India on Wednesday called for a sound information and intelligence foundation aimed at securing UN peacekeepers to meet "contemporary threats", asserting that UN peacekeeping simply cannot afford to cede the information advantage to actors determined to undermine prospects for peace by using modern technology to aid their violent cause. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in his address to the UN Security Council open debate on Technology and Peacekeeping that the UN peacekeeping missions continue to operate in a variety of challenging settings which involve terrorists, armed groups and non-state actors as he stressed on the need to strengthen the capabilities to secure the peacekeepers.
The 21st century peacekeeping must be anchored in a strong ecosystem of technology and innovation that can facilitate UN peacekeeping operations in implementing their mandates in complex environments. After all, it helps them to adapt to changing conflict dynamics and take advantage of increased efficiencies, he said. India, as the President of the 15-nation powerful UN body, hosted an open debate on Peacekeeping on the theme of 'Protecting the Protectors'.
On the occasion, India, in coordination with the UN, announced the roll out of the UNITE Aware technology platform across select peacekeeping missions. This initiative is based on the expectation that an entire peacekeeping operation can be visualised, coordinated and monitored on a real time basis. We should ensure that any attack on a peacekeeper or a civilian is predictable, preventable or responded to immediately, Jaishankar said.
The Council also adopted a Resolution on Accountability of Crimes against UN Peacekeepers' as well as Presidential Statement on Technology for Peacekeeping', the first such UN Security Council document on this topic. We have shown today, both in the roll out of the UNITE Aware Platform, as well as the actionable elements of training incorporated in the MoU, that India believes in walking the talk when it comes to the safety and security of UN peacekeepers, the External Affairs Minister said.
Jaishankar presided over the debate as the President of the Council. Speaking in his national capacity, he said limited resources make the execution of peacekeeping mandates difficult even otherwise.
When such mandates are expanded in an ad hoc fashion, the challenge becomes more complex. In recent years, peacekeepers have experienced a greater level of asymmetric threats, ranging from landmines to IEDs, he said underlining that We cannot remain indifferent to this prospect. Jaishankar also noted that to execute their mandates, peacekeeping missions must be able to move fast to acquire and validate information from a wide range of openly available sources to enhance situational awareness, augment security, aid operational planning and support decision-making.
UN peacekeeping simply cannot afford to cede the information advantage to those actors determined to undermine prospects for peace by using modern technology to aid their violent cause. He proposed a four-point framework laying out a possible architecture for securing UN peacekeepers to meet contemporary threats.
Jaishankar also stressed on the need for a sound information and intelligence foundation that will ensure early warning and mobilising a coherent and early response. A reliable, high fidelity means to collect, use, process and share information and data will create advantages from the very start for peacekeeping missions. Precise positioning and overhead visualisation of mission environments is critically important to provide intelligence and enhance the safety and security of mission personnel, he said.
He said the international community must focus on operationally proven, cost-effective, widely available, reliable and field-serviceable technologies that must also prioritise mobility, both in the sense of agile manoeuvrability of mission assets and in the sense of use of mobile digital/IT platforms. India called for contributing to ensure that technological improvements are continuous and are available on the ground, in the gear that peacekeepers carry and the weapons and tools they use to enhance their mobility, performance, endurance, range, and load-carrying capabilities while guaranteeing their safety and security.
Jaishankar said that consistent training and capacity building of peacekeepers in the realm of technology also needs attention and investment. It is with this in mind that India is committed to long-term engagement with the UNC4ISR Academy for Peace Operations in Entebbe, Uganda, to meet the training needs, link it with available technological capability, and shape future requirements.
He announced that India has signed an MoU with the UN in support of the 'Partnership for Technology in Peacekeeping' initiative and to the UN C4ISR Academy for Peace Operations (UNCAP). Jaishankar called on other Member States to take active interest in this evolving paradigm.
Political will, strengthened partnerships, and shifts in organisational culture are required to take it forward. Maximum transparency should remain a principle of the use of peacekeeping technology, in particular when used to enable information gathering and sharing, he said. India has been among the largest troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping operations and has deployed more than a quarter of a million troops over the years to as many as 49 UN Peacekeeping Missions.
Serving under the blue flag, 174 gallant Indian soldiers have made the supreme sacrifice, the largest number among troop contributing countries, Jaishankar said. He also told the Council that as a reflection of India's deep commitment to Protecting the Protectors', the government provided 2,00,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for UN Peacekeeping personnel worldwide in March this year.