The United Nations is requesting the return of approximately 24 Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters to the peace keeping mission in Congo. This comes three years after New Delhi recalled them to address its own country’s domestic needs.
The Deccan Herald, an English-language daily newspaper in the Indian state of Karnataka, reports that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met in Jakarta on Jan. 13 to discuss the matter.
“The Secretary General is keen to have an air component in Congo, which is a large country,” said External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin. “India previously provided helicopters. [Redeploying them] was discussed between Moon and Swaraj as the U.N. acutely felt the need.”
India’s intelligence agency, however, estimated that 20,000 armed-cadre Naxalites, and other groups deemed to be communist radicals, were a growing influence, prompting the prime minister to declare them the most serious internal threat to India’s national security. To combat the threat, India’s government felt compelled to recall its contingent of 17 Mi-17 medium-lift helicopters, and 8 Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack helicopters from U.N. peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and Congo between 2010 and 2011.
“Our resources have been stretched to the limit, particularly the helicopter fleet,” then-IAF Vice Chief N. A. K. Browne said in defense of recalling the aircraft and crews. “For six to seven years, they have been deployed in the U.N. peacekeeping missions. They have taken a huge amount of workload over the years.”
Since being returned to homeland operations, the Mi-17s have been used to assist with transportation duties and to supplement helicopters deployed in anti-Naxal operations in central India. The attack helicopters have been used to provide support to IAF troops deployed in the deserts of Rajasthan.
Though India is one of the world’s biggest contributors to U.N. operations - providing personnel for 10 out of 16 missions - the outcome of talks to send IAF helicopters and crews back to Congo and South Sudan has not been revealed.
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