Tag Archives: Hardeep Singh Puri


A dangerous game; Review of Hardeep Singh Puri’s Perilous Interventions

The most important task that Hardeep Puri took up after relinquishing charge as Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations in New York was to write a book giving an insider’s view of the Security Council’s decision-making process in relation to major global crisis situations during the two-year period of 2011-2012 when India was a member of the Security Council and Puri its representative there. The product in the form of this volume, Perilous Interventions, vindicates his decision. Perilous interventions, as Hardeep Puri puts it, reflect whimsical and reflexive decision-making with far-reaching consequences, without thinking through them. Most of these armed interventions have been made to achieve regime changes to serve ill-conceived short-term national and strategic interests. This book is about the origin, consequences and lessons to be derived from such interventions, which are at the root of some of the gravest problems confronting the world today. These threaten to tear asunder the post-Second World War international order.

The book presents five case studies of perilous interventions, ie Libya, Syria, Yemen, Crimea/Ukraine and Sri Lanka. To these are added chapter,s dealing with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Arab Spring, Policy-induced Migration and the Doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). All these relatively brief chapters are so complete in themselves, so well structured, so succinct and precise and so brilliantly analysed that they can substitute the volumes that have been written on each of these topics. Each chapter contains the background to the event leading to the present crisis, a blow-by-blow account of what happened or did not happen in the UN, in tandem with the unfolding of the situation on the ground, of misconceived external interventions and the arming of rebels, including those linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIS, and of the interplay of internal and external political factors complicating the situation and generally putting it beyond the realm of solution.

The author conveys his message in a forthright, frank and forceful manner. He spares none, including his own country. He strongly criticises the United Nations for its ‘inertness’ and ‘passivity’ in the case of Syria, Crimea/Ukraine and Sri Lanka. In the case of Syria, the Security Council has been unable to adopt any resolution of operational significance. In the case of Crimea, the author underlines that the Russian intervention ought to have had the prior permission of the Security Council. In the case of Sri Lanka, the UN did not take any collective action in a decisive manner to protect civilians from mass atrocities. He holds the three Western powers, UK, France, and the United States, responsible for using the Security Council as a fig leaf for armed intervention in order to carry out their design for regime change in Libya. He holds Saudi Arabia responsible for the unfolding of one of the greatest human tragedies in the world today ie in Yemen. He advances forceful arguments to demonstrate the illegitimacy of the Saudi intervention there and unequivocally blames the United States for supporting the Saudis in the attack against the Houthis. He takes objection to the reference in the Indian statement on Ukraine to legitimise Russian interest and sarcastically brings out its implication that “If the powerful have interest, ‘intervention’ and ‘take over’ are understandable”.

The author’s analysis of the Doctrine of R2P is significant in that it was during the period of his functioning as India’s representative in the Security Council that the doctrine was first put in practice with the intervention in Libya. It may be recalled here that the Western powers first wanted the acceptance of the doctrine of ‘humanitarian intervention’ as a part of the reform of the United Nations, but this was rejected by the majority of the UN member countries on grounds of being too open-ended and hence carrying the danger of opening the floodgates of interventions. What was included in perhaps the most comprehensive package on UN reforms adopted by the General Assembly in December 2005 was the Doctrine of R2P. This was, however, the thin end of the wedge.

The General Assembly has, no doubt, sought to circumscribe the use of R2P to cases of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. But as the author has brought out in chapter after chapter, the determination of the existence of such situations has been distorted, particularly in the case of Libya, with horrendous consequences for that country, the region, and the world. As the author points out, the trend, which has facilitated interventions by crossing the red lines laid down by the General Assembly, is the decline of the Westphalian concept of sovereignty with internationally recognised borders. The Western countries supported by their academic community, other think tanks and the media have played the principal role in bringing it about.

The author, however, regards the doctrine of R2P as essential to prevent mass atrocities and offers suggestions for its appropriate and effective application. These include making such interventions with the full knowledge of their consequences and integrating R2P with RwP ie Responsibility While Protecting. These are laudable objectives but in the present circumstances unlikely to be realized. The right course of action for protecting Third World countries including India from mindless interventions under R2P would have been to reject this doctrine altogether and, in its place, insist on the fuller utilization of Chapter 6 of the UN Charter of provisions other than the use of force, of Article 42 and the expansion of the scope of Article 39 relating to the determination of the existence of threat to peace, breach of peace and act of aggression.

The defining features of the book include its perceptive conclusions, salutary warnings and valuable suggestions for future action. One of the author’s most important suggestions is to reform the Security Council in order to democratize and make more effective its decision making. The author quotes from an article by General Satish Nambiar, who played a leading role in UN peacekeeping operations, to drive home the point that “Non-action was not due to lack of warning, resources or the barrier of state sovereignty, but because of strategic, political or economic considerations…”

In taking such a limited view of UN reform, it is forgotten that the overriding reason for the United Nations’ inability to act in most of the areas under its jurisdiction is the systematic, conscious and well-planned decimation of its capacity over the last few decades. This deficiency is of a structural nature going beyond the process of decision-making. After all, what is the point of India or any other country becoming a Permanent Member of the Security Council when the UN as a whole has lost its capacity to act? Proposals to halt this process and strengthen UN capacity were never seriously put on the UN reform agenda. For the most part of the reform process, India did not bestir itself to do anything about it and devoted all its diplomatic energy and resources to the issue of Security Council reforms in order to become its Permanent Member. This is no less an improbable proposition than restoring to the UN its lost functions and capacity.

In taking such a limited view of UN reform, it is forgotten that the overriding reason for the United Nations’ inability to act in most of the areas under its jurisdiction is the systematic, conscious and well-planned decimation of its capacity over the last few decades. This deficiency is of a structural nature going beyond the process of decision-making. After all, what is the point of India or any other country becoming a Permanent Member of the Security Council when the UN as a whole has lost its capacity to act? Proposals to halt this process and strengthen UN capacity were never seriously put on the UN reform agenda. For the most part of the reform process, India did not bestir itself to do anything about it and devoted all its diplomatic energy and resources to the issue of Security Council reforms in order to become its Permanent Member. This is no less an improbable proposition than restoring to the UN its lost functions and capacity.


‘Solid Book on Interventionism, Should be Mandatory Reading in Foreign Affairs’ – NN Taleb, Amazon.com

This is an outstanding book on the side effects of interventionism, written in extremely elegant prose and with maximal clarity. It documents how people find arguments couched in moralistic terms to intervene in complex systems they don’t understand. These interventions trigger endless chains of unintended consequences –consequences for the victims, but none for the interventionistas, allowing them to repeat the mistake again and again.

Puri, as an insider, outlines the principles and legal mechanisms, then runs through the events of the past few years since the Iraq invasion; each one of his chapters are models of concision, presenting the story of Ukraine, Syria, Lybia, and Yemen, among others, as standalone briefings to the uninitiated. It was high time that somebody in international affairs has approached the problem of “iatrogenics”, i.e. harm done by the healer.

This book should be mandatory reading to every student and practitioner of foreign affairs.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/review/R1MPOC1YEX7D5R/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=9351777596&channel=detail-glance&nodeID=283155&store=books


“Eye for an Eye – will lead to complete blindness” – Hardeep Singh Puri, Udaipur Times

Perilous Interventions: The Security Coundil & The Politics of Chaos, a Harper Collins publication is the outcome of an insider’s account, that of Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s representative of the UN Security Council from 2009 till 2013.

Hardeep Singh Puri was in Udaipur today evening as part of a book signing event under the Kalam series,  a Padma Khaitan Foundation event, organized by Udaipur’s Cultural Rendezvous at Radisson Blu.

Candid as ever, Ambassador Puri overwhelmed the elite gathering with his crisp elocution and flamboyant interpretation of decision making at the highest levels of global politics.

Puri, in his tete a tete with the audience, spoke on global situations prevalent today, the decisions of super power institutions leading to atrocities in the Middle East – Libya, Syria, Yemen.

The role played by superpowers in provoking terrorism through organizations like the Islamic State in Middle East,; Russia’s interventions in Crimea, Ukraine right down to India’s intervention to affairs in Sri Lanka were adeptly described by Puri, with solid examples and explanations on how the clock moved.

In the question session, Hardeep Singh Puri was asked very specific questions relating to India’s policy shift with Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and he answered with his insightful understanding of the political influences at that time and now.

Puri said that Rajiv Gandhi was a witness to the building of the Tamil rebels against the Sri Lankan Sinhalese, by his mother, the former Prime Minister of India.  Tamil rebellion fueling was India’s intervention in Sri Lankan matters – which was in chaos at that time and India hoped to benefit by this intervention, is what the then Prime Minister Indira thought.  This very own Tamil terrorism resulted in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, although he was keen on disintegrating the rebellion.

Earlier, Congress had created Bhindranwale to control the Akali Dal in Punjab, but the same force resulted in the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

“America is not our friend – this is our misunderstanding.  A country which supported the rise if Islamic State to control Iraq, supported Taliban to oust Russia from Afghanistan and many other interventions in other countries for their benefit – both commercial and political, cannot be anyone friend.  America will behave the way Trump behaves – changing stance every day”, argued Puri.

On Pakistan, Puri was very bitter and confirmed that though the surgical strike was successful and the right thing to do, India must not continue with its soft stand and policy on Pakistan needs to take a radical shift from that of the last 4 decades.  Pakistan has taken a setback from the surgical strike, but it will retaliate and we must be ready for that – a significant policy shift is warranted, he said.

Journalism in the modern world is rooted in commercial and political will – said Puri, hitting out at media.  Though, not generalising the perspective, Puri said that during the American elections, each media except Fox was biased towards Clinton.  Pollsters were proven wrong by the people.  The voters expressed one stance and went ahead with the other, keeping media playing the trumpet in another direction.

On Indian elections held in 2014, Puri, who is a member of the BJP, had then asked on how the BJP would win with such limited percentage voting in its favor, to which Arun Jaitley had replied – “It is not the arithmetic that will result in the BJP’s victory, it is the Chemistry – the people will chose a new leader, not because he or she is the best, but because the competition is ineffective” – this is what happened in India in 2014 and now in US in 2016.

On demonetization, Puri was clear in his thoughts, calling it a very audacious and ambitious step, and a much needed radical decision, in the face of opposition from every quarter.  He said that he might have answered differently if his analysis of the decision was questioned a week earlier, but now, he is sure that this step as a solid action against black money and terrorist funding and will result in benefits for the country’s economy and the common man.  He said that this policy decision will be followed by many other beneficial decisions, in times to come, and the current transactional chaos should not be taken in isolation.

Hardeep Singh Puri ended the session by answering questions by the media and signing his book Perilious Interventions for the audience who thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

Source: http://udaipurtimes.com/eye-for-an-eye-will-lead-to-complete-blindness-hardeep-singh-puri/


‘Perilous Interventions’ That Damaged the International Political World

Manoj Joshi, The Wire 06/01/207

Hardeep Singh Puri’s book highlights the interconnected world where mistrust, violence and injustice are increasing while international covenants fray, and stresses the need for a collective legal framework to deal with them.


Going by the introduction, the presumption is that Hardeep Singh Puri’s book, Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos, was finalised early in 2016. Developments since then have only confirmed its central argument – the world remains a dangerous place with challenges that have become ever more complex. It needs a collective effort to provide an international legal framework to deal with them. The UN system offers one, provided it can be made to work.

Unfortunately, the recent history of the system – at whose apex is the UN Security Council (UNSC), tasked with ending conflict and fostering peace in the world – has not been a happy one. We have seen it all too frequently deadlocked and bypassed, and often impotent in the face of unilateral “perilous” interventions. The denouncement in Syria is unfolding and as of now there are no signs that the UN will or is even capable of taking charge.

As a diplomat, Hardeep Singh Puri has cut his teeth on a range of issues — the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka, managing ties with the US in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, as a trade specialist in Geneva. But clearly his life-changing experience has been his experience as the permanent representative of India at the UN in New York in the 2009-2013 period – including the period in which India was a non-permanent member of the UNSC in 2011-12 – and as president of the council in August 2011 and November 2012 and chairman of its counter-terrorism committee from January 2011 to February 2013.

Perilous Interventions, he notes in the afterword, is motivated by the parlous state of our interconnected world where mistrust, injustice, inequality and violence seem to be increasing and politics, leadership, international covenants fraying. These in another period would have been seen as  the words of an idealist. But in today’s world there is a desperate realpolitik need to restore a world that functions within the framework of the rule of international law and convention and emphasises democracy and compassion.

One of the great values of the book is that it provides a short but insightful education into the “perilous interventions” that have so damaged the world order. He navigates with great clarity through the contemporary history of Libya, Syria, Yemen, Crimea or Ukraine and Sri Lanka, and uses his personal experience as India’s representative in the UN to see how the idealistic expectations of the UN systems have broken down.

This is a lesson India learnt early in January of 1948 when our complaint of Pakistan’s aggression in Kashmir was turned into the “India-Pakistan” question. We were lucky, we went under Chapter VI, had Chapter VII been applied it could have led to external intervention in the region with unforeseen consequences.

Puri has had occasion to look at the various instrumentalities that are involved in our reaction to crises – governments, big powers, lobbyists, special interests, the media, think tanks and so on. But there is also the issue of political leadership, and this is best brought out by the Russian reaction that Puri describes under President Dmitry Medvedev and later Vladimir Putin. Of course, leadership is a key issue because the course of Middle Eastern history could well have been very different if George Bush had been more competent and Tony Blair less cynical. Ironically, the CIA officer who interrogated Saddam Hussein after his capture now agrees that Iraq may have been best off if the dictator had been left to run it.

Another issue relates to the role of the western think tanks, lobbies and ‘experts’ in promoting intervention. Syria again is a major case where the western narrative is completely one-sided and only now after the failure of western policy are people questioning it. It is of course known that powers like Qatar which played a major role in promoting the Syrian conflict, are also big donors to American think tanks.

The interventions discussed relate to the big powers – US, UK, France and Russia. Or they relate to Saudi Arabia, an economic big power, backed explicitly by the US. But there is one which is different – the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. It was completely outside the UN system, but it had subtle US backing. In 1985, having decided to shift Indian policy, Rajiv Gandhi got US approval, even telling journalists that the US agrees that India should play a larger role in the region. Puri served at a crucial position as the senior political diplomat in Colombo and had first-hand experience of the subject that he has now written on.

At the end of the day, this book is about global governance and the systems that we use to exercise it. Clearly, what we learn is that the system is now dysfunctional. It is either ignored, manipulated or paralysed in the face of a crisis. There is nothing new that is happening today – a new US president whose grip on foreign affairs is questionable and whose team comprises of ideologues who bear great responsibility for the mess the world is in today. We appear to be entering into a phase where international agreements like UNCLOS are fraying – as are borders in countries like Libya, Syria, Iraq and Somalia.

In themselves interventions are not necessarily bad. We have the example of the Indian intervention in Bangladesh which took place despite the US’s opposition. However, it is in the interest of world order to make the UN system work the way it was intended to. While that system took into account the fact of power politics, it did not cater for the prolonged power transition that is taking place.

Looked at any way, Puri’s book is a must-read for all those interested in global affairs and concerned over the deterioration of the international system. As the days go by, the situation seems to be getting worse.  We need to find that space where a mutuality of interests not only prevents states from using force outside international law, but also strengthens the system where violation of international law is punished.


Source: https://thewire.in/97428/perilous-interventions-hardeep-singh-puri/



‘Puri: Stalemate over Syria Is Security Council’s “Most Serious Failure”’ – International Peace Institute

Hardeep Singh Puri, former ambassador of India and author of Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos, told a book launch event at IPI on October 25th that the stalemate over Syria and the Council’s consequent inaction was the panel’s “most serious failure.”
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“Peligrosas intervenciones” del Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU – THALIF DEEN PARA IPS, elpaisonline.com

Cuando el Consejo de Seguridad de la ONU discutió los ataques “deliberados” contra hospitales en Siria y Yemen, el secretario general Ban Ki-moon criticó a varios de los países combatientes al señalar que “incluso un matadero es más humano” que las matanzas indiscriminadas de civiles en los dos conflictos en curso.

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UN Security Council’s “Perilous Interventions” in War Zones – Thalif Deen, Icrowdnewswire.com

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 7 2016 (IPS) – When the UN Security Council last week discussed the “deliberate” attacks on medical facilities in war-ravaged Syria and Yemen, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implicitly criticized some of the warring nations lamenting that “even a slaughterhouse is more humane” than the ongoing indiscriminate killings of civilians in the two devastating conflicts.

The attacks on hospitals, he warned, were “war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law”.
But Joanne Liu, International President of Medicins sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), singled out “four of the five permanent members of the Security Council” for the continued atrocities and lambasted them for their role in the attacks against medical facilities.

“The conduct of war today knows no limits,” she regretted, pointing out that the failure of the Security Council “reflects a lack of political will among member states fighting in coalitions and those who enable them.”
The unidentified four “enablers” – the United States, Britain, France and Russia – are either directly or indirectly involved in the ongoing military conflicts either as participants or as key arms suppliers.

A recently-released 264-page book titled “Perilous Interventions” also takes a highly critical look at the Security Council whose military interventions have led, in some cases, to “chaos, destruction and destabilization” –specifically in the volatile Middle East—and helped create the Islamic State (IS), “arguably the most formidable extremist organization in history.”

Authored by Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, the book lists all the mistakes made in the case of Libya and Syria, along with what happened in Yemen and Ukraine.
“This disastrous history,” Puri said in an interview with IPS “will repeat itself unless we learn from past mistakes and make the required corrections.”

Asked whether the Security Council has outlived its usefulness, judging by the unmitigated failures of Western-led military interventions— either directly or indirectly — in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen, Puri said: “The use of force, in the interventions you have cited, was authorised by the Security Council only in the case of Libya (Resolution 1973).”

In the case of Afghanistan, he said, the “coalition of the willing did not even bother to approach the Council.”
In the case of Iraq, a sceptical Council refused to be persuaded, said Puri, who twice presided over Security Council meetings during 2011-2102.

Ukraine and Yemen, he noted, were “unilateral action with a helpless and ineffective Council being either manipulated or ignored.”

“The problem is, if you didn’t have the Council, you would have unilateral action only. The answer, therefore, is not to disband the Council but seek improvement in its functioning,” said Puri.

Asked if the proposed reform of the Security Council – still grounded after more than 10 years of negotiations – will help change the political landscape, Puri said an expanded Council will not suffice.

After all, the new members in an expanded Council will, in all likelihood, not have a veto.

Those who have the urge to use force should introspect about the consequences of their actions. Also, the veto should not be used in situations that potentially involve mass atrocities, he added.

“Security Council expansion and reform, by the way is not a lost cause. All it requires is for a group of countries to submit a framework resolution. Serious negotiations will follow,” he argued.

At a press briefing last September, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, was asked about his country’s stance on Council reform.

He told reporters he did not see, in the near future, any historic compromise being reached on the issue of admitting new permanent members.

“The Russian Federation did not support the French proposal on limiting veto use, as it was not a “workable scheme”; mass atrocity situations would be determined by the 15 Council members or the Secretary-General.”

“This is a political world,” and allowing the General Assembly to weigh in would only infringe on the Council’s purview, he warned.

But Puri told IPS that a veto restraint agreement is the need of the hour.

“I am confident that if it is packaged in terms of a voluntary restraint agreement, along the lines of the French proposal, no amendment let alone a Charter amendment would be required.”

Asked about Security Council decisions being dictated to by big power national interests, Puri told IPS the five permanent members ever so often place their own narrow national interest above considerations of peace and security.

“Some of them do so more blatantly than others. The Council is an intensely political institution”.

Asked about Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recent complaint that decisions by “consensus” lead to one or two member states exercising undue power over UN decision making, Puri said: “This SG’s time is over. Let us hope the incoming SG will assert leadership and prove it to ensure democratic functioning in the UN.”

“If consensus is interpreted in terms of unanimity, that will become the basis for the doctrine of inaction. In that case, we can kiss goodbye to the UN itself,” he declared.

Source: http://icrowdnewswire.com/2016/10/08/un-security-councils-perilous-interventions-war-zones/