News: Nepalese Army peacekeeper describes varied roles in conducting missions
By Lt. Theresa Donnelly
U.S. Pacific Command Public Affairs
KATHMANDU, Nepal - Nepalese Army officer Lt. Col. Ashish Prasad Upadhyay reflected on his time serving in three conflict-affected nations during Exercise Shanti Prayas-2 at the Nepal Army headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal, March 28.
Shanti Prayas-2 is a Nepal-hosted and U.S.-sponsored multinational exercise designed to train Nepalese Army and Global Peace Operations Initiative partner-nation defense personnel for deployment to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
Nepalese Army officer Lt. Col. Ashish Prasad Upadhyay recounted that he began working as a peacekeeper when he was deployed in 2002 to southern Lebanon where he worked as an operations officer with armies from Poland, Ghana, Nepal, Ireland and Fiji on a traditional peacekeeping mission which, as a predominately military operation, had little involvement with UN civilians or police.
At the time, a ceasefire had recently been negotiated in one of the many clashes between armed groups in Lebanon and Israel.
"For me, it was such a different environment and different culture. The first thing that you must do as an effective peacekeeper is to understand the operational environment. It took me a month or two to understand that because the political situation is one thing, but you need to understand the technicalities and the work processes," said Upadhyay.
"Overall, it was a good experience and my first time working in an international environment, and I learned a lot," he said.
In 2005, he commanded a contingent of Nepalese Army Special Forces on a mission in Africa for six months. He says that his role as a peacekeeper changed dramatically.
"In my tour in Lebanon, it was traditional in that it [was] led only by military peacekeepers but this tour was multidimensional,” he said. “We had civilians working with us and our role was different.”
Although there were some groups Upadhyay worked with that were part of the peace process, there were still others that had not. And because of this, there were areas the team declared as "no-go" areas. But his force commander found an innovative way to mitigate this problem by building trust within the community.
"We started patrolling those areas. And when we went there, it was the first time any peacekeeper had gone to those places. And there had been standoffs with us and these armed groups," he said.
"The force commander, who was from Africa, was very smart. He said to us, 'I want to go to those areas and for you to escort me.' We said ok and we went there as a patrol and made a plan, went as a group and walked for two or three hours. We talked with the villagers in a non-threatening position. That way, we were accepted by those people there."
Asish said that throughout his time serving, he uses his experiences to help others, either at training programs such as this exercise, or when he works as a peacekeeper by making sure that the contingents coming in after him understand the assignment.
In his third peacekeeping tour, he worked in civil military operations in Haiti.
"What was very interesting about this mission is that we went there right after the earthquake in 2010 and then there was a hurricane. I learned many things there. It was peacekeeping, but it was also disaster response," he said.
As an experienced peacekeeper, Asish has many lessons he can impart to his troops.
"Peacekeeping is not a military function, so you have to convert your mindset from training to respond to aggression to instead training to bringing peace,” he said. “You must convert yourself from green to blue. Those things require an understanding of not only soldiers, but the civilians working with us.”
Ashish said he is enjoying his time at the exercise and has learned a lot more about peacekeeping by interacting with the exercise participants.
"The audience here is very diverse and served in so many missions. The situation for peacekeepers in each place is so different. When I come to this forum and share experiences, I am always learning new things," he said.