India’s Lieutenant General Shailesh Tinaikar is to be the new UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) Force Commander(FC). Since February 2019, SNI has been reporting on moves to name an Indian 3-star General as head of the blue helmets in South Sudan. An official announcement is to be made from New Delhi, from the UN Secretary General’s office in New York and from the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative(SRSG) David Shearer’s office. SNI has learnt that the UN Secretariat has cleared the selection and the appointment of Lt. Gen. Tinaikar. He is expected to arrive in South Sudan at the end of June to take up the assignment. SNI also learns the appointment is on the level of UN Assistant Secretary General. Lt. Gen. Tinaikar is to succeed Rwanda’s Lt. Gen. Frank Mushyo Kamanzi who took over command on 29 May 2017. SNI has also learnt the current FC is in New York for debriefings. There are 14,276 UN peacekeeping troops in South Sudan as of March 2019, with Rwanda having the maximum (2,750) and India being the second biggest troop contributor (2,337). 2,547 men and women peacekeepers are Indian (as of January, 2019). The Force Commander reports directly to the head of the Mission (SRSG) and is responsible for all military activities in support of the Mission’s mandate to protect civilians.
India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin told SNI: “Lt Gen Tinaikar’s appointment as FC of UNMISS is in line with the long tradition India has of deputing exceptionally skilled officials in support of UN Peacekeeping. We look forward to his serving the cause of international peace & security with distinction”.
Lt. Gen. Tinaikar is currently Commandant of the Infantry School, Mhow. He was commissioned in the Parachute Regiment in December 1983. He is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasala, Pune and the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. Lt. Gen. Tinaikar is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and the National Defence College, New Delhi and has attended the senior and higher command courses at the Army War College, Mhow. He holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy from Madras University and is also a post-graduate in Strategic Studies from Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore. He has been in volatile operational areas affected by high levels of terrorism and violence. Lt. Gen Tinaikar has served as ADGMO-Additional Director General of Military Operations (Special Operations) and has been GOC (General Officer Commanding) Delta Force in Jammu and Kashmir. Lt. Gen. Tinaikar has been a member of two UN peacekeeping missions—in Angola and Sudan—and has also been part of the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) to Sri Lanka.
Reacting to his appointment Gen SS Tinaikar told SNI, “I am privileged to be appointed as the Force Commander to serve the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Working in the best traditions of the Indian Army I will endeavour to significantly contribute and strive to Make a Difference to our efforts of promoting peace and stability in keeping with the mandate of the mission.”
Speaking to SNI, India’s Ambassador in South Sudan SD Moorthy said, “It is a proud moment for all of us that Lt. General S S Tinaikar will assume charge as Force Commander of UNMISS. India has the second largest contingent. India’s battalions are highly respected in this country because of their humane approach in all their assigned tasks. Now the Force Commander designate is an Indian and the Indian community is keenly looking forward to receive him”. In January 2019, Ambassador Moorthy in an extensive interview in Juba told SNI, “India has a good name in South Sudan because of how active the Army battalions are in the field.”
Lieutenant General Jasbir Lidder (retired) served as Force Commander of UNMIS (United Nations Mission in Sudan) from 2006 to 2008, was D-SRSG (Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General) in 2009 and Lt. Gen. Tinaikar served under him in the past. He told SNI: “Lt. Gen. Tinaikar is an outstanding officer and I am witness to his sterling combat leadership qualities when he commanded 10 PARA (Special Forces) under me when I was GOC (General Officer Commanding) Victor Force in Jammu and Kashmir”. With the UN clearing an Indian as FC, Lt. Gen Lidder added, “Contingents are required to maintain impartiality in implementing UN mandates—and not get involved in furthering their national interests. However, their presence and credibility of performance acts as a huge bridge for furthering bonds and strategic interests”.
Lt. Gen. Lidder (Retd.) who is actively involved with various UN and international security establishments, training institutes, academies and think tanks worldwide as a mentor, advisor and speaker also explained the procedure for choosing a UN FC. He told SNI, “Initially, the UN floats the vacancy to a number of nations depending on conflict zone geography, local language and country troop contributions. The countries then send the CVs of their nominated officers. The Army HQ chooses India’s nominee. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) short lists the CVs to a maximum of five. The candidates are interviewed (mostly through video links) by a panel of military, police and civilian officials including from humanitarian, human rights and gender bodies. Then, the results of the interviews along with recommendations are sent by the DPKO to the Secretary General’s (SG) office, where diplomatic maneuvering is the norm. On clearance by the SG, the country is informed. The FCs are recruited on UN pay and staff rules. They are not available for active duty for their parent country during their term but continue on its rolls”.
SNI has learnt that the appointment had several hiccups, with China almost managing to get its nominee named as Force Commander. Beijing contributes 1,036 troops to the UNMISS (as of March 2019) but is the top investor in the oil sector. Oil income is 98 per cent of the country’s budget but production is under half of what it was before the 2013 civil war. India’s ONGC Videsh Ltd has 25 per cent and 24.12 per cent stakes in two blocks. SNI has also learnt South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is in South Africa currently to further another oil deal. On China, Lt. Gen. Lidder (Retd.) told SNI: “I am not aware of the competition for the FC UNMISS post with China but if it was there, this is a major diplomatic victory for India”.
South Sudan is the world’s newest country, gaining independence from Sudan in 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest civil war. But that didn’t bring conflict to an end. Civil war broke out in 2013 after a fallout between President Salva Kiir and then vice-president Dr Riek Machar. A power-sharing deal in 2018 is trying to end that conflict that has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced over 4 million.
A national unity government to be set up under the deal by May 2019 has been pushed back at least six months risking another unravelling like after a 2015 agreement. Sticking points include the setting up of unified cantonments for armed groups from both sides and the number of states. The deal also stipulates national elections by May 2022.
The Pope also tried to give a fillip to the peace deal by holding a retreat for the two leaders at the Vatican in April and symbolically even kissing their feet, pleading with them to iron out their problems and work together. Sudan has an estimated 60+ % of Christians.
President Salva Kiir told SNI in an exclusive interview in Juba in January he believes the peace deal will not fail like in the past, adding, “We need India’s help to set up rebel cantonments and I am looking to Delhi to assist in implementing peace deal”. Since then, opposition leader Machar has successfully pushed back the May unity government setting up by six months and President Kiir has said it should be further delayed by another six months because of the rainy season that virtually brings the country to a standstill.
Lt. Gen. Lidder (retd.) also told SNI, “UNMISS has to persevere to implement the ceasefire. A half-hearted approach or inaction is not acceptable. I believe the senior leadership in the field has to go that extra mile to motivate the warring factions to help restore peace as well as act as a role model for the mission to deliver”.
David Shearer, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative (SRSG) told SNI in Juba in January: “The UN is being proactive and getting in front of the conflict, especially if warring parties don’t want us to”. But he also warned, “If the peace process collapses we will have to go back to the protection of civilians rather than stabilizing the country”.
According to the India’s UN mission, since the 1950s India has contributed more than 2,41,500 troops, the largest number from any country and participated in more than 49 missions, the most by any nation. 168 Indian peacekeepers have been killed in the line of duty—the maximum from any country. India has so far provided 15 Force Commanders in various UN missions. Besides Force Commanders, India also had two Military Advisers and one Deputy Military Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Lt. Gen. Shailesh Tinaikar will be the 16th Indian Force Commander at a UN mission.