New Delhi: The Indian Army, one of the largest contributors to United Nations Peacekeeping Missions, is making yet another contribution to the UN’s efforts to maintain stability and negotiate a peace settlement in turbulent regions of the world. On Monday, a unit of the Seventh Battalion of the Garhwal Rifles was dispatched from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport for the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the civil war-torn African nation of South Sudan.
“To support the United Nations’ efforts in bringing peace and normalcy in the war-torn country of South Sudan, Indian Army is contributing approximately 2300 personnel. Seven Garhwal Rifles Infantry battalion group of the Indian Army is currently being inducted to South Sudan from IGI Airport, New Delhi. It is a matter of great pride for the unit and the Garhwal Rifles Regiment, as troops hailing from the Garhwal region have been nominated for the first time to deploy in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS),” an Army spokesperson said.
The statement added, “ The unit will be in operational control of the sensitive Jonglei state with a detachment at Juba, its Headquarter in Bor County and an air maintained company group at Pibor County where armed conflicts and ethnic violence is on the rise. The Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan are deployed under Chapter VII which entails Peace Enforcement.
In November 2017, the UN Commander in South Sudan had commended the efforts of the Maratha Light Infantry for their bravery and professionalism. The Indian Army unit assumed operational responsibility in South Sudan, the newest country in the world, on November 16, 2016. A year after Maratha Light Infantry boots hit the ground, Lieutenant General Frank Mushyo Kamanzi of Rawanda, the UN Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) wrote a glowing commendation of the unit. “During the tour of duty, the battalion has assiduously lived up to its motto of ‘Duty, Honour and Courage’ while serving the UNMISS mandate. The professional of the men of the unit facilitated smooth and proficient resolution of various crisis situations in Pibor and Bor. The Battalion ensured incident-free protection of civilians in IDP camps and created favourable situations for delivery of Human Assistance,” Kamanzi wrote in his letter.
He further mentioned several successful operations that Indian Army troops had undertaken on the ground in South Sudan. In July this year, Maratha Infantrymen had extricated 13 civilian workers of Medcins Sans Frontiers (MSF) to a UNMISS compound. The MSF workers were trapped amidst heavy firing in Pibor on July 12 and 13. Earlier, in March, clashes had broken out in Pibor town and the Indian troops were charged with protecting 500 civilians, mostly women and children. It was due to the efforts of the Maratha Light Infantry, Kamanzi said, that a stable environment was created and 80 child soldiers engaged in the civil war laid down their arms. The battalion also protected civilian camps in Bor “without any incident”.
“The Battalion has also fruitfully engaged with the leadership in its Area of Responsibilities and reached out to the people through Medical/Veterinary Camps in inaccessible areas and operating a veterinary clinic in Bor where total of 22,000 cases were treated. The battalion successfully enhanced the image of United Nations Peacekeepers. The Battalion demonstrated a high level of professionalism and is an extremely effective fighting force,” he said.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, making it the newest nation in the world. However, a civil war broke out in the infant nation in 2013. The UN Mission in South Sudan is the newest UN Peacekeeping Mission. India, with 2,237 troops, is the highest contributor in terms of troops to the UNMISS. In addition to India, 53 nations from around the world have contributed troops to the peacekeeping mission.