What drives South Asians to peacekeeping?

Content from the Brookings Institution India Center is now archived. After seven years of an impactful partnership, as of September 11, 2020, Brookings India is now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, an independent public policy institution based in India.

Germany’s international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), quotes Brookings India Non-Resident Senior Fellow WPS Sidhu extensively on how Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Nepal are among the top contributors to UN peacekeeping missions across the world. What are the factors driving these “relatively poor” nations to send troops to work under the UN flag?

Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu explains that, as part of the British Empire the Indian sub-continent provided the largest number of troops during World War I and World War II even before they wee independent.

Following their independence after the end of WWII these countries retained their large standing armies with an expeditionary force capability that could deploy troops at relatively short notice.

Thus, South Asian countries had the necessary manpower and capacity to provide troops for UN peacekeeping. Moreover, says Sidhu, as these nations initially had little strategic interest in areas where UN peacekeeping operations were being undertaken (mostly in Africa), they were also able to exercise a greater degree of impartiality.

Sidhu noted that UN peacekeeping missions have also provided an opportunity for South Asian forces to work with each other. (For example, Indian and Pakistani troops have often been deployed together in UN peace operations).

He also argues that India’s economic rise and the growing risks of peace operations, which are now increasingly tasked with protecting civilians, has underlined the need to align the objective of participating in peace operations with New Delhi’s strategic interests. “India’s increasing economic stakes in many of the countries that host UN peace operations further stressed this linkage,” he told DW.

He pointed out that UN member States that pay the most for UN peacekeeping tend not to contribute troops or very few, especially when compared to the troop contributing countries (TCCs) from South Asia. Similarly, those countries that provide the maximum number of troops (mostly from South Asia) rarely pay for UN peacekeeping.

This has led to a deep divide between countries that mandate and fund peacekeeping operations (the five permanent UN Security Council members [P-5] and large donors, such as Japan and Germany) and the biggest troop contributing countries – such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – whose personnel actually carry out the operations in the field.

“As the mandates have got tougher without a commensurate increase in funding or equipment, TCCs are demanding a greater say in making the mandates and more funding. This so-called gold versus blood contest has further stymied UN peacekeeping,” Sidhu told DW.

UN statistics reveal that from 1948 through the end of November this year, India suffered 160 fatalities, followed by Pakistan (137), Bangladesh (124) and Nepal (71).



Read the full story in DW here.