UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has thanked India for its "strong and sustained" support to peacekeeping as he honoured the memory of the 163 Indian peacekeepers who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.
"I thank the Government of India for their strong and sustained support to UN peacekeeping…You have indeed given a very strong contribution to global solidarity and to international peace and security," Guterres said while addressing a tea reception hosted by India at the world body's headquarters yesterday on the occasion of the International Day of Peacekeeping.
India has been the largest troop contributor to UN missions since inception. So far India has taken part in 49 Peacekeeping missions with a total contribution exceeding 1,95,000 troops and a significant number of police personnel having been deployed. Currently about 7,700 Indian peacekeepers are deployed around the world, a majority in South Sudan and Congo.
Most famously, India helped set the trend in “peace enforcement missions” by deploying a sizeable contingent-around 5,000 troops assisted by light bombers, to the United Nations Operations in Congo (ONUC) from 1960 to 1963. This militarized mission ensured the unity of Congo and resulted in the maximum number of casualties suffered by India in any UN operation.
Guterres paid tributes to the 163 peacekeepers from India who sacrificed their lives serving in various peacekeeping missions.
He noted that India has lost the highest number of peacekeepers in UN peacekeeping's 70-year history. Of the 3,737 peacekeepers who have died since 1948, 163 have been from India, which is the highest total from any troop contributing country.
"The total 163 Indian peacekeepers, the highest number of all troop contributing countries, have given their lives for peace. We recognize their service and sacrifice as well as the service and sacrifice of all those from all countries that have fallen in the line of duty," he said.
The UN Chief also spoke about the 125-strong women peacekeepers of the Indian Formed Police Unit deployed with the UN mission in Liberia, the first ever such contingent, calling them "an inspiration to all".
He said there was a need to recognise the enormous importance of women soldiers and women police for making a difference in local communities. "This is a pioneer initiative from India that needs to be underlined," he said.
Guterres said troop contributing countries have made enormous sacrifices and have troops in the "most dangerous locations in the world to protect the lives of citizens of other countries."
However, India’s contributions are being questioned as recent articles highlighting the “poorly equipped, mandated and governed operations” characterising UN peacekeeping, Nitin Pai and Sushant Singh argue in The Indian Express that continued participation is not commensurate to the results-either through obtaining a seat on the UN’s Security Council or in obtaining “great power status”. (With Agency inputs)