Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: Senior army officials here have cited a United Nations (U.N.) official to slam allegations of widespread abuse by Indian troops deployed on peacekeeping duty in Congo. They admitted to a solitary instance of a middle-level officer along with two of his subordinates detaining a person with links to the rebels in Congo for reneging on an illegal deal. Apart from that instance, allegations being aired by the western media were unsubstantiated and derived from questionable sources, they said.

‘No evidence’

The officials said there was no evidence for many of the allegations aired on BBC’s Panorama programme and claimed to have backed U.N. officials whenever there was any hint of misconduct by their troops. They pointed out that the U.N.’s Office of Internal Oversight Services had followed up every allegation against peacekeepers but had been unable to substantiate most of them.

The only substantiated case was that of the three army men, including a Lt. Colonel, who had brought wrought gold from a dealer at fire-sale prices. When the gold later turned out to be fake, they traced down the dealer and detained him at their battalion headquarters. The purveyor of wrought gold later turned out to be having links with the rebels. Action would be taken against the three, they said, adding that despite being involved in U.N. peacekeeping missions for over five decades, no charge of molestation or rape had ever been substantiated against Indian army troopers.

The BBC report had alleged that Pakistani troops had engaged in illegal gold trafficking and re-arming of militia groups while Indian soldiers were involved in illegally buying gold and using a U.N. helicopter for exchanging ivory for ammunition. Officials here cited the U.N. deputy spokesperson, Marie Okabe, who had stated on record that, “much of the new information presented by the report is either hearsay or comes from sources, such as the militia leaders, whose integrity and motivation are highly questionable, as they themselves were arrested and put in prison by the peacekeepers. The allegations of gold trafficking concerned three individuals. One has to be careful not to smear the whole country’s contingent or the U.N. as a whole on a basis of individuals’ actions.”