India to recall choppers on UN work for internal actions


New Delhi: India has sounded out its permanent mission at the UN for “phased withdrawal” of its helicopters from peacekeeping operations in Africa for internal deployment, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said here Tuesday.

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“Yes, the ministry of defence has raised the issue with us. We are in touch with our permanent mission to the UN in New York,” Rao said while briefing reporters on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s upcoming visit to Toronto.

“We are working with the ministry of defence on the one hand here in New Delhi and also with the UN authorities to organise a phased withdrawal,” the foreign secretary said, responding to a query if India proposed to withdraw its choppers from the Sudan and Congo.

During a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security earlier this month, a proposal was made to use the army to de-mine forested areas infested by Maoists and deploy more helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for logistical and medical evacuation purposes, sources said.

The defence ministry had, however, noted that the IAF had already deployed four Mi-17 helicopters to assist the paramilitary forces in logistics and that it could not allot more choppers due to prior commitments.

It was then that the suggestion came up to withdraw, in a phased manner, some of the choppers that have been deployed for UN peace keeping mission overseas, notably in Congo and the Sudan.

According to defence ministry sources, some 25 IAF choppers have been deployed on UN peace keeping duties in Africa.