India death toll highest in UN peacekeeping operations

India has been a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. And it has also paid the price for peacekeeping in terms of casualties.

Updated - May 23, 2016 07:25 pm IST

Published - October 30, 2014 06:08 pm IST

This is a blog post from

The death toll: India and some other countries

The UN Missions that accounted for the Indian casualties

ONUC - United Nations Operation in the Congo; UNOSOM - United Nations Operation in Somalia; UNEF - United Nations Emergency Force; MONUC - United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; MONUSCO - United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; UNMISS - United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan; UNTAC - United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia; UNAMSIL - United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone; UNMEE - United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea; UNMIL - United Nations Mission in Liberia; UNMIS - United Nations Mission in Sudan; UNFIL - United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon; UNAVEM - United Nations Angola Verification Mission; UNMIK - United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo; ONUMOZ - UN Operation in Mozambique.

The mounting toll over the years (all countries)

Strength of present Indian contingent, cause of death (all countries, cumulative) and type of personnel involved

The chart on the right shows the cause of death (all countries) while the one below shows the composition of the latest UN Indian contingent. The remaining chart provides the break-up of the categories of personnel who died (all countries).

Charts: T Ramachandran; Source: UN data as on August 31, 2014

India, a prime contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, has suffered the highest number of casualties among participating countries, accounting for 157 of 3,263 lives lost, as on August 31, 2014.

The death toll has, however, to be seen in the context of India's significant contribution to UN peacekeeping efforts, which adds up to 1,80,000 troops from the time it began taking part in the operations in 1950, the largest number from any country. Nigeria comes next, having suffered 142 casualties.

UN statistics reveal that the 3,000 odd causalties are largely due to accidents, illness and what it calls 'malicious acts', which broadly covers death in different kinds of conflict situations ranging from war to civil unrest.

While military personnel account for the largest chunk of the peacekeeping force, others including police and civilians too are part of it.

The peacekeeping operations started in 1948, and the death toll crossed the 1000 mark in 1993. It took fewer years for the the figure to cross 2000, which occured in 2004. The figure crossed 3000 in 2012. These figures have to be placed in the context of the widening scale and complexity of UN operations over the years.

The UN Operation in the Congo accounted for the largest number of Indian casualities - 39, followed by UN Emergency Force operations, in which the death toll was 27. In Congo, two infantry brigades made up of 11,354 troops, 467 officers and 401 junior commissioned officers took part in the operations. Six Canberra bombers of the Indian Air Force had also formed part of the force. Captain G. S. Salaria, who died in Katanga, Southern Congo, was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra.

The UN had deployed 1,04,184 uniformed personnel from 128 countries in its peackeeping operations as of September 30, 2014, of whom 89,111 were troops. The Indian contingent, the third largest from a country, consisted of 8,108 personnel, as on August 31, 2014, of which 7,053 were troops. Only Bangladesh and Pakistan accounted for a larger UN contribution, with 8,778 and and 8,283 personnel respectively.

Referring to the changing environment in which the peacekeeping operations are being carried out, Lt. Gen (retired) Satish Nambiar >observed in an article commissioned by External Publicity Division of Ministry of External Affairs earlier this year, "UN peacekeepers are increasingly being sent to regions where civil-war type situations prevail; where there are no agreements, or if there are, these are rather tenuous, or broken without compunction; where the consent or cooperation of the belligerent parties cannot be relied upon; where constitutional authority does not exist in many cases, or if it does, has limited authority."

"India’s spontaneous and unreserved participation in UN peacekeeping operations over the years has been a clear demonstration of the country’s commitment to the objectives set out in the UN Charter. Not in terms of rhetoric and symbolism, but in real and practical terms, even to the extent of accepting casualties to personnel (about 150 fatalities to date). This commitment has been acknowledged by the international community, successive Secretaries General and the United Nations Secretariat," he wrote.

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