnerable areas of the UN peacekeeping efforts where Nepali peacekeepers are deployed. These are the most unstable and vulnerable regions where existing UN Peacekeeping Missions (UNPKM) are stationed.
In United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO), induction of Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) with offensive mandate, has added complexity to the mission itself. In Mali, United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and its partner are facing challenges of multiple folds, called in to put the secessionist belligerents and insurgent groups like Al–Qaeda offshoot off the ground and assist Malian government in functioning. Likewise in Darfur, African Union United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is the hybrid mission, where African Union and United Nations are functioning shoulder to shoulder. In South Sudan, the world’s newest state, UNMISS is trying to assist in responding to the adverse humanitarian situation recently categorized as second only to Syrian crisis. Resulting out of the sectarian violence it has aggravated the security situation and raised the stake of ensuing civil war in the country.
In this backdrop, providing dynamic peacekeepers capable of functioning in such an adverse environment is a challenging task for any state and its security forces. For this purpose Nepali Army established Birendra Peace Operation Training Center (BPOTC) in 1986 where peacekeepers are deftly trained prior to their deployment in mission areas. Since then not only nationals but international trainees have also graduated from it.
For under developed countries like Nepal, UN peacekeeping mission carries a lot of significance from multiple aspects. It is not only a means of pursuing foreign policy but also a tool for the government to engineer leverage in international forum. It proffers proud national image and identity to the world. And most importantly it’s a considerable source of generating sound and substantial remittance for the state.
Similarly for partaking soldiers, received remuneration from the service is a worthy aid to maintain and enhance their socio-economic security. More importantly participation renders an opportunity to receive an exposure of multinational working environment which definitely supports them to build their capacity.
Today, Bangladesh has achieved an exemplary success in this endeavor. She started the journey of this kind long after Nepal, in 1988, but has gained a leapfrogging achievement in the effort. For instance it stands on the second place among TCCs retaining capacity to deploy a brigade sized group within 100 days wherever and whenever UN wants. Similarly per month, the country is shelving hundreds of millions US dollars of remuneration into its national coffer as reimbursement for the service.
In our context, the progress is quite mediocre compared to countries like Bangladesh despite the long standing sustained engagement. In spite of effort from all security forces, the success rate is at limp. The lack of concrete national policy on the subject matter and UN peacekeeping being a baby of Defense and Home ministries only are the vital deficiencies that we face. Similarly our feeble diplomacy is believed to be another snag to the goal.
Still Nepali peace keeping have won laurels from everywhere. Deployed contingents have successfully won hearts and minds of the conflict ridden people in mission areas. Not only in maintaining peace and security but also in development work, the fundamental pillars of multidisciplinary peacekeeping, Nepali contingents have been able to achieve marvelous results in the host country. Nepal Army’s Engineer Company deployed in Bunia, which opened more than 100 km road tracks in the last seven months, has become the most admired contingent among locals and in MONUSCO itself. “They are the most laborious, diligent and disciplined soldiers, I have ever seen,” says Gautam Mukhophadhyay, Head of Road, Bridge and Airport Department, MONUSCO. “In any circumstances their allegiance towards mission mandate has never wavered,” he added. The success narratives of other eight contingents deployed in other missions paint a similar picture.
Indeed it’s a matter of great pride that today Nepal Army has become an indispensible associate of United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) in maintaining global peace and security. With the proliferation of conflict and domestic violence, peacekeeping has become an inevitable need of today’s world. Nepal being a diligent partner is always on the high demand of UN into the enterprise. But unfortunately due to the lack of concerted effort the venture has remained unsatisfactory. It should have been an integrated effort of the entire state. Beside Defense and Home ministries, other state entities such as Foreign Ministry, Ministry of Finance, and, of course, the National Planning Commission should be enterprising in this regard. In gist deployment for global peacekeeping under the UN auspices has to be identified as the national need of extending nation’s interest further and establishing bilateral relation with many more friendly countries to supplement its foreign policy.
Today, Nepal is on the verge of formulating its new constitution. With the successful completion of second CA election, the state has once again collaborated to architect the first republican constitution of the nation. If peacekeeping mission is projected as a vital component of foreign policy in the forthcoming constitution, it will be a true homage to the 59 gallant Nepali officers and soldiers who sacrificed their invaluable lives without any hitch in the duty of peacekeeping around the world. It would also be a national acknowledgement for the service of more than 100,000 Nepali sons and daughters who participated in global initiative on behalf of the nation.
The author is currently a Military Observer in MONUSCO