UN Operations in Somalia (UNOSOM - II Mar 93 to Dec 94)
UN Operations in Somalia began in April 1992 with the efforts to facilitate humanitarian aid to the people trapped by civil war and famine. From humanitarian aid the UN mandate was altered to help stop the conflict and reconstitute the basic infrastructure of a viable state. In December 1992, the UN established Unified Task Force (UNITAF) led by United States. For UNITAF, India contributed a naval task force under Commodore Sampat Pillai, consisting of INS DEEPAK, INSKUTHAR and INS CHEETAH for carrying out relief and humanitarian aid to the war-stricken people of Somalia. It was the first Indian Naval participation in a UN Mission.
In May 1993, on establishment of UNOSOM - II, the Indian Army contributed a large contingent for UN efforts in Somalia.
HQ 66 (I) Infantry Brigade Group
3 Jammu Kashmir Light Infantry
3 Mechanised Infantry Battalion
Squadron EX 7 CAVALARY
8722 Light Battery
6 Reconnaissance & Observation Flight
Flight of Cheetah Armed Helicopter of Indian Air Force
Troop of Trawls
Detachment Remount & Veterinary Corps
Highlights of Indian Army Operations in Somalia
The UN Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) is considered one of the most difficult and challenging operations the UN has ever attempted. Indian naval ships and personnel were involved in patrolling duties off the Somali coast, in humanitarian assistance on shore, and also in the transportation of men and material for the United Nations. UNOSOM II involved peace enforcement under a Chapter VII mandate with the objective being humanitarian relief.
The Indian contingent successfully combined the often-conflicting roles of coercive disarmament and humanitarian relief. With stand-alone capacity, the Indian brigade had operational responsibilities for one third of Somalia viz, 1,73,000 sq km area of responsibility, the largest ever held by any contingent. In spite of such a large area of operations, there were minimum civilian casualties in the area of responsibility of the Indian contingent. In spite of suffering casualties the Indian contingent exercised utmost restraint in firing in self-defence. It dug a large number of wells, constructed schools and mosques, and ran mobile dispensaries and relief camps, which provided veterinary care, and medical and humanitarian relief to a large number of Somalis and their livestock. It also organized and carried out rehabilitation and resettlement of thousands of refugees and assisted in their repatriation. It played a vital role in reviving the political process by organizing reconciliation meetings. The last units of the Indian contingent were repatriated from Somalia on board Indian naval ships from Kismayo port. In this mission India demonstrated its capacity to provide an integrated force, comprising land and naval forces with requisite air support at such a vast distance from its shores.
Brigadier M P Bhagat commanded the Indian Infantry Brigade in Somalia with Colonel D P Merchant as the Deputy Brigade Commander. It is a matter of pride that Gen Deepak Kapoor, PVSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, ADC, COAS, Indian Army has also served as Chief Operations Offr from Mar 94 to Feb 95.
United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL - Sep 93 to Sep 97)
Civil war in Liberia claimed the lives of more than one lakh civilians and led to complete breakdown of law and order. It displaced with internally and beyond the borders about 7 lakh refugees. Several hundreds deaths had already occurred in war between government and opposition forces. From the outset of the conflicts, the sub-regional organisation, the economic community of West African States (ECOWAS) undertook several initiatives aimed at peaceful settlement, which had the support of the United Nations. UNOMIL was established to supervise and monitor in cooperation with the military observers group (ECOMOG) of the ECOWAS, the Cotonou Peace Agreement signed by the Liberian parties on 25 July 1993 and verified their impartial application by concerned parties. The tasks assigned to UNOMIL were:
• Disarming and demobilisation of combatants. • Assist in maintenance of assembly sites. • Humanitarian assistance activities. • Investigate and report human rights violations. • Observe and verify election process.
The Liberian peace process came to a successful conclusion, with the holding of the election in July 97 and installation of new government. India contributed seventeen military observers to the first UN Mission undertaken in cooperation with regional peacekeeping organisation.
UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR - Oct 93 to Mar 96)
Following widespread violence in the former Belgian colony of Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes, the UN Assistance Mission was established in October 1993. The mandate included monitoring of the security environment, gathering of information on killings, investigations, resettlement of refugees and coordination of humanitarian relief.
The Indian contribution to UNAMIR consisted of an infantry battalion group, one Signal Company, one Engineer Company, staff officers and military observers. 1/3 Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army was assigned the task of safeguarding UN installations, manning security posts, patrolling their area of responsibility, and providing security to the capital Kigali from irregulars and armed bandits. The Indian contingent performed its task with rare devotion and distinction.
The UNAMIR Force Commander, Major General G C Tausignant of Canada, paid rich tributes to the Indian contingent:
"You brought to UNAMIR, to the United Nations, to Rwanda a sense of pride. You came in and you demonstrated what it is to be a good soldier and you brought respectability to the mission. You brought also a sense of professionalism in everything that we have to do for the Rwandese. I say this without any reservation, you are probably one of the best soldiers in the world at this time"
UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH - Dec 1995 to Dec 2000)
The Secretary General stressed the need for continuity of the mines information network and database established by the Mine Action Centre at UNPF Headquarters in Zagreb. Four military mines information officers were detailed in Bosnia and Herzegovina to maintain accurate and up-to-date records under the directors of the United Nations coordination. Since then India contributed one military mines information officer for UNMIBH. India has always been in the forefront in de-mining activities in the recent times and has contributed immensely in the field of de-mining in Angola, Bosnia and Cambodia.
United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone (UNOMSIL - July 98 to Oct 99) and United Nations Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL- Nov 99 to Feb 01)
The conflict in Sierra Leone dates back to March 91, when fighters of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) launched attacks to overthrow the government. In-spite of peace efforts by UN special envoy, OAU and ECOWAS, the armed hostilities continued. Despite the unrest, peace agreement known as the Abidjan accord took place between the RUF and the government. These peace efforts were derailed due to military coup in May 97. Later in the month, negotiations culminated in a second peace plan to be monitored by the ECOWAS military observer group (ECOMOG). ECOMOG having secured most of Sierra Leone, in a military action, the oil and arms embargo was lifted by the UN and established UNOMOSIL in Sierra Leone to bring about peace and stability.
India deputed Brig SC Joshi, Chief Military Observer with two military observers to the mission. The mission was changed to a full-fledged peacekeeping mission and renamed as UN Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). India deployed medical unit deployed since Jul 1999 and also sent a battalion group in Dec 1999. Maj General VK Jaitley was the Force Commander from India of the mission. In May 2000, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) laid siege to two Indian peacekeeping companies at Kailahun and took 23 peacekeepers as hostage. After protracted efforts by the UN, RUF released the Indian peacekeepers held hostage, however the siege of Kailahun continued. During the first week of July when all other means to come to an agreeable solution had failed, it was decided to execute OP KHUKRI. The plan was to relocate the two besieged companies from Kailahun to Daru, through a combination of road and air extrication. The operation was launched at first light 15 Jul 2000 and was successfully completed by last light 16 Jul 2000. OP KHUKRI not only put to rest myths about RUF capabilities, it is also put the RUF on the defensive and helped solve the crisis to a large extent. The resounding success of the operation executed by Indian peacekeepers in the heartland of RUF controlled territory won praise from all quarters. In Sep 2000, the Indian government decided to withdraw its contingent from the mission "in order to give a chance to other nations" to operate in UNAMSIL. De-induction was completed by Feb 2001. Indian units in the mission were 18 GRENADIERS, Companies each from 14, 23 and 11 Mechanised Infantry Battalions, two field company engineers an artillery battery and a medical unit.