UN seeks return of IAF helicopters

UN seeks return of IAF helicopters

The United Nations has sought return of Indian Air Force helicopters to the peace keeping mission in Congo, almost three years after New Delhi withdrew the them due to domestic requirements.

The issue was discussed between UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the capital on Monday.

“The Secretary General is keen to have an air component in Congo, which is a large country. India previously provided helicopters. It was discussed between Moon and Swaraj as the UN acutely felt the need,” External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

Between 2010-11, the government was compelled to call back all IAF helicopters from UN peacekeeping mission in Congo and South Sudan and press them into domestic operations. Subsequently, Ukraine provided helicopters for tactical air support.

As many as 17 Mi-17 medium lift helicopter, eight Mi-35 and Mi-25 attack choppers were operating in Congo and Sudan.

While the Mi-17s augmented the transport fleet and supplementing the helicopters deployed in the anti-Naxal operations in central India, the attack helicopters were used to provide support to the Army deployed in Rajasthan deserts.

The Mi-35s went to Suratgarh base. India is one of the world’s biggest contributor to the UN operations providing personnel for 10 out of 16 missions.

In April 2013, then defence minister A K Antony informed Parliament that more than 7,000 Indian peacekeepers were deployed under the UN flag with maximum number of troops being deployed in Congo and South Sudan.

“Our resources have been stretched to the limit, particularly the helicopter fleet. For six to seven years, they have been deployed in the UN peacekeeping missions. They have taken a huge amount of workload over the years,” stated then IAF Vice Chief N A K Browne, who went on to become the Chief of the Air Staff.

India also asked for more say in commanding the operations as Indian lives are involved.

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