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United Nations Peacekeepers day: Significance of this day, India's role in UNPK missions

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New Delhi, May 29: Today is International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers which is observed to honor the memory of the UN peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

The theme for this year's Day is "Protecting Civilians, Protecting Peace" to mark the upcoming 20th anniversary when for the first time the Security Council explicitly mandated a peacekeeping mission (UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone) to protect civilians.

Image credit - www.un.org

Today, in 14 peacekeeping operations on four continents, it deploys more than 88,000 military and police personnel -- from 124 Member States -- nearly 13,000 civilian personnel, and 1,300 UN Volunteers. Despite the size and breadth of its operations, peacekeeping's budget is less than one half of one percent of global military spending. Peacekeeping has clearly proven to be a solid investment in global peace, security and prosperity.

Since the first UN Peacekeeping mission was established in 1948, 3,800 military, police and civilian personnel have lost their lives in the service of peace as a result of acts of violence, accidents and disease. On 29 May, UN offices, alongside Member States and non-governmental organizations, hold solemn events to honour fallen peacekeepers.

UN Peacekeeping operations use the Day to strengthen bonds with the local populations that they have been deployed to serve. For example by holding sporting events, school and orphanage visits, art and essay competitions, photo exhibits, neighbourhood clean ups, tree plantings, concerts, and conferences and workshops on peace issues.

India's role in UN peacekeeping corps:

India's contribution to UN peacekeepers has been immense. India has been one of the largest contributors of peacekeepers and has suffered the most casualties in the process.

So far India has taken part in 43 Peacekeeping missions with a total contribution exceeding 180,000 troops and a significant number of police personnel having been deployed. In 2014, India was the third largest troop contributor with 7,860 personnel deployed with ten UN Peacekeeping Missions of which 995 are police personnel, including the first Female Formed Police Unitunder the UN.

Recently Indian Peacekeepers were lauded by the UN for their efforts in preventing a carnage in the South Sudan conflict which resulted in the death of two of its soldiers.

Historically, India has participated in nearly all UN peacekeeping operations in Africa. 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, according to www.brookings.edu.

(Information source - www.un.org/Wikipedia)

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