India continues to withdraw its helicopters with the United Nations


India will continue to withdraw its helicopters from United Nations peacekeeping operations in the Congo and has turned down a request by the UN to keep the aircraft there.

The Telegraph India reported that India is preparing to withdraw the last four Mi-35 attack helicopters next month, citing strong domestic need for the aircraft. The contract with the UN’s Democratic Republic of Congo mission (Monusco) expires on July 4.

The Congo is heading towards a residential election, prompting the UN to call for the helicopters to stay longer.

India originally had 17 helicopters in the Congo and Sudan, including eight Mi-25/35 attack helicopters and nine Mi-17 transports. Only the four Mi-35s remain in the Congo.

India first announced in September last year that it was taking back its helicopters serving with the United Nations. Once back in India, the helicopters will be used in anti-Naxal rebel operations in addition to supporting Indian troops around the country.

The Indian Air Force had informed the defence ministry that operating attack helicopters in Africa necessitated cannibalising other helicopters for spare parts, potentially grounding parts of the fleet.

The United Nations is not happy about India’s decision. In February the UN predicted a shortfall of nearly sixty helicopters by April. “It remains the case that too many of our missions struggle without critical assets necessary to properly fulfil their mandates, assets that only Member States can provide,” Alain Le Roy, UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping told the UN General Assembly’s Special Committee on Peacekeeping in February.
“Military helicopter units, in particular, are an absolute force requirement for operations conducted in vast and remote locations, as many of our missions do,” Le Roy said, predicting a shortfall of 56 out a required 137 helicopters by April. The UN missions in Sudan, Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will be those most affected.

Meanwhile, Roger Meece, the UN special representative, warned the Security Council last week that, “I am obliged to note that military operations are being negatively impacted by the shortage of military helicopters.”

Manjeev Singh Puri, India’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, said that India needed its helicopters and that “India believes it is not accorded the respect it deserves on the world stage, and thinks its reputation has been tarnished in the Congo mission.” However, Puri said that India had already extended the services of the helicopters for a couple of months at the request of the United Nations.