Text of RM’s speech on the 75th anniversary of ‘UN Peacekeepers Day’

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, we have gathered here to commemorate the 75th anniversary of UN Peacekeepers Day, a momentous occasion that allows us to reflect on the remarkable contributions of the brave UN peacekeepers in upholding peace and security in conflict-affected regions. As the Defence Minister of India, it is an honour for me to address you on this significant occasion.

The primary goal of the United Nations, as stated in Article 1 of the UN Charter, is to maintain international peace and security. This implies preventing conflicts between nations and promoting conditions that contribute to peaceful relations and resolution of disputes through peaceful means.

Though there is no specific provision for ‘peacekeeping’ in the UN Charter, it is, unarguably, the most visible function of the UN. In May 1948, the UN Security Council sent 36 unarmed military observers to the Middle East as ‘the first UN peacekeepers’. In the 75 years since then, more than two million men and women have served under the UN flag.  More than 4000 fatalities have occurred in all peace operations since 1948. The UN peacekeepers day is dedicated to these heroes of humankind and I salute them.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Operations have been instrumental in maintaining stability, preventing conflicts, and facilitating the restoration of peace in regions torn apart by violence.

Friends, let me try to explain how, I believe, the demand is generated for UN peacekeeping operations. Whenever a conflict erupts between two or more parties, it is generally harmful to the direct and indirect stakeholders. But no matter how much harmful it is, the conflict develops a negative but a stable equilibrium leading to the perpetuation of conflict. This is because when one side harms or kills the other side, then the other side is filled up with the feelings of revenge and resentment. Then the second party also tries to harm the first party. And human nature being what it is, this cycle has a tendency to continue. That is why I believe that conflicts tend to have an inbuilt momentum of their own, which provides support for its own continuation, a sort of stable and negative equilibrium. So, to come out of this state of negative equilibrium, the conflicting parties themselves decide, that they need some external intervention or support. And this external intervention is provided by the UN peacekeeping missions.

The most significant aspect of UN peacekeeping missions is that these missions operate with the consent of the parties involved in the conflict. It is not thrust upon the local communities or parties from the outside; rather the demand for the same emerges from within.

The UN peacekeepers work towards building the confidence of the conflicting parties in the peace process. They try to put a brake on the continuation of the conflict, and this halt, how so ever temporary it may be, gives time to the conflicting parties to step back, think and come up with some political solutions.

History shows that UN peacekeeping operations have been mostly successful in dialing down the active conflict. And when the active conflict subsides, political solutions get some space to emerge and evolve.

Now, let me explain the supply side of UN peacekeeping missions as evidenced by the enthusiastic global support for such missions. This can be explained through the economic concept of ‘externalities’. An externality is a cost or benefit caused by an actor that is not internalised by that actor, that is, not suffered or enjoyed by that same actor. An externality can be good or bad, as positive externality or negative externality. An example of positive externality could be the act of walking to office which reduces congestion and pollution for the whole society. Conversely, an example of negative externality could be air pollution from using motor vehicles while commuting to office.

So, when there is a conflict between 2 or 3 countries or a civil war within a nation, it is harmful to the directly involved actors or participants in the conflict. Moreover, it also has negative externalities for those who are not involved in the conflict. We are all aware of the plethora of negative externalities that emanated out of the recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine. It led to food crisis in various African and Asian countries, and also fuelled an energy crisis in the world.

The point I am trying to make is that, a conflict at a particular place or region creates ripple effects which adversely impact the whole world. So, the rest of the world becomes a stakeholder in resolving the conflict and to restore peace in that place or region.

This is because Peace has positive externality. When two or more conflicting countries or parties restore peace among themselves, then, of course, they benefit in terms of human lives saved, higher economic growth achieved, etc. But the rest of the world also benefits, as peace fosters stability and encourages economic growth. In peaceful conditions, businesses can thrive, investment flows increase, and trade flourishes.

Therefore, it is the positive externality of peace and negative externality of war which drives the UN, along with the responsible nations of the world, to act towards resolving any conflict. This action is manifested in terms of deployment of UN peacekeeping missions in the conflict-zones.

India has been one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping operations. Since its first commitment in Korea in 1950, Indian troops have supervised complex, unmanageable peace operations, earning universal admiration for their professional excellence.

Our courageous soldiers, police personnel, and civilian experts have demonstrated exceptional dedication and unwavering commitment to the cause of peace. They have selflessly served in some of the most challenging and dangerous environments, embodying the spirit of peacekeeping and upholding the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

On this solemn occasion, I extend my deepest gratitude to all the valiant men and women who have served or are currently serving as UN peacekeepers. Their unwavering commitment, professionalism, and sacrifices inspire us all. We also extend our condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones in the line of duty. We stand with them in solidarity and offer our support.

While we commemorate the past, we must also look towards the future. The challenges being faced by the peacekeepers continue to evolve, demanding innovative approaches and enhanced cooperation among the responsible nations.

We must invest in training, technology, and resources to ensure the safety and effectiveness of our peacekeepers. We must advocate for the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping operations, recognizing their unique contributions in the context of difficulties expressed by women in conflict-affected areas.

It is also important to look at the entire UN ecosystem and what we can do to improve it. One important reform that stares us in our faces is to make the UN decision making bodies, including the United Nations Security Council, more reflective of demographic realities of the world. When India, the most populous nation of the world, does not find a seat as a permanent member of the UNSC, it tends to undermine the moral legitimacy of the UN.  Therefore, the time has come for making the UN bodies more democratic and representative of the current realities of our age.

To conclude, I would like to say that, as we celebrate this momentous occasion, let us reaffirm our commitment to the principles of the United Nations. Let us honour the sacrifices of our peacekeepers by working tirelessly to build a more just, peaceful, and inclusive world. Let us renew our commitment to promoting dialogue, understanding, and cooperation among nations and within the nations. Together, we can build a future where every individual can live in peace, harmony and with dignity.

Thank You!! Jai Hind!!