Protection of civilians, national responsibility:India

United Nations: Terming protection of civilians a "national responsibility", India today said that the international community should facilitate talks between warring groups in a conflict situation instead of complicating matters by "threats of sanctions and regime change."

Indian Ambassador to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri, in his statement on `protection of civilians` at the UN Security Council today, said several UN member nations are "all too willing" to expend considerable resources for regime change in the name of protection of civilians.

However, any international decision to intervene in a country in conflict should be based on protecting civilians and not be distracted by political motives. "The actions of the Council and international community should facilitate an engagement between warring factions in a conflict situation in a nationally owned and inclusive political process and not complicate the situation by threats of sanctions, regime change," Puri said.

Noting that civilians are the ones who suffer the most in war, Puri said it has been India`s consistent view that protection of its population is the first and foremost responsibility of each State.

He stressed that force is not the only way of protecting civilians but instead should be the measure of last resort and be used only when all diplomatic and political efforts fail.

On its part, the Security Council must "make up its mind" on what it means by protection of civilians and have clarity about who is to be protected and what constitutes a threat.

The Council "must be able to differentiate between threats that require a military response or a `Rule of Law` response. It should not ask force commanders or their soldiers to assume policing responsibilities," Puri added.

Puri said the recent actions of the Council have brought to the fore a "considerable sense of unease about the manner in which the humanitarian imperative of protecting civilians has been interpreted for actual action on the ground."

There are also instances when the Council is expected to quickly criticize national governments for failing in their responsibility to protect civilians, while little or no accountability is enforced on armed groups indulging in violence.

In this regard, monitoring the manner in which the Council`s mandates are implemented assumes importance. "We believe that there should be accountability of those who mandate. Their responsibility does not end with the generation of mandates. They should be held accountable if unachievable mandates are generated for political expediency or if adequate resources are not made available," Puri said.

The Security Council must also be clear that its responsibility for protecting civilians does not end with a military or police response. Civilians require humanitarian support for survival.

Further, the response of the Council and international community must be proportional to the threat involved, use appropriate methods and make available adequate resources to any peacekeeping mission involved.

Puri said despite development of international humanitarian law and UN Security Council mandates, civilians continue to suffer a disproportionate share of the casualties of war and post-conflict violence as compared to belligerents.

While the right of people to protest peacefully is to be respected, states have to take appropriate action when heavily armed militant groups resort to violence against state authority and infrastructure.

Puri noted that India has contributed through ideas and resources to global efforts towards protecting civilians. "Our men on the ground are the ones who translate this Council?s mandates into actions in challenging circumstances."

India, which has contributed more than 100,000 peacekeepers to United Nations operations in the past six decades, is steadfast in its commitment to protecting civilians at the international level. "India brings to the table a quantum of experience in actually protecting civilians in peacekeeping missions that is unique in its relevance and in its variety and depth," Puri said.

Making a case for need to strengthen national capacities for states to protect their populations, Puri said peacekeepers alone, in spite of their best efforts, cannot possibly "protect everyone from everything." Peacekeepers can primarily assist and aid in the development of these national capacities, he added.