Tuesday, 9 May 2017



“Peace Keeping is not a job of soldiers, but only a soldier can best do it”.
- Dag Hammarskjold


Peacekeeping, as defined by the United Nations, is "a way to help countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace." Peacekeepers monitor and observe peace processes in post-conflict areas and assist ex-combatants in implementing the peace agreements they may have signed. Such assistance comes in many forms, including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development. Accordingly UN peacekeepers (often referred to as Blue Helmets because of their light blue helmets) can include soldiers, civilian police officers, and other civilian personnel.

India has been the largest troop contributor to UN missions since its inception. So far India has taken part in 43 Peacekeeping missions with a total contribution exceeding 180,000 troops and a significant number of police personnel having been deployed.  India has so far, provided two Military Advisors (Brig. Inderjit Rikhye and Lt Gen R K Mehta), two Police Advisers one Deputy Military Adviser (Lt Gen Abhijit Guha), 14 Force Commanders and numerous Police Commissioners in various UN Missions. Indian Army has also contributed lady officers as Military Observers and Staff Officers apart from them forming part of Medical Units being deployed in UN Missions. In Yugoslavia Lt Gen Satish Nambiar, served as the United Nations Protection Force Commander from March 1992 to March 1993. He also served on the "High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change" of the Peacebuilding Commission.

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 31 August  2014.  The Indian Army and the Air Force have been in the forefront and while the Army has participated in 49 missions since then, IAF contingents have won laurels in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Congo and the Sudan. In fact, Op Khukri, a joint air and ground mission launched in Sierra Leone in 2000 by contingents of the Indian Army and the IAF to free almost 250 UN troops held prisoner for months, is the stuff of legend and used as a model case study in UN training centres.

The following are the Indian contributions to the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions since 1973.

Cambodia (1992-1993)

Cambodia (1992-1993): United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia was set up to supervise ceasefire, disarm combatants, repatriate refugees and monitor conduct of free and fair elections. India provided an infantry battalion, field ambulance and military observers for UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). A total of 1373 peacekeepers from all ranks of the Indian Army participated.  A mission designated as the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was set up to supervise the cease-fire, disarm combatants, repatriate refugees and, above all, monitor the conduct of free and fair elections. The Signal Platoon attached to 4 JAK RIF (Fateh-Shibji), part of United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), did a commendable job of providing excellent signal communications.

Signals In Cambodia

On 06 November 1993 the Signals element of the Indian Contingent which went to Cambodia as part of UNTAC returned to Delhi, thereby closing a glorious chapter of provision of communication in a fluid and important UN operation in South-East Asia.  The Jimmies gave a commendable performance in their stay at Cambodia, as they controlled the HF net, Motorola VHF net with out stations which included the UN observers, Australian communication, civil police besides own forces. In addition the Corps of Signals personnel manned two 15 lines exchange with the lines to Australian (who were giving overall communication to UNTAC electronic exchange).  The communication discipline and efficiency of our communication can be judged from the fact that General Mou-Phuren (CPAF) and Colonel Phou (Cambodian National Army) preferred speaking on Indian HF net, as their own was being monitored by Khemer Rouge Troops.

During the General elections in Cambodia the Indian Infantry Battalion Group, had to provide security cover for conduct of smooth elections in three provinces.  The task force was split into 128 mobile teams. The signals personnel not only provided communications to these teams on a signals net using GP 300 radio sets, but also trained the infantry personnel in operating procedures for working on such a large net.  Modification of 25 Jongas and five one ton vehicles for mobile radios, maintenance of charging sets and huge bank of batteries by a single EFS are but a few praiseworthy tasks performed by the platoon.  Apart from this the LITE Inmarsat Satellite Terminal was effectively manned to maintain communication with Army Headquarters.  Also, the Foreman of Signals personnel and mechanics with the Platoon helped establishing a Direct Satellite Reception TV system in the sector HQ for providing recreation to troops as also maintaining touch with the outside world.

Mozambique (UNUMQ)
A UN mission in Mozambique (UNUMQ) was established in 1993 to facilitate implementation of the peace agreement between the Government and Mozambican National Resistance. The Indian contribution was noteworthy; it comprised two Engineer companies, a Headquarter company, a logistics company, staff officers and military observers. In all, 1083 all ranks participated.

Rwanda (1994–96) (UNAMIR)   

India provided an infantry battalion group, military observers and staff officers for the UN mission (UNAMIR).  An Infantry Battalion group, a signal company, and engineer company, staff officers and Military Observers were provided. Total of 956 from all ranks took part. Brigadier Shiva Kumar of the Indian Army was the third and final Force Commander of UN troops serving in Rwanda from December 1995-March 1996. 

Signals in Rwanda

1 (I) UN Force HQ Sig Coy was inducted to Rwanda to provide communication support to HQ UNAMIR during Apr 95. Signal contingent for UN mission at Angola as Part of 14 PUNJAB was despatched in Jul 1995. 1 Independent UN Force HQ Signal Company was raised for the specific mission of providing communication support to UN troops from various countries deployed for the assistance of war-torn Rwanda. In a period of approximately 14 months which the company spent in Rwanda, not only  the Company confirmed the faith reposed in our communication capability by the UN authorities but also went on to prove that they were second to none in all spheres of activities.  The Signal Company was responsible for the following tasks :-

·         Planning, coordination and implementation of complete signal communication and advice on communication matters to UNAMIR.
·         Liaison between military and UN field services.
·         Provision of resources in terms of equipment and man power for communication.
·         Undertaking of special communication projects to assist Media Communication (TV and Radio) of Rwanda, Rwanda Tel, UNAMIR Radio Broadcast Projections and non Government Organisations.
·         Limited administrative support to UNAMIR Headquarters.
·         Humanitarian support to refugee and orphan camps.

The significant achievements of the Signal Company are as under :-

·         Provision of communication at Kibeho in South Rwanda where a massacre of approximately 5000 people ensued on 23 April 1995.  Communications were established under heavy machine gun and RPG firing.  This communication link assisted in important operational planning and casualty evacuation, resulting in saving of hundreds of valuable lives.  Havildar Satyavir in true traditions of the Corps ensured reliable communication under challenging conditions.  He was commended by DCSO (T&C) and Force Commander, Major General GC Tousignant.

·         Frequency management for complete region in coordination with Rwanda communication agencies.  Reallocation of radio frequencies for UNAMIR was carried out at the behest of the Rwanda Tel authorities in July 1995.  It was a herculean task involving reprogramming of over 1200 handheld radio sets, mobile and base stations as well as radio repeaters at key locations, dispersed all over Rwanda working on different frequencies.  A detailed programme was prepared and a smooth change-over was effected with no disruption of communication at any stage.

·         Establishment of a failsafe communication network comprising of the following
modes :-

v  VSATs.
v  Radio Trunking System.
v  UHF Rural Shoots.
v  Mobile VHF Radio.
v  30 Channel PCM

·         Technical assistance to Rwanda Tel in reactivating their disrupted communication infrastructure.

·         Providing reliable communication to UN Secretary General HE Mr Boutros Boutros Ghali during his visit to UNAMIR.

·         Providing failsafe public address support to UNAMIR.

·         Organisation and active participation in UN sports and humanitarian activities.

1 Independent UN Force HQ Signal Company did a magnificent job in Rwanda in the true traditions of the Corps.  By their dedication and provision of steadfast communication, the company won the praise of not only the UN staff but also the Rwandan authorities.  The personnel of the Company got invaluable experience in the handling of the latest generation of communication equipment.  Major Genral Tousignant, Force Commander, was highly appreciative of the performance of our contingent.  His tribute as under speaks for itself:-
“I say this without any reservation, you are probably one of the best soldiers in the world of this time.  You are offering the best technicians, certainly the most dedicated.  We learnt from you and it has been a very unique privilege for me to serve with the finest.”

Somalia (1993–94) (UNITAF & UNOSOM II)

The UN operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) is considered one of the most difficult and challenging operation the UN has ever attempted. Due to unfortunate incidents of killing of UN personnel, the UNOSOM mandate changed to enforcement action; it later reverted to PKO role. India demonstrated its capacity to provide an integrated force comprising of land (brigade group), naval as well as air support.  As a part of Unified Task Force (UNITAF) and UNSOM II, the Indian Navy and the Army took active part in the UN operations. The Indian Army deployed an Infantry Brigade Group comprising 5000 all ranks with operational responsibility for one third of Somalia. The services and contribution of the Indian contingent demonstrated to the international community, the outstanding capability of the Indian troops to deal effectively with the military aspects of UN peacekeeping.

Signals in Somalia

The 66 Mountain Brigade Signal Company had just about settled down at its permanent location after Op Rhino and Op RAKSHAK, when news of its subsequent deployment in Somalia was received.  To say that, this news brought apprehension and trepidation would be an understatement, because the Signal Company was just not knitted up for such a mission.  To add to all this was the fact that move was to commence within a fortnight.  However, the move schedule kept falling back and the first part left for Somalia on 28 Aug 1993, exactly eight months after the move order was received.  This was, in a way, a blessing in disguise because the company was able to gear itself up adequately for the mission in this time frame.

The basic composition of the Signal Company underwent a drastic change.  Specialised detachments like the TIDEX, Radio Relay and 1 KW transmitter were added besides posting of personnel to make up the required strength.  Major KK Mukhopadhyay took over as Officer Commanding.  Captain MA Ansari, Captain SS Birdie, Second Lieutenants Deepak Puri and  Subhasis Das joined the unit.  By the end of July 1993 the company had attained its full strength of 5 officers, 10 JCOs and 212 OR.

The arduous task of making-up equipment requirement of the company was aided by efforts of the Directorate General of Signals and other signal units.  The company was updated with Maruti Gypsy and DCM Toyotas.  All these vehicles were modified with rudimentary fitments for mounting of Radios. Gypsys were converted to Rover vehicles as also a DCM Toyota to function as the Signal Centre vehicle.  The heavy equipment and the vehicles were then shifted to Bombay.  The company personnel moved to Delhi for a pre move concentration.  In Delhi, they were made to undergo, training on use of the newly acquired equipments, aided and assisted by 1 and 2 Army HQ Signal units as well as 21 Signal Group.  A number of personnel from Para Brigade Signal Company took training in effective use of weapon and basic tactics considering the disturbed situation in Somalia.

The first party of the Signal Company comprising 2 officers, 2 JCOs and 13 OR landed in strife torn capital of Somalia, Mogadishu on 28 Aug 1993.  The detachment got down to integrate the Indian Brigade into the communication network of the UNOSOM Headquarters and other participating nations.  Somalia of its own had no communication infrastructure at all and the first call to India on ‘INMARSAT’ gave relief to all putting to rest the jittery feeling of getting cut off on an alien land.

It was the initiative and resourcefulness of the Indian Signal contingent that the communication to the UN Headquarters was maintained throughout.  The Indian Signal personnel undoubtedly were more knowledgeable and competent. At  Mogadishu, the Signal Company was co-located with the Brigade HQ in a boat factory, whereas other elements were located at varying distances.  The radio relay resources were extensively committed.  The TIDEX exchange established there gave us hiccups and another exchange was despatched over night, courtesy Directorate General of Signals.

A significant achievement of this period was the establishment of the 1 KW link to Delhi and Bombay.  After 7 days of dedicated efforts and numerous aerial combination trials the voice circuit was commercial and soon entire traffic load of INMARSAT terminal was shifted and men also could speak to their dear ones, free of cost.

However, the stay at Motgadishu was transitional and various units started moving towards their permanent locations during first week of November.  The communication stress now shifted on providing long distance HF communication and convoy communication.  The signal company prepared self-sufficient detachments to move along with the battalion.  In all 20 to 25 out stations on a single net provided communication support during the first phase of movement.  Thereafter, communication was maintained with units placed as far as 300 Kms from the headquarters.  The company although was prepared for a linear deployment of about 350 Kms down to company level but finally what came about was a communication infrastructure down to platoon level, because platoons held independent and isolated posts.  This aspect of communication support speaks volumes about the signal personnel’s effectiveness in Somalia.

A new chapter in the communication network was added with the take over of AOR Kismayu an important port city which is located in Southern Somalia.  The political situation there, had been disturbed for some time.  A composite battalion detachment was despatched to Kismayu which included 1 officer, 1 JCO and 25 OR.  The AOR stretched almost 73,000 sq Km and had six out posts.  The detachment provided effective communication cover to the entire AOR during the build-up stage and has sustained it thereafter.  At Kismayu mobile helicopter detachments were first tried out and these detachments were able to provide effective ground to air communication.

By the end of the year the Indian Brigade had settled down to a routine scheme of things.  The problem of vehicular escorts to the civil convoys posed a major problem initially.  Extensive commitment to HF resources and excessive shocks to HF sets during move over rough terrain making them fault prone put the company in a difficult situation.  The solution came through the good old AN PRC-25 set.  After extensive VHF trials with various antenna configurations to achieve extended range, a network of VHF anchor station was set up at important nodes.  Convoys now could hook on to the nearest node and were never out of contact during convoy movement.  This experiment helped in preserving the signal company resources and utilize the earlier redundant VHF sets of the battalions.

The Indian contingent at Somalia would have been totally cut off from world media but for the satellite TV equipment which came along with the contingent.  With a little apprehension due to lack of satellite data and only rudimentary training received on this aspect scanning the sky at random started.  An entire night’s toil bore fruits and they could hook on to Arabsat, since Eurosat and Asiasat footprints do not cover Somalia.  Two dishes were established at Baidoa to cater for the need of the entire garrison.  The Coy was flooded with requests from the local inhabitants and other UN staff to transmit the programmes on a TV transmitter, on which the Coy was working on.

The men hade been exposed to very advanced communication system in Somalia.  Satellite telephones apart from satellite based telex links and computer data channels were used extensively.  After the initial hesitation, the operators and mechanics became adept at handling these equipments.  The company TM workshop was overworked ever since of the Coy arrival to Baidoa.  It not only repaired equipment of varied nature but also carried out innovations and modifications using scrap from abondoned vehicles and aeroplanes.  A semi permanent wooden structure construced by the company became a show piece of the coy.  It was used as a Signal Centre.

Angola (1989-1999) (UNAVEM)

Potentially among Africa’s richest countries, endowed with oil, diamonds and fertile land; Angola was wasted and exhausted in 1995.  Twenty years of bitter civil war had taken their toll of this tormented land.  Two generations had come of age during the war which began in early 1960s as a revolt against the colonial power – Portugal. M After independence in 1975, fighting persisted between rival liberation movements and became a proxy battle in the cold war. The international community awoke to the Angolan problem, some time in 1988, UNAVEM-I was established to oversee the withdrawal of the Cuban troops, UNAVEM-II saw elections going through in Sep 92.  The rebel UNITA party, having lost the elections, went back to war.

After strenuous efforts, the ‘Lusake Protocol,’ signalling a fresh peace initiative, was signed in Nov 94, leading to the establishment of UNAVEM-III.  To make the shaky truce stick, 7000 Blue Helmets were approved by the Security Council for deployment in Angola, along with police and military observers.  India’s contribution to this world peace initiative primarily comprised an Inf battalion group and an Engineer company. 

The UN Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM) was established with the mandate of supervising the withdrawal of foreign troops and monitoring elections. The Indian contribution from 1995 to 1997, besides providing a Deputy Force Commander, included an infantry battalion group and an Engineer company comprising 1014 all ranks.  India contributed 10 military observers for UNAVEM I, 25 for UNAVEM II and 20 military observers, 37 SOs, and 30 senior NCOs for UNAVEM III.  A small det of 5 OR replaced the existing to provide communication support to the Rapid Reaction Force which was left behind in the host country. Signals contingent deployed on UN mission at Angola was replaced with a new contingent as part of 16 GUARDS in Jul 1996.  

Signals in Angola

To provide this Bn Gp 14 PUNJAB (NABHA AKAL) the required degree of self sufficiency in field for communications, a detachment of Signals was posted to it.  This complement from the Corps was an ad-hoc organisation comprising an officer, a JCO and 20 OR.

Being an ad-hoc creation, the first and foremost task was to raise and equip the det to be a functional communications sub unit from the scratch.  To compound matters, mission specific information was scarce.  Everything from a shorting lead to a 3 Ton had to be demanded against an anticipated and visualised need.  The summer of 95 was spend in this agonising endeavour of equipping the det.  After four and a half months of sweat and toil, the det was ready to move overseas in July 1995.

On 09 July 1995, the advance party of the unit carrying, among others one officer and six OR of the Corps, took off for Luanda, the capital of Angola.  The remainder 15 personnel followed suit on 20 July 1995 to close ranks.  For the same of UNAVEM operations, Angola had been divided into six regions, with the Force HQ sited in Luanda.  ‘INDBAT’ was slotted for deployment in the Northern Region, which was headquartered in Uige.  Once a charming provincial capital, dotted with pastel colonial houses and criss-crossed by palm lined boulevards, Uige looked a ghost town in Jul 95.  Virtually every structure had been damaged or destroyed, a silent testimony to the ferocious fighting it had witnessed.  Building after building was roofless and shrapnel scarred.  Some had been bombed to a pile, others to dust.

Soon after induction, INDBAT speedily deployed itself.  The HQ was located in Negage about 40 KM from Uige, and companies at places with quaint names like N’Tuco, Piri, M’banza Congo etc.  The dispersion was typically wide, the farthest company being 300 KM away from the Bn HQ.  With such tremendous separations, the single most important factor affecting operational and administrative efficiency was but naturally communications.  Under the framework of the ‘Lusaka Protocol,’ the primary task of the military contingent was to oversee the withdrawal, quartering and demilitarisation of the UNITA forces.  Re-establishment of cease-fire, disarming of civilians and their social re-integration, also fell within its purview.

Translated into practical terms, this meant establishing Quartering Areas for the UNITA troops of each company locality and providing them limited security.  It also meant establishing a Weapons Storage Area for the weapons being deposited.  It meant verifying and monitoring cease-fire violations and preventing their occurrence by active liaison and aggressive patrolling.  It meant undertaking CBMs; civic and actions like medical and veterinary camps, vocational training classes etc.  It also implied escort of humanitarian aid convoys and extensive involvement with non governmental agencies.

And, each of these meant communications; on the move, on radio, always and every time!

The det established a command net on HF radio with the control at the Bn HQ and linked up calls on radio to subscribers off a 48 line EPABX, installed ab initio.   This apart, the det set up and operated a duplex link on HF radio on schedules to India.  Traffic clearance was also catered for on the same link.  In so far that it was a commercial link the year round, across 8000 KM for speech and teletype, it was a record in itself.  Innumerable calls were put through on the link to several subscribers, entirely to their satisfaction.  The det also operated an INMARSAT ‘A’ terminal as backup to the HF (dish) Antenna TV system at the Bn HQ and each company, and ran the battery charging shop.  It also earned valuable local acceptance by running vocational training classes in ‘Radio & Electronics’ with the meager resources at hand.

But best of all was the tremendous exposure the det got, in the latest communications equipment.  The signalers operated HF and VHF sets and ‘Rural Shoots’ of foreign commercial manufacture with elan.  They saw VSATs being installed and operated INMARSAT ‘C’, (CAPSAT) terminals.  On 11 Aug 96, after a one year stint in UN service, the last elements of 14 PUNJAB were relieved by 16 GUARDS.  The Signals Det too was replaced in toto. The deinduction and handling over was done in a phased manner, never allowing a break in communications. Even today, as INDBAT continues it’s fine work in Angola, the dedication of ‘Teevra Chaukas’ keeps it ticking!
In conclusion, having seen foreign armies, their equipment, drills and procedures, national pride asserts itself.  India is among the few countries in the world which indigenously manufactures its communication equipment.  Secondly, our training and our men are second to none!  Immense reassurance and a sense of gratitude sweeps one over at this thought .

Lebanon (UNIFIL) (Since Dec 1998)

India has been participating with an infantry battalion group in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since 1998.   Lebanon (1998 till date) includes one infantry Battalion Group. Level II Hospital comprising 650 peacekeepers from all ranks and 23 staff officers till date, have been deployed. UNIFIL's mandate is renewed by United Nations Security Council annually. A contingent incl one offr, one JCO (F of S) and nine OR from the Corps are in Lebanon since Nov 98 as replacement to a Norwegian contingent, which is a part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  The Sigs det is providing the rear link from Lebanon to India.

The 4 Sikh Battalion, which was deployed in Lebanon during the 34-day Israel-Hezbollah conflict (June-July 2006), demonstrated the highest traditions of the Indian Army by continuing to undertake their assigned tasks besides being in the line of fire.

Ethiopia and Eritrea (Since 2000)

The Indian contribution from 2000 onward to the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea is 993 consisting of one infantry Battalion Group, one Construction Engineer Company, staff officers/military observers.

Ethiopia and Eritrea: An infantry battalion group has been participated with UNMEE since Mar 2001.

[ Lt Gen (Dr.) D. B. Shekatkar,  India’s Role In Peace Keeping Operations , Forum for Integrated National Security, August 20, 2013  available at  https://finsindia.org/2013/08/20/indias-role-in-peace-keeping-operations-lt-gen-dr-d-b-shekatkar/ ]

Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) included

The Indian contribution since 1999 to the UN Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) included two infantry Battalion Groups, two Engineer companies, quick reaction company, attack helicopter unit, medical units and logistics support elements in addition to a Sector Headquarters and Force Headquarters staff.  One infantry battalion group, and an air complement of helicopters and armed helicopters were inducted as part of UN mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), after it was initially a military observer mission. The situation turned tense after the rebels of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) took some UN military observers and a UN helicopter air crew as hostages, and later surrounded two company locations of the Indian troops. The Indian forces consisting of ground and air launched a well planned and coordinated military operation to free the hostages and facilitate breakout of the company s. Op KHUKRI was a grand success which ensured safety of all UN troops and a great loss to the rebels. The operation was a great boost for the image of the Indians and the UN forces. Later on the 3000 Indian peacekeepers withdrew from Sierra Leone due to change in mandate and other reasons. India had also provided a Force Commander for the mission.

Namibia: The UN Operation in Namibia (UNTAG) is considered one of the success stories of the UN. Indian Military Observers in Namibia were responsible for the smooth withdrawal of foreign troops, holding elections and subsequent handing over the authority to the govt. India  also provided, one Force Commander.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is currently one of the most challenging missions, with an expanded Chapter VII Mandate. The Indian contribution to the mission is 3707 consisting of one infantry Brigade Group, besides an Indian Air Force contingent comprising attack and utility helicopters and an Air Field Support Unit.


A 2385-personnel strong Indian Army contingent is deployed in UNMIS, Sudan where the UN Security Council authorised the establishment of a UN Mission with effect from March 24, 2005. The Indian contribution to Sudan is in the form of an infantry Battalion Group, an infantry battalion as Force Reserve, a Sector HQ, a Force Signal Company and a Level III hospital.

Indian Army’s contribution to the cause of peacekeeping has been applauded internationally. The devotion, dedication and commitment displayed by neary 80,000 soldiers who have served under the UN banner till date has been par excellence.

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