Troops to stay in Lebanon

India in all probability will not pull out from the strengthened UN force in Lebanon.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2006 04:00 IST

As the United Nations redoubles its endeavours to restore a durable cease-fire along the 70-mile "Blue Line" between Israel and Lebanon, India in all probability will not pull out from the strengthened UN force in Lebanon or the UNIFIL II (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon II).

Despite speculation in recent weeks about Indian blue berets being recalled, there are strong indications to believe that India would commit troops for the enhanced 15,000 strong UNIFIL II, established last month by a Security Council resolution.

The first elements of 15 Punjab (First Patiala) – one of the oldest and most decorated battalions of the Indian Army – are already in Delhi making preparations to replace 4 Sikh currently deployed in southern Lebanon.

A senior officer closely involved with the battalion's UN deployment told the Hindustan Times, "We are preparing to merge with the expanded UN force as the next Indian battalion (INDBATT) in December. The officers have already received training for UN deployment." Over 500 personnel from the regiment, currently deployed in Abohar, will assemble in Delhi next month for "equipment, uniform, passport and other diplomatic formalities." Raised in 1705, the battalion is the only unit of the Punjab Regiment with all- Sikh composition. Other battalions have a mix of Dogra and Sikh troops.

Confirming that 15 Punjab was being readied for Lebanon, highly placed sources in the Army headquarters said the new rules of engagement for an expanded UN force had been watered down to suit the interests of troop contributing countries. "Predominantly defensive in nature, the rules do not mandate disarming Hizbollah or giving peace enforcement capabilities to the force under Chapter 7 of the UN charter," the sources added.

On the heels of the July-August flare-up, the Security Council has decided that the mandate of the force would include monitoring the cessation of hostilities, supporting Lebanese forces in southern Lebanon and help to ensure humanitarian access to civilian population. Bharat Karnad, research professor at Centre for Policy Research, said, "Troop pullout would not have helped as the country is aspiring for a permanent membership in the Security Council."

First Published: Sep 06, 2006 04:00 IST