A total of 150 Indian peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have received medals of honour for their dedicated service and sacrifice. "A glimpse beyond the dedicated Service and Sacrifice of the @UN blue beret - Indian peacekeepers receive medals of honour in Malakal -@India Be Proud," the UN mission tweeted Monday, along with pictures of the Indian peacekeepers participating in a parade and receiving the medals for their exemplary service.
The medals were given to the 150 Indian peacekeepers serving in UNMISS in Malakal during a ceremony filled with parades and performances by a piped band. Colonel Amit Gupta, deployed with UNMISS in Malakal, was among the recipients of the medal of honour. A UNMISS news article said Gupta commands a battalion of 850 soldiers in the Upper Nile region of South Sudan. Under his command, his men have conducted highly sought-after veterinary camps and run a veterinary hospital in Malakal, with a second expected to be completed in Kodok – a major town along the west bank of the Nile – in a few weeks' time.
"I want to be remembered as having left positive memories for the people in South Sudan," Gupta is quoted as saying in the UNMISS article. "I also want to leave them in a better place, where they are able to generate income for themselves and build their country." Indian peacekeepers serving with the mission have undertaken numerous training sessions of community animal health workers, providing value addition training for farmers to help them make the most of their produce.
"If a group of volunteers in India can come together and create one of the largest milk production entities in our country, then surely, it can be done here as well," he says, "If even 10 percent of our trainees apply what they've learnt, this country will be better for it." Gupta has previously served the United Nations in Northern Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Private Ankush Cheema, another recipient of the medal of honour, had joined the unit in 2017 when he found out that they were scheduled for a peacekeeping mission. "I grew up near Kashmir where several army units have been based and so I consider myself an army boy," he says in the UNMISS article. "Besides this, my father and grandfather before him, were both army men. They however, never got to participate in a peacekeeping mission." During his deployment, Cheema has participated in air and riverine patrols and is also among the distinct men who are in his Commander's quick-response force.
"Those I joined the army with, will probably earn their first medal of honour in another two years. I consider myself lucky. I have my UN medal and when I return home, I will get my foreign service medal," he said. Earlier in a tweet, UNMISS had said that the Indian Horizontal Mobility Engineering Company serving with the mission completed the renovation of 145 km of roadway connecting Bentiu and Leer "easing the way for the delivery humanitarian aid, trade and inter-communal dialogue."
India is one of the top troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions. More than 200,000 military and police have served over the past 70 years and 168 Indian military personnel have lost their lives under the UN flag. India is the second largest contributor of peacekeepers to UNMISS with more than 2,400 military and police personnel currently deployed the mission.
(With inputs from agencies.)