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Indian Army colonel in UN peacekeeping operation injured in South Sudan

SPLA soldiers redeploy south from the Abyei area in line with the road map to resolve the Abyei crisis.

As the UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan struggles with inadequate resources and widening mandates, an Indian Army colonel was injured in crossfire between two warring groups there on Thursday, according to sources monitoring the mission in New York.

They said the officer was injured in the region of the back of the neck, but not seriously, when a camp in Malakal was hit. Indian peacekeepers are deployed there to protect several thousand refugees.

The Secretary General’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, confirmed that a peacekeeper was injured but could not identify him or his nationality. “The UN Mission reports new firing outside of its compound in Malakal,” he said. “One peacekeeper was injured.”

India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji had warned the Security Council last week about the deteriorating situation there in two letters to its president, Raimonda Murmokaite that IANS has seen.

On May 20, he wrote, “It is extremely important that the Security Council take urgent action to prevent any casualties and collateral damage with regard to the Indian troops and internally displaced people (IDPs)” or refugees.

The attack occurred hours before the Security Council voted to extend the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) till November end and authorised it “to use all necessary means” to protect civilians “irrespective of the source of such violence.”

On Friday, the UN observes the International Day of Peacekeepers.

Of the 2,000 Indian troops in UNMISS, more than 800 are based in Malakal, situated in South Sudan’s oil-rich Upper Nile state that is sandwiched between Sudan and Ethiopia. The region has been wracked by fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir Mayardit and supporters of former vice president Riek Machar Teny of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO).

The fighting escalated about a week ago when Major General Johnson Olony defected from the government side to Riek Machar’s, taking with him a large troop contigent. Kiir retaliated by moving reinforcements to the area.

Soon afterwards Mukerji wrote to Murmokaite, “The threat is both extremely grave and imminent” and asked for assurance that “every measure feasible will be taken to ensure that casualties and damage are avoided.”

His fears are underscored by the killing of seven Indian army personnel in two separate incidents in 2013 in South Sudan.

Diplomatic sources familiar with the situation in South Sudan said that the a political solution to the conflict was essential to bring peace to the area and the peacekeeping operation could not by itself achieve that. One of them paraphrased UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s quip, “You can’t keep peace if there is no peace” to emphasise the point.

Ban in a report to the Security Council last month conceded that there was a “lack of progress towards securing a peaceful settlement of the conflict.”

The sources faulted the Security Council, which does not adequately consult with troop-contributors, for not taking stronger measures to push the warring sides to a political settlement.

The peacemaking process has virtually been outsourced to a seven-nation East African organisation, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which has so far failed to broker an enforceable peace.

Earlier this month, IGAD admitted it was “deeply frustrated by the spread of violence to Upper Nile.”

Ban has also not given the South Sudan crisis the same level of attention as he has to others like Yemen.

Asked Thursday if the Ban plans to reinvigorate the peace process there, his spokesperson, Dujarric, deferred to IGAD, saying, “It’s something that IGAD continues to be in the lead. We are supportive of that process.”

Although the Security Council adopted the 4,600-word resolution backing the peacekeeping mission and emphasising its mission to protect civilians, the operations are hamstrung by lack of resources and logistical foresight, sources familiar with UNMISS operations said. This makes the peacekeepers vulnerable to attacks and the UN efforts there ineffective.

Recounting the conditions under which the Indian peacekeepers operate, a source who has seen the operations first hand, said that although the Security Council tells them “to use all necessary means,” they are virtual sitting ducks when they come under crossfire.

This is because they cannot retaliate as that would lead to direct attacks that could endanger the civilians they are protecting. “Best bet is to lie low and not do anything unless they are directly attacked,” the source said.

As a protection against mortar and heavy weapon fire, they need bunker-like defensive structure, which the UN and South Sudan government do not want built as that would appear to make the UN compounds sheltering the refugees permanent installations, the source said.

Due to lack of planning and logistics, most of the 5,000 personnel brought in during the troop surge authorised by the Security Council last year are still sitting in Juba, the country’s capital in the south instead of being deployed to areas needing them, the source said.

As result the peacekeepers in the conflict areas are stretched thin and pinned down guarding the refugees, rather than going out on confidence-building patrols. The patrols, undertaken on the ground or from the air, are an important element of the Security Council mandate because they also bring along staff from other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for outreach activities.

Transportating troops, supplies and relief for refugees difficult because South Sudan has few roads. The Upper Nile state depends mostly on river transport and convoys require armed escorts, which are in short supply.

Bangladesh has contributed a riverine unit from its navy, but it is only now being deployed, the source said, and may vessels on dry docks.

More helicopters and aircraft suitable for operating there are needed.

Peacekeepers’ movements are also restricted by the South Sudan government, the source said. Often, when they are cleared by the government, they also have to coordinate with opposition forces to ensure they are not attacked, the source said. But they do come under sporadic attacks.

Mukerji pointed out to he Security Council president in a letter last Friday that a camp at Melut in Upper Nile state ran out of water and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army was not allowing the peacekeepers to fetch water from the river.


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Won’t mind crossing border to protect Kashmir: Rajnath

On the issue of terrorism, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has succeeded in getting global consensus and managed to bring the international community on board

Mr. Singh mentioned the Indian brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims in India and mentioned strict action against Pakistan terror aids to India in his Kashmir speech
Rajnath Singh went harsh on Pakistan in his Kashmir speech
  • Union minister Rajnath Singh said that Kashmir is India’s
  • He said he’ll cross borders if he has to
  • He also praised Indian army for their services towards the nation

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said no power in the world can take Kashmir away from India and if need be forced can cross the border to protect the country’s territorial integrity.

“Kashmir is, was and will be ours always. No one can take it from us,” Rajnath Singh said, addressing the CNN News18 Rising India Summit.

Rajnath praises indian army for its services.

He praised the Indian Army for its valour to secure the country and warned Pakistan, saying “we not only secure India within but can also cross the border to protect the country, if needed. No one should take it otherwise.”

He said India wanted good ties with Pakistan, provided it stopped aiding terrorists.

“Now the US is condemning Pakistan. I don’t know what happened to Pakistan. We want good relations with Pakistan but it has refused to accept our offer of friendship.

“Pakistan is giving legitimacy to UN-designated terrorist Hafiz Saeed who is establishing a political party there and wants to contest in elections.”

The Minister said the government was keen on finding a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem and was open to speak to anyone.

To resolve the Kashmir issue, Rajnath Singh said, the government-appointed interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau chief, is moving forward and has invited people from all sections for talks.

Kashmir is ours and ours only, says Rajnath.

He said Kashmir’s children were like his own and would not allow anyone brainwash them into radicalisation.

“I want to tell those who are trying to teach jihad to innocent Kashmiri youths that they should first learn the real concept of jihad in Islam.”

The Minister said he had personally asked Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to ignore cases filed against the first-time stone-pelters.

Earlier in 2018, the Jammu and Kashmir government withdrew cases registered against 9,730 people involved in stone-pelting incidents, including first-time offenders.

Also Read: A look into the mind of a brainwashed Kashmiri suicide bomber

“We have forgiven first-time stone-pelters. They might have been influenced by others. They are young. We need to give them a second chance,” he said.

The Home Minister said the government never differentiated between the children in Kashmir and those in the other parts of the country.

On the issue of terrorism, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has succeeded in getting global consensus and managed to bring the international community on board. Rajnath Singh also highlighted the government’s efforts in dealing with Maoists.

Anything to protect Kashmir: Home minister, Rajnath.

“The battle against Naxals can’t be won through bullets. We are taking several developmental initiatives in this direction. We are trying to reach those areas which have remained unreachable since independence.

“Naxalism was a huge problem for India but in the last four years we have now achieved major success in that space.”