India will soon dispatch an infantry battalion for UN peacekeeping operations in the oil-rich Abyei region in Africa, which straddles northern and southern Sudan and is hotly contested by both. The Indian infantry group with around 570 soldiers will be deployed under the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), which is tasked with monitoring the volatile border between north and south and facilitating humanitarian aid. The UNISFA is also authorised to use force in protecting civilians and humanitarian workers in Abyei. With 5,300 soldiers currently deployed in eight of the 12 UN ongoing missions around the globe, the Indian Army is the world’s third largest troop contributor to peacekeeping operations after Bangladesh and Nepal.
The decision to send another infantry battalion comes amidst India’s ongoing two-year tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council since January last year. This is the eight time India has a seat at the15-member UNSC.
The 13,00,000 strong Indian Army has contributed over 260,000 troops in 51 of the 71 UN missions since the first one for Korea in 1953-54, with 159 Indian soldiers having also laid down their lives in the operations. The deployments have ranged from Yemen, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia-Eritrea to Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, Lebanon, Congo and Sudan.
But this has not yielded anything till now in terms of India’s concerted efforts to seek a permanent seat with veto powers in the UNSC. “India w ill continue to push for UNSC reforms. The large troop contributions do reinforce India’s claim for a permanent UNSC seat,” a senior official said.