The United Nations observed the 75th anniversary of its peacekeeping missions last Thursday. During a ceremony to pay tribute to the more than 4,000 peacekeepers who have died on duty, Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, requested hundreds of military officers and diplomats in uniform to observe a moment of silence in their honour. He then awarded medals to ambassadors from the 39 home countries of the 103 peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2022.
The first military observers were sent by the UN Security Council to oversee the Israeli-Arab Armistice Agreement in May 1948. Indian troops and experts have played a significant role in the UN’s peacekeeping missions. Data show that since the inception of UN peacekeeping missions, most of the lives lost during peacekeeping missions due to malicious acts were of Indian troops.
Chart 1 | The chart shows the number of peacekeepers, country-wise, who died due to malicious acts during peacekeeping missions.
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In total, 1,115 peacekeepers have died on the field due to malicious acts, of which 69 were from India followed by Chad (64), Ghana (53), Nigeria (44) and Pakistan (44). In total, 4,298 peacekeepers have died — 1,481 due to illness, 1,386 due to accidents, 316 due to other causes, and the rest due to malicious acts.
The United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) between July 1960 and June 1964 proved to be the deadliest for Indian troops and experts, with 15 deaths due to malicious acts. A front-page article published on November 24, 1960, in The Hindu, described the attack of the Congolese soldiers on Indian officers in detail. It spoke of how Indian Army Majors were taken out of their residences at bayonet points and severely injured with rifle butts. A colonel who was in charge of the Indian contingent was stopped by Congolese soldiers who had submachine guns and his car was taken away. By the end of March 1963, most Indian troops returned. The then Deputy Defence Minister, D.R. Chavan, said in the Lok Sabha that 36 Indian armed force personnel were killed during the mission.
Chart 2 | The chart shows the Indian fatalities due to malicious acts across various peacekeeping campaigns
MONUC: Congo (1999 to 2010), UNAMSIL:Sierre Leone (1999 to 2005), UNTAC: Cambodia
Following the ONUC, the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM) between March 1993 and 1995 resulted in the loss of 12 Indian troops and experts due to malicious acts. Among ongoing missions, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recorded the deaths of seven Indian troops.
Chart 3 | The chart shows the country-wise number of military/police personnel, mission experts and staff officers currently serving in UN peacekeeping missions
With 6,097 such personnel, India stands third after Bangladesh (7,237) and Nepal (6,264). It is followed by Rwanda (5,935) and Pakistan (4,334). Four of the top five contributions come from the Indian subcontinent. Notably, most of the troop and expert contributions have come from poor- or middle-income countries. The 71 operations conducted till date have seen participation from 2 million peacekeepers from 125 nations.
Chart 4 | The chart shows the number of troops (dark blue), experts (red), formed police units (peach), police (light blue) and staff officers (grey) from India who are part of the ongoing peacekeeping missions
UNISFA: UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, UNDOF: Disengagement Observer Force (Golan)
Most Indians (2,426) are part of the UNMISS, followed by the UN stabilisation mission in Congo (MONUSCO: 1,971) and United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL: 875).
Mr. Guterres lamented that those striving to guide countries out of conflict are now situated “on the front lines in some of the world’s most dangerous places.”
Source: Department of Peace Operation, U.N. Peacekeeping, story inputs from AP
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