India will conduct an on-ground assessment of its interests in South Sudan, especially the well being of its 2,000 soldiers who are part of a United Nations stablisation team. The Indian Army contingent had lost three men after its camp was overrun in the ongoing ethnic strife. In an earlier ambush in April last year, four Indian soldiers and an officer were shot dead in an ambush.
The Indian Army contingent had to be evacuated by air and the situation is considered so delicate that New Delhi has sent back a senior army officer to serve an unusual second term as the deputy chief of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) because of his knowledge of the land.
India as one of the three biggest contributors of soldiers to U.N. peacekeeping missions has been unhappy about not being consulted on some of the ways in which operations are now being carried out. India, along with some other nations, has also urged the U.N. Security Council to take steps for going after people responsible for the killing of their troops.
A team of senior officials is scheduled to leave by the end of the week and will also interact with some of the 250 Indians in South Sudan.
But India’s interests are also political and economic and their furtherance depends on peaceful ties not only within South Sudan but stable ties with Sudan from which it was carved out in 2011. Indian companies have 25 per cent stake in a South Sudan oil company whose crude is sent across Sudan by an India-built pipeline.
In Africa, the two Sudans have the third largest crude reserves and India appointed a Special Envoy for South Sudan even as its independence was being negotiated. It was among the earliest to open a consulate in Juba, four years before it formally became the national capital. Both Sudans are keen on Indian assistance and expertise in infrastructure development and capacity building and a wider footprint by its corporates.