The International Day of UN Peacekeepers was commemorated here yesterday with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon laying a wreath at a newly-created memorial for the peacekeepers.
The ceremony was attended by India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Asoke Kumar Mukerji and other envoys and military attaches of member states. Ban then presided over a solemn ceremony where the prestigious Dag Hammarskjold Medal, named after the second UN chief, was posthumously awarded to the 106 fallen peacekeepers for their courage and sacrifice in the line of duty.
Mukerji accepted the medal on behalf of the eight Indian soldiers who lost their lives while stationed at UN missions. The fallen Indian peacekeepers are Lt Col Mahipal Singh, Lance Naik Nand Kishore Joshi, Havildar Heera Lal, Naib Subedar Shiv Kumar Pal and Havildar Bharat Sasmal from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) who were killed in April last year when they were ambushed by about 200 attackers near Jonglei State as they escorted a UN convoy.
Subedar Dharmesh Sangwan and Subedar Kumar Pal Singh died in action in December last year in Akobo following an assault on a UN base.
Sepoy Rameshwar Singh, deployed as a peacekeeper in the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was killed in February 2013. Mukerji later hosted a commemorative reception where the names of all the 106 peacekeepers were placed along with photographs of the eight Indian soldiers who had died.
The symbolic tribute, an initiative by India and a first, was made to honour those who collectively gave their lives in pursuit of international peace and security.
Candles were lit in their memory to demonstrate the solidarity of the UN peacekeeping community and the debt owed by the international community to the brave souls.
Noting that peacekeepers are increasingly being caught up in internal conflicts in troubled nations, Mukerji expressed concern that peacekeepers are often perceived as acting in a "partisan manner" on behalf of the government against the opposition. "This is source of concern and source of threat to peacekeepers," he told PTI.
He said peacekeeping is not the solution to political instability inside member states and the UNSC "must actually act to prevent and restore the political situation on the basis of which the peacekeeping mandate was given.