Indian peacekeepers have been decorated for their services in the Democratic Republic of Congo, having played a decisive role in establishing peace in the African nation, an army official said on Tuesday.
The peacekeepers were decorated at a ceremony in Goma, eastern Congo's provincial capital, January 26. India is the largest contributor of peacekeepers to the United Nations Organisation Mission in Congo, with more than 4,500 soldiers deployed across the North Kivu province.
"The peacekeepers from India have been decorated for their service with the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Congo. About 150 Blue Helmets (UN peacekeepers wear blue helmets) from four infantry battalions, the aviation contingent, the hospital and military observers were recognised for their contributions at a ceremony in Goma held on India's Republic Day," the official said.
The United Nations' force commander Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye congratulated the Indian contingent for their efforts towards peacekeeping in Congo.
"The commander of the North Kivu Brigade, Brigadier General Ajae Kumar Sharma, reaffirmed the resolve of Indian peacekeepers to continue their efforts under the new mandate and to work relentlessly to protect the local population and contribute towards development and rehabilitation in the region within the framework of Operation Amani Leo," the official added.
The Indian contingent first arrived in Congo in November 2004 with most of it being deployed to North Kivu. Since then the contingent has served several successive mandates in one of the most complex and multidisciplinary missions ever deployed by the United Nations.
"During the past few years, the Indian contingent has been playing a decisive role in securing the peace that the population had been waiting for so desperately and in stabilising the region to finally return to normality in a territory where the population had previously been left to the mercy of militias," said the official.
The Indian contingent comprises four infantry battalions, 11 general purpose helicopters and four reconnaissance helicopters.
Apart from that there is a hospital installed in Goma providing its services not only to the United Nations staff but also to wounded FARDC, the Land Forces of the Republic of Congo, soldiers and civilians in need of urgent medical care.
"It has almost become a tradition for the blue helmets to assist the locals beyond their mandate. Not only are they organising 24/7 patrols to ensure a secure environment, they are also assisting the local population in installing rapid impact projects with goals like facilitating water access and organising sports and language competitions and assisting orphanages to win hearts," said the official.