Vietnam is nearly into the second half of its two-year tenure (2020-2021) as the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). During this period Vietnam contributed to the UNSC and worked to advance ASEAN-UN cooperation, including responding to the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, in June 2020, India was elected to the non-permanent seat of the UNSC for the term 2021-22. This is the eighth time (1950-1951, 1967-1968, 1972-1973, 1977-1978, 1984-1985, 1991-1992 and 2011-2012) for India to be elected to this high position.
In his remarksat “UN75 Reception”, H.E. Pham Binh Minh Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Vietnam stated that his country remains strongly committed to “advancing multilateral cooperation and supporting the work of the United Nations” and “Vietnam is also at the fore front of UN reform, exemplified by progress in implementing Delivering as One”.
The year 2021 will be as challenging for the UN, as 2020 if not more. There will be several issues that will figure high on UN’ agenda and will require Vietnam to put all its capabilities and capacities to support the UN. First is about the post-COVID world which has left in its trail a health, economic, social and human crisis. These emergencies were to be expected from the pandemic but it also created “great power competition, tensions and conflicts, and a lack of commitment to multilateralism” which have resulted in “serious challenges to the work of the United Nations”. Vietnamese leaders have called for solidarity in these times of difficulty and “strengthen multilateralism and international law, with the UN at its core”.
Vietnam’s contribution to UN peacekeeping through humanitarian activities and development projects has been noteworthy and has brought hope to people in conflict-ridden areas. These efforts have changed the lives of millions for the better. Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister has also noted that the “Vietnamese flag will be flying at more UN Peacekeeping Missions”. Since 2014, Vietnam has sent 172 military officers and staff from the Ministry of National Defense for UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). In August this year, Vietnam assigned 10 officers to work at the UN Headquarters. The Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations (VNDPKO), the national agency responsible for PKO, also dispatched a “level-2 Field Hospital in South Sudan with 63 personnel”. The VNDPKO’s Party Committee now plans to set up a training center for imparting training on “regular peacekeeping training in both regional and international arenas, build professional peacekeepers, and fulfill preparations for the successful deployment of a combined engineering company ahead of the fourth quarter of 2023”.
As far as India is concerned, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his gratitude to the global community for their overwhelming support (India polled 184 out of the 192 valid votes) for India's membership of the UNSC. He announced that India would work with “all member countries to promote global peace, security, resilience and equity.”
India has so far participated in 51 of the 71 missions and contributed over 2 lakh personnel for UNPKO missions. It is the fifth largest contributor to UNPKO with 5,424 personnel who are deployed in eight countries. India also contributes as much as 0.16% of the UN Peacekeeping budget.
UN peacekeeping operations features prominently in Vietnam’s defense cooperation with other countries. It has signed nine memoranda of understanding on UN peacekeeping cooperation with partner countries like Australia, China, France, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the US.
UNPKO has also figured prominently in dialogues between India Vietnam. In 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind and President Nguyen PhuTrong agreed to “step up experience sharing in the training of personnel for participation in the UN peace-keeping operations”. More recently, in November 2020, during their meeting, Defence Ministers of India and Vietnam discussed training and cooperation in UNPKO. India has set up a sophisticated UNPKO training centre at New Delhi.
At the training level, in 2017, Mobile Training Team (MTT) comprising of four Indian Army Officers visited Vietnam to help train Vietnamese Sappers for UN peacekeeping missions. It was noted that the “ two-week pre- deployment training capsule would be extremely beneficial to the Vietnam People’s Army in preparing their contingent and officers for the intended deployment.” It is useful to mention that from 1954 to 1970, India had contributed to the Indo-China Supervisory Commission deployed in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Finally, a unique opportunity for emerged for Vietnam and India to work together in 2021 to support the UN’ mandate of maintenance of international peace and security and promote sustainable development particularly in the post-COVID-19 times as also jointly develop a robust framework for training for UNPKO.
Dr Vijay Sakhuja is Consultant Kalinga International Foundation, New Delhi.