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Troops set for Sudan war zone

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By SUJAN DUTTA in Delhi
  • Published 10.04.05
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New Delhi, April 10: Indian Army troops are being posted to violent Southern Darfur in Sudan to police a ceasefire agreement and enforce peace between warring militia and government forces. Thousands have died in the civil war in the African nation.

The deployment in Sudan will be the second that the Indian Army will undertake under Chapter VII of the UN charter that authorises ?peace enforcement? ? distinct from ?peacekeeping? ? and will vest the troops with the power to open fire and use violent measures to quell the chaos.

The Indian Army contingent will probably be the largest from among 38 countries after the Security Council adopted a US-sponsored resolution on March 24 to deploy 10,000 UN troops in Sudan, where ethnic violence combines with harsh terrain and weather to pose a mighty military challenge.

The contingent will be nearly brigade-sized and will comprise two mechanised columns and two infantry battalions.

The UN had sounded out India on availability of troops before formally making the request. The army commanders? conference here last week also discussed the proposal and the composition of the contingent. Army headquarters has also decided that it will seek to increase Indian presence in UN peace missions.

New Delhi uses the Indian presence in UN peace operations as an argument to bolster its claim for a permanent seat in the Security Council.

The deployment in Sudan ? even if the exact number of troops to be deployed has not yet been decided, the figure could be be around 2,000 ? is likely to make India the largest contributor to UN military missions.

More than 7,000 Indian army and air force personnel are deployed in UN peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, Congo and Ethiopia-Eritrea.

India also has economic interests in Sudan where the public sector ONGC Videsh Limited is running an oilfield.

India had earlier made a case to send larger and more reinforced contingents for UN military missions because increasingly the world body?s forces were being attacked by warring parties. India had argued that the peacekeeping mandate was changing because it now requires policing within countries and not just among conflicting nations.

UN peace missions are also an indirect confidence-building measure for Indian forces. Last month, Indian attack helicopters operated in conjunction with Pakistani and South African troops in Congo. In Sudan, Indian troops are likely to work alongside a logistics team from the Chinese People?s Liberation Army.

UN military missions are sometimes criticised because developing nations are made to provide the manpower while the rich countries get away by funding them.

In missions in Congo and, now, in Sudan, UN troops face some of the gravest risks to life and limb. More than 67,000 Indian personnel (from the military and central police forces) have been deployed in 37 UN missions. More than a 100 Indian personnel have been killed in line of duty for the UN.