India may pull peacekeeping troops out of Lebanon

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said India may withdraw the 775 troops it has stationed in Lebanon as part of the 1,990-strong United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

A new U.N force, comprising of troops from Italy, France and other nations is being organised to act as a buffer between Israeli forces and Hezbollah, following the recent conflict between the two. Diplomatic sources say the withdrawal decision may have been taken because the new mandate involves peace-enforcement as opposed to peace-keeping. India, which is currently the second-largest troop-contributor to U.N peacekeeping operations, will wait till the expiry of the current mandate on 31st August before handing over its positions to the new force. The contingent from the 4th Sikh Battalion is currently engaged in rescue and rehabilitation work following the recent weeks of conflict, in which one of its peacekeepers was critically injured by shrapnel from an Israeli shell.