Lesson To Be Learnt from UNASUR To Promote Regional Security in Sub Continent

October 29, 2012

New Delhi: India needs to strengthen its ties with the South American region and forge greater engagement at diplomatic level, said Ambassador Deepak Bhojwani, at a Conference on ‘Security Issues in Latin America: Experience of UNASUR’, organised at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) on October 29, 2012. The conference was attended by the ambassadors of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

UNASUR was established in December 2004 as an inter-governmental union, integrating the existing customs union MERCOSUR and the Andean Community of Nations and sought to bring about ambitious regional integration in South America. The organisation has several Sectoral/Ministerial councils dealing with issues like social development, health, education, drug trafficking, etc. One of the key sectoral councils of UNASUR pertains to Defence. The South American Defence Council (CDS) encourages cooperation in regional security matters, transparency in military spending and provides assistance in peace missions and natural disasters. UNASUR has played a major role in mitigating political unrest and in solving diplomatic crisis in the South American region.

UNASUR is planning to take the process of integration further. Peru will host a Summit for Heads of State and Governments of UNASUR to discuss the “Protocol on Peace and Security Co-operation”, on Nov 30, 2012.

During the discussion, the panel ascertained that UNASUR can be utilised to make South America “a region of Peace and Security” and the South American nations need to approach regional issues from a non ideological stand point, specifically in the economic sphere.

The panellists recognised that though the mechanism of decision making by consensus in a region as diverse as South America is a difficult task, the willingness to come together to forge a unified force is there. The possibility of establishing a regional peacekeeping force however was considered premature at the moment.

Earlier, welcoming the dignitaries, Director General, IDSA, Dr Arvind Gupta noted that UNASUR “in its short history, has already played an important role in several areas, notably in mediating in Colombia-Venezuela diplomatic crisis of 2010 and in creating a Haiti UNASUR fund of 100 million dollars. Other significant achievements include limiting defence expenditure, reducing crime, integrating energy and financial systems, handling constitutional crises in Ecuador and Paraguay.”

Drawing a comparison between UNASUR, SAARC and BIMSTEC, Dr Gupta said that the progress of forging regional integration in India has been relatively slow and “we should understand the experience of UNASUR in promoting regional integration in South America”.

Both, Indian and South American participants emphasised on the need for institutional dialogue between India and UNASUR on a range of issues. The South American participants expressed interest in India’s policy of social inclusion.