By Elton Gomes
A day after an Indian peacekeeper was injured in Democratic Republic of Congo, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin voiced his concern over inadequate resources available for the implementation of peacekeeping mandates. He warned that asking peacekeepers to “do more with less” is a strategy that is “setting us all up for a tragedy“.
The Indian peacekeeper was deployed with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUSCO, was wounded in an attack.
Highlighting the issues faced by MONUSCO peacekeepers as they are deployed in sensitive areas of the DRC, Akbaruddin said that the central sector of the country constitutes more than 500,000 sq km, and has a population of more than 11 million people.
Only four battalions of UN peacekeeping operations are responsible for this vast area. The four battalions constitute only about 3,000 troops, which means that there is only one soldier per 158 sq km, Akbaruddin said.
“If in such a scenario, we task the troops deployed to enforce protection of civilians, without even providing enabling air assets for rapid reinforcement operations, it is obvious that the size and scale of UN deployment are insufficient for the tasks entrusted. The strategy of peacekeepers, needing to do more with less, is setting us all up for a tragedy,” he said on Tuesday at the debate on “Strengthening Peacekeeping Operations in Africa”, as per a PTI report.
Akbaruddin also criticised the practice of some troop-contributing nations placing conditions and caveats on how their troops are deployed in Africa.
The diplomat said this practice should end, adding that it “results in unfair work distribution among various troops on the ground and thereby affect the missions’ performance,” IANS reported.
What is MONUSCO, and how is India associated with it?
MONUSCO is the acronym for the UN Organization Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. MONUSCO was created after it took over from an earlier peacekeeping operation, the United Nations Organisation Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo, known as MONUC, on July 1, 2010. It costs $ 1.3 billion a year.
Due to increasing international criticism, and threats of expulsion from the DRC President Joseph Kabila and disapproval by Etienne Tshisekedi, his main opponent, MONUC was changed to to MONUSCO.
MONUSCO has three priorities: protecting civilians, stabilising the country, and supporting implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region. The deal has 11 African nations as signatories: Angola, Burundi, the Central Africa Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
A total of 60 countries contribute to MONUSCO’s force, with India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, South Africa, Uruguay, Nepal, Egypt, Morocco, and Pakistan contributing over 700 military personnel each. The United Kingdom contributes 600 personnel, while France contributes 500 soldiers.
India’s role in peacekeeping missions
Since 1950, India has participated in at least 50 United Nations peacekeeping missions. India is the largest contributor with 2,00,000 troops deployed so far in peacekeeping operations.
During the Korean War (1950-1954), India deployed the 60th Indian Field Ambulance, a parachute-trained medical unit comprising 17 officers, nine junior commissioned officers (JCO), and 300 jawans. This unit was awarded the President’s Trophy in 1955, and it remains the only mission to win the trophy till date.
In Mission UNOC (United Nations Operation in the Congo, 1960-1964), two infantry brigades comprising 467 officers, 401 JCOs, and 11,354 jawans participated in this peacekeeping mission. A fleet of six Canberra Bomber aircrafts from the Indian Airforce was also deployed.
India also participated in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC, 1992-1993), which was set up to supervise ceasefire, disarm combatants, repatriate refugees, and conduct free and fair elections. As many as 1,373 peacekeepers were deployed in this mission.
Previous attacks on Indian peacekeepers
Indian troops have faced several attacks over the years while they were deployed in UN peacekeeping missions. In March 2012, three Indian army soldiers were killed and another three were critically injured in DRC by attackers believed to be from the Mai-Mai militia group.
Egide Karafifi, the head city official in Kirumba province, told the AFP that the attackers were wearing civilian clothes, had raphia palm coverings on their heads, and were singing Mai-Mai songs, as per a report in Al Jazeera.
In August 2010, three Indian soldiers, who were part of the UN peacekeeping force in DRC, were killed and seven others were injured after rebel forces attacked their base in Kirumba. Army officials told PTI that the incident occurred when around 50-60 suspected rebels of the Mai-Mai militia group attacked the unit’s base in Kirumba province in Congo at around 2 am.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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