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In Africa, India, Pak unite for peace

The deep-rooted antipathy between Indian and Pakistani soldiers has transformed into cooperation in the killing fields of the Democratic Republic of Congo, reports Rahul Singh.

world Updated: Oct 07, 2008 00:36 IST
Rahul Singh

Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari’s plea for friendlier ties with India may have shocked many in the subcontinent, but thousands of kilometres away, the two neighbours are collaborating to reduce mutual distrust.

The deep-rooted antipathy between Indian and Pakistani soldiers has transformed into cooperation in the killing fields of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Viewed by the world as bitter adversaries who have fought four wars, Indian and Pakistani troops are making joint efforts to return some semblance of peace to this war-scarred African paradise.

The bear hug runs counter to the constant rumble of gunfire and explosions along the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, is served by almost 10,000 Indian and Pakistani soldiers deployed in North Kivu and South Kivu, provinces where Congolese army and rebel militias are locked in a fierce battle for control.

At the MONUC’s nerve centre of operations here, Indian and Pakistani army officers share workstations, plan deployment of forces and assess the outcome of peace operations with Bollywood melodies soothing their nerves.Congo

The South Kivu Pakistani brigade is dependent on Indian helicopters. Mi-35 attack helicopters pulped rebel positions with 57 mm rockets when Pakistani troops radioed the IAF for support during the 2004 Bukavu crisis. Continued on Page 15 Continued from Page 1

A Pakistani major, not wishing to be named as he is not authorised to interact with the media, said: "We on the same side in this war."

Group Captain N.J.S. Dhillon, commander, Indian Aviation Contingent, said, "We support Pakistani soldiers just the way we support Indians. Pakistani commanders are flown regularly by Indian pilots." Before MONUC's experimental eastern division in Goma was disbanded this August, its reins were in the hands of an Indian major general whose deputy was a Pakistani brigadier.

Peacekeepers from Pakistan and India, the second and third largest contributor of troops to the UN, may have unveiled extraordinary solidarity to the world, but do conversations never turn to the Kargil conflict or the humiliating defeats Pakistan has suffered in previous wars? Lieutenant Colonel Arvind Mishra, who commands a company of Sikh troops at Rutshuru, 70 kms north of Goma, said, “We cannot detach ourselves from the past. But we can respect each other as soldiers.”