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Highest UN peacekeeper deaths in last 70 years from India

By PTI
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United Nations, May 30: India has lost 163 military, police and civilian personnel in the line of duty in various UN peacekeeping operations in the last 70 years. This is the highest number of casualties from any troop-contributing country.

An peacekeeper from India, one of 41 different national contingents that make up the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), stands at attention during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of its peacekeeping presence in southern Lebanon, at the mission headquarters in the coastal town of Naqoura, Lebanon, Monday, March 19, 2018. AP/PTI

According to the UN, of the 3,737 peacekeepers who have died since 1948, 163 have been from India, the highest total from any troop-contributing country.

India is currently the third largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping, with 6,693 now deployed in Abyei, Cyprus, Congo, Haiti, Lebanon, the Middle East, South Sudan and Western Sahara. However, the UN owes India USD 92 million for troops, formed police units and contingent-owned equipment as at April 30, 2018.

The UN commemorated the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers yesterday, paying tribute to the service and sacrifice of peacekeepers around the world.

Currently, more than 96,000 uniformed personnel from 124 troop and police-contributing countries serve under the blue flag, alongside more than 15,000 international and national civilian staff and nearly 1,600 United Nations Volunteers.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of United Nations peacekeeping, the flagship enterprise of the Organization described by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as "a proven investment in global peace, security and prosperity". "We express our gratitude to the more than one million men and women who have served under the UN flag, saving countless lives.

We honour the more than 3,700 Blue Helmets who have paid the ultimate price. And we pay tribute to the 14 peacekeeping missions working around the clock to protect people and advance the cause of peace," Guterres said in Mali to mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

The north-west African country is the most dangerous place in the world to be a UN 'blue helmet' and last year 21 troops serving with the UN Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) lost their lives, together with seven civilians. Upon his return from Mali, the Secretary-General will preside over the observance of the day on June 1.

He will lay a wreath to honour those who lost their lives while in the service of peace and will also officiate at a ceremony to posthumously present the Dag Hammarskjold Medal to 132 military, police and civilian personnel from 37 countries who lost their lives in peacekeeping operations during 2017. No peacekeeper hailing from India was killed while serving in any UN peacekeeping mission in 2017.

In 2016, two Indian peacekeepers - Rifleman Brijesh Thapa who served with the UN Organization Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Private Ravi Kumar who was deployed with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) - died in the line of duty and posthumously received the Dag Hammarskjold Medal.

At a time of increasingly complex conflicts and rising peacekeeper fatalities, the Secretary-General said, "as we recognise a legacy of service and sacrifice around the world, I am also committed to taking Action for Peacekeeping — action to make our operations more effective and safer in today's challenging environments".

Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said the service and sacrifice of UN peacekeepers inspired "us to work harder to support a sustainable peace in some of the world's most complex and challenging places".

Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Atul Khare said the international community owed a "debt of gratitude" to the brave men and women who risk their lives every day in service to others.

"We grieve with the families and nations of our fallen colleagues. But beyond gratitude, we owe our peacekeepers all the support we can muster to ensure they are well equipped, well trained and well prepared to complete their missions successfully," Khare said.

The General Assembly established the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.

The Assembly designated May 29 as the Day because it was the date in 1948 when the first United Nations peacekeeping mission — the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization — began operations in the Middle East.

PTI

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