Why south asia loves Peacekeeping.....??

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Neil, Dec 17, 2010.

  1. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

    Jun 23, 2010
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    Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are all big contributors to UN missions. But there’s more to it than just international goodwill.

    small town in a remote part of eastern Congo, on a routine patrol in late summer. The town seems quiet, and seeing and hearing nothing unusual, the soldiers quickly pass through back to their company operating base in nearby Kibua.

    But unknown to them, just out of sight and earshot, rebel gangs were systematically raping Luvungi’s residents. Over a horrific three-day period beginning July 30, more than 300 men, women and children were raped.

    Mass sexual assault is tragically common in Congo, but the Luvungi rapes stood out for having taken place in such close proximity to UN troops. Amid intensive international criticism, the United Nations issued a report defending the peacekeepers.

    ‘The Kibua COB has one interpreter and one mobile satellite phone, thus operationally restricting it to one patrol at any given time given the distances and conditions of the roads to be traversed,’ the report stated. The Indian patrol in Luvungi reportedly couldn’t linger long enough to detect the attacks were occurring, with most reportedly taking place indoors, in homes that might have been hundreds of yards apart.

    The language barrier is ‘the most difficult portion’ of working in Congo, according to Sgt. Stuart Hammer, a US Army soldier deployed to Kinshasa to train Congolese troops. In the absence of a much larger contingent of interpreters (an unrealistic prospect given the UN’s budgetary constraints) the inability of most of the Indian troops in Congo to speak any of the local languages—including French and the local dialect Lingala—seriously undermines their ability to achieve their mission: protecting Congolese civilians.

    But despite this serious limitation, non-Francophone Indians and other South Asians comprise a large proportion of the UN troops in Congo, for reasons rooted more in South Asian than African history.

    Of Congo's 17,000 peacekeepers, about 4,300 are from India, 3,500 from Pakistan and 1,300 from Bangladesh. The force's current chief, Lt. Gen. Chander Prakash, is Indian and is said to speak little French.

    Congo isn’t the only place where South Asians dominate peacekeeping. Indeed, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are three of the most ‘generous’ nations when it comes to UN peace missions. The three ‘have been the top three troop contributors to UN peacekeeping for many years, (with) roughly 10,000 (troops) each,’ says Teresita Schaffer, an analyst with the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    South Asian countries have some very specific reasons aside from ‘doing the right thing’ for sending troops abroad on UN missions—reasons that often have little to do with the nature and needs of the host country. It’s an often overlooked truth that donor nations can benefit, or even profit, from their contributions to peace missions, given the right circumstances.

    For India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, for example, peacekeeping is an inexpensive way to maintain large armies and boost the pay of select troops, while also building diplomatic inroads in poorer countries that might be rich in resources that South Asia lacks. The human cost to the three countries is relatively low: in August, three Indian peacekeepers were killed in a rebel attack on their eastern Congo base, bringing to 170 the number of Indians killed on UN peace missions since 1950, as of the time of writing. By contrast, the cost to conflict-ravaged countries desperate for effective peacekeepers could be quite high: in Congo, measured in the violated bodies of countless rape victims.

    Cash Incentive...::
    Just outside the town of Dungu in north-eastern Congo, what amounts to a tiny Bangladeshi village thrives adjacent to the town's UN-run airstrip. A clutch of trailers is home to around 100 Bangladeshi airmen who manage air operations and fly two Mi-17 helicopters stationed here. Their mission is to maintain transportation links between UN personnel in Dungu and major UN bases elsewhere in Congo.

    It’s difficult work, owing to the heat, dust and unpredictable weather that makes every flight a gamble. Plus, the Bangladeshis sometimes feel isolated from the Congolese civilians they are meant to protect. ‘There’s a language barrier,’ Squadron Leader Shaheen Salwar admits to this correspondent.

    But the Bangladeshis’ yearlong rotations represent the best, and most lucrative, training anyone in the Bangladeshi military could hope for. Back home, a Bangladeshi air force pilot typically flies fewer than 100 hours annually, owing to the high price of fuel and aircraft maintenance. Even the relatively deep-pocketed US Air Force only allows its pilots around 200 hours a year in the air. But in Dungu, with fuel and salaries paid by the United Nations, the 10 Bangladeshi chopper pilots each fly as many as 300 hours a year. ‘The rewarding part is, I’m flying aircraft,’ says Squadron Leader Hassan Rayhan.

    For the Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and Indians, the higher pay while on UN operations is another consideration. ‘The UN pays peacekeeping troops more than these three armies would, especially for enlisted personnel,’ Schaffer says. ‘In Bangladesh, this is a significant factor. I'm told they rotate peacekeeping duty to give more troops a chance at a little extra pay.’

    ‘The financial benefits to individuals who proceed on such missions are undeniable,’ retired Indian general Dhruv Katoch, now an analyst with the Center for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi, says.‘Very rarely will an individual turn down an offer for a UN assignment.’

    What’s more, while a soldier is deployed with the United Nations his respective defense ministry can remove him from the government payroll. In that sense, UN peacekeeping offers South Asian armies the opportunity to keep 10,000 troops apiece in their force structure at no cost to themselves. It’s a tremendous bargain, provided the military can spare the troops. ‘At some point it could become a burden on an over-stretched army,’ Schaffer says.

    But Pakistan, with its ongoing military operations in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, ‘is the only country that would have to worry about that; so far it hasn't restricted Pakistan's contributions,’ Schaffer adds.

    Of course, the pay differential only really benefits armies from developing nations. There’s no financial incentive for, say, an American soldier to spend a year serving with a UN force, as his pay rate at home is higher than what the United Nations can offer. The Pentagon might save money by offloading a few thousand troops to some UN missions every year, but for the troops themselves, it would mean a morale-hurting pay cut. As long as South Asian economies remain relatively impoverished compared to developing nations, peacekeeping will retain its financial allure. The United Nations, then, is a meal ticket, helping pay for bigger and better-trained forces than developing countries could afford on their own.

    Economic ties...::
    South Asian countries benefit in other ways from their major peacekeeping roles. For example, peace missions have enabled South Asia to build economic and diplomatic ties with a large number of poorer developing countries. In this way, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh gain ‘influence and credibility,’ Katoch says. This seems particularly important to India, at least as far as Congo is concerned. With a billion people and nearly ten percent annual GDP growth, India is most in need of something Congo has in abundance: resources.

    Copper, tin, coltan and uranium are just a few of the many rare minerals mined in Congo. A large proportion of Congo’s mineral output ends up in Chinese refineries, with China processing the raw ore and selling it onward to the world’s advanced economies. In exchange for a steady supply of rocks, Beijing invests heavily in Congolese enterprises and builds much of the country’s new infrastructure.

    Only a few countries possess the diplomatic clout to cut out the Chinese middle-man and forge direct deals with the Congolese government. However hobbled they are by the language barrier, India’s peacekeepers in Congo have still helped open doors to New Delhi’s business interests. The first Indians were deployed to Congo in 2003 and by 2008, Kinshasa and New Delhi were discussing greatly strengthened economic ties. In January of that year, Congo agreed to partner with India in the mining of copper, cobalt and industrial diamonds.

    ‘We want to take our business relations with India to a different, higher level in various sectors,’ says Kasongo Musenga, an official with the Congolese embassy in New Delhi. ‘While we have a lot to offer in terms of our natural resources, we’re seeking India's technology and expertise to develop our country.’ To that end, New Delhi extended Kinshasa an expanding line of credit valued at more than $250 million in 2009, and Indian loans have bankrolled power, water, transportation and education projects.

    At a meeting to discuss the two countries’ rapidly deepening economic ties, Congolese Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba hinted at the roots of the partnership when he praised the Indian UN contingent in his country. The Indian force, Mwamba crowed, ‘has not only engaged in peacekeeping but also carried out significant humanitarian work for the Congolese.’ Never mind that India’s real motives might have been less than charitable.

    Mwamba’s compliments aside, peacekeeping itself is perhaps more effective as a training tool and vehicle for trade than it is as a means of actually keeping the peace—particularly where the UN deploys troops incapable of communicating with the local population.

    The lone Indian truck rolling through rape-ravaged Luvungi this summer certainly underscored this point. ‘As of now, the United Nations doesn’t have the teeth to enforce peace anywhere,’ Katoch says. But for South Asian countries reaping the benefits of donning the United Nations’ distinctive light-blue helmets, that probably doesn’t matter all that much.

  3. Energon

    Energon DFI stars Stars and Ambassadors

    Jun 3, 2009
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    This analysis is spot on. However it should be noted that charity as the primary motivation has limitations, for the donor as well as the recipient. Research done in Africa shows that donations and grants from wealthier nations have done absolutely nothing to improve the conditions; in some cases it has made things worse. The business ties between New Delhi and Kinshasa will probably do a lot more good than the thousands of soldiers who get a pay hike thanks to the foreign exchange.
  4. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

    Aug 20, 2010
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    Gangtok, Sikkim, India
    ^^ But in this case, both the donor and the recipient are not very wealthy meaning that Indians (mainly so because Pakistani nor Bangladeshi economy can hand out loans) know how to haggle and settle deals to their interest. Africa has always been a hotbed for Indian settlements as early as pre-independence time when Indian traders would make it big. Also the common grievances of that time mean that both the regions share a common "we are developing" sort of bond.

    And since we have a more private business approach when it comes to mining or exploring resources in Africa, we have often had a more friendlier welcome in some countries of Africa than Chinese who believe in propping up dictators with expensive gifts and state-sponsorships of massive amounts as compared to our private companies where very few government run agencies operate in Africa as private Indian firms hire African locals for their work.

    The race for Africa is this time by us and Chinese and both our approaches are different. Though our slowpoke government woke up only in late 90s to see the potential; a full 15 years later than Chinese, our approach has been a welcome among African nations. Peace-keeping also helps us convey our culture which like African indigenous cultures is vibrant with many rituals and concepts. One particular article highlighted the fact that Indian troops were enabling bringing Indian cuisine into Africa and mixing it with local cuisines to create new tastes and hence a social platform to make the locals more friendlier to Indian presence.

    Kenya, South Africa and Namibia are three "economic bases" of our country to entry into the continent. While north and north-central Africa is dominated by massive Chinese state-run firms ravaging their heartlands for resources through doling out massive loans to their leaders to further buy Chinese products, southern and south-central Africa is Indian domain which is more friendlier in terms of accepting and welcoming local-Indian interaction in a business environment at the same time reap rich dividends of investments.
  5. Energon

    Energon DFI stars Stars and Ambassadors

    Jun 3, 2009
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    I don't know the economic profiles of Pakistan or Bangladesh in Africa beyond just the peace keeping troops, so I can't really comment about it. As far as India is concerned the picture isn't as black and white. Yes, there has been a long standing presence of Indian communities in Africa, but their history is patchy. Being a market dominant minority that didn't really integrate, the Indians in Africa aren't/weren't necessarily well liked or accepted. This is why they were easy targets for dictators like Idi Amin. Also since the 70s many of the prominent Indians have fled to England taking with them large amounts of liquid assets. This at least up until the early 80s this was an antagonizing populist talking point.

    You're right in that the race is now between India and China. India clearly has the upper hand as far as soft power is concerned. Gandhi, Nehru and for some reason Indira Gandhi are well regarded icons at least in East Africa. The Indian foreign policy machine has always been able to milk the Gandhi Nehru card to its fullest. But now they are diversifying into things like tele medicine and agricultural support. But this assistance is minuscule compared to what the Chinese offer in terms of material goods, heavy industrial equipment and infrastructure. For instance most of the roadways in Ethiopia (which sits at an altitude and has a fairly challenging terrain) are being constructed by the Chinese. Most of the factories are also Chinese owned as is all the heavy equipment for natural resource extraction. What's amusing is that all of these things are almost entirely manned by Chinese people and not locals, so there's no job creation... granted the indigenous work ethic is very poor. But since the conditions in Africa are so pathetic that all of this is the most impressive thing they've ever seen. Ive seen random Mahindra dealerships and representatives of Indian railways in my short time in Africa, but unlike the Chinese projects not much, if anything at all came to fruition (afaik).
    Education is another factor. Lots of upper middle class Africans who are unable to sent their children to Western colleges send them to India; and most of the people who go to India like it. But from what I hear China is opening up the doors for education to garner the attention of the younger generation, who are not aware or taken by the exploits of Indian freedom fighters.
    I think all in all China is way ahead of India in terms of actual presence, even in East Africa. I mean continual eulogizing of Gandhi and Nehru, pirated bollywood movies and a relatively small industrial presence can't really compete with China. China has total domination of West Africa so there's nothing to compare there.

    The final determinant here is India's severe lag in industrialization. We'll have to wait and see if there will be at least some advancement before the soft power runs out of steam.

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