On June 14, United Nations awarded 135 Indian soldiers currently on UN Duty as peacekeepers. These soldiers are often called the Blue Berets. They were awarded for their dedicated service towards their outstanding performance in Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.
The medal ceremony took place in Bor, South Sudan. The ceremony was presided over by Lt Gen Shailesh Tinaikar, UN Force Commander, who is also an Indian Army Officer. Apart from the Indian troops, 103 Sri Lankan Blue berets were also awarded the medal.
Lieutenant General Tinaikar said, “My heartfelt congratulations to all these officers for their contributions towards the fulfilment of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) mandate in this challenging environment.” UNMISS also published a tweet in which it said, “Take a bow, people of #India! Some 135 of your peacekeeping troops, based in #SouthSudan and serving with #UNMISS, have received @UN medals for their outstanding performance in Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area. #ServingForPeace”
Take a bow, people of #India! Some 135 of your peacekeeping troops, based in #SouthSudan and serving with #UNMISS, have received @UN medals for their outstanding performance in Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area: https://t.co/Gqy7xTM6Hr#ServingForPeace #A4P pic.twitter.com/kw9gpuZyWE— UNMISS (@unmissmedia) June 14, 2021
Brigadier General Deepak Kumar Baniya, Sector East Commander, said, “I admire the desire to achieve peace among all the military personnel receiving well-deserved medals on this day.” He also oversaw the two award ceremonies.
Indian soldiers in South Sudan
The Indian soldiers are deployed in Bor, Pibor, and Akobo. They have engaged in different activities, including civil-military cooperation such as veterinary camps. The soldiers have dealt with several violent situations in volatile sectors of South Sudan that is known for intercommunal violence. Floods have added to the complications for the troops serving in the area.
The Indian soldiers working with MONUSCO, a UN peacekeeping mission headquartered in the Congolese city of Goma and bordering Rwanda, have earned praises for their exemplary services. They facilitate evacuation and protection of civilians from Goma City. They also provided support for the evacuation of UN personnel in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after volcano Mount Nyiragongo erupted.
India’s contribution towards UN missions
India is among the top troop contributors for various United Nations missions. Around 5,500 Indian soldiers have been deployed for eight out of 13 UN Missions across the world. For the first time in 2018, foreign troops had started serving under the Indian battalion in Lebanon. Reportedly, 120 Kazakh Army troops were parts of several operations with the Indian Army. In 2007, for the first time in history, an all-woman contingent to a UN peacemaking mission was sent by India.
Since 1953, over 2,50,000 Indian soldiers have served in 52 out of 71 UN peacekeeping missions. Over 160 Indian peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving under the UN flag.
Earlier this year, the government of India had gifted 200,000 doses of AstraZeneca Covid vaccines, manufactured in India by SII, for all UN peacekeepers. The UN and WHO had thanked India for this gesture.