Lieutenant General Jasbir Singh Lidder, who was additional director-general of military operations in army headquarters, will take over from Major General Fazle Elahi Akbar of Bangladesh. The force commander’s office for the UN forces in Sudan has been upgraded to lieutenant general rank with Lidder’s appointment.
Lt General Lidder of the 3 Grenadiers regiment has previous experience with the UN, having served as chief of staff at its mission to Mozambique.
Major General Rajender Singh, the other Indian officer who is a force commander, leads the UN peacekeeping force in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
But the nature of Lidder’s and Singh’s tasks will be vastly different.
Lidder will lead a 10,000-strong force from 42 nations that has a mandate from the UN Security Council under the UN charter’s chapter VII.
The mandate authorises peace enforcement and protection — if necessary by force — of UN personnel and assets and the civilian population in one of the most violence-torn regions of the world including Darfur.
In Ethiopia and Eritrea, Major General Singh is tasked under chapter VI that authorises peacekeeping. The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea has run into problems with restrictions imposed by the Eritrean government and its immediate future is at some risk.
In Sudan, the UN Security Council extended the mandate for another six months in September last year. India has two infantry battalions (about 1,700 troops) and an air force helicopter squadron of six M-17 utility helicopters and 196 air warriors including a medical emergency unit for evacuation from combat zones deployed in Sudan already.
Their task is to monitor the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and rebel groups such as the Justice and Equality Movement that was stated to have ended 21 years of civil war. In reality, violence continues to take a heavy toll of civilian lives.
The Indian contingents in Sudan are spread over two sectors — one based in Kadugli, 250 km south-west of Khartoum, in a desert. A larger unit is about 400 km south of Khartoum, at Malakal, near a swamp.