By Yoshita Singh
United Nations, Dec 17 (PTI) About 850 Indian peacekeepers serving in South Sudan have been awarded the prestigious UN medal for their service and contribution to building peace in the strife-torn nation and supporting the local communities.
India is among the largest troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping operations. Currently, 2,342 Indian troops and 25 police personnel are deployed with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The UNMISS said the Indian peacekeepers have been "recognized for their strong contribution to building peace in conflict-affected South Sudan as well as for going above and beyond their duties to support local communities."
The 850 Indian troops serving with the UNMISS received the United Nations Medal for their dedication and sacrifice, "serving so far away from home to protect civilians and build durable peace in South Sudan," according to a statement by the UNMISS on Monday.
The Indian troops were particularly praised for their efforts to support peace talks between the government and the opposition forces in the Upper Nile region and establishing the first-ever UNMISS base on the west bank of the Nile at Kodok.
The peacekeepers also supported local communities by building veterinary hospitals at Kodok and Malakal, training cattle-keepers to better care for their livestock and provided life-saving medical assistance to people in need.
"We want to be remembered as having left positive memories for the people of South Sudan," Commander of the Indian Battalion Col Amit Gupta is quoted as saying by the UNMISS in a statement. "We also want to leave them in a better place, where they are able to generate income for themselves and build their country," he said.
Last month, a total of 323 of Indian peacekeepers serving with the UNMISS as engineers and medical staff were also honoured with UN medals for their distinguished service.
Engineering troops from India serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan perform a variety of duties that help the local communities. They are working on rehabilitating 167-km of road from Malakal to Palouge, later to be extended to Renk. Once the repairs are finished, the road will help facilitate peacekeeping operations, humanitarian access and trade.
Indian peacekeepers go above and beyond their call of duty to impart training and assistance to local communities in their daily lives. A team of medical staff from the Indian field hospital and a few other volunteers are also teaching how girls to ride a bike.
"I love cycling and so I thought of teaching some girls from the protection site how to ride because they walk for incredibly long distances," said Lieutenant Colonel Srinivas Gokulnath, a doctor serving with the UNMISS.
Gokulnath said he had thought that about 10 girls would come to learn but 52 showed up for the first lesson. He had only three bikes, which he had borrowed. In order to arrange the resources, he ran for 12 hours to raise money from colleagues and friends to buy 12 bicycles and helmets for the girls. PTI YAS NSA SCY