Serving for Peace: Indian peacekeepers receive prestigious UN medal for their efforts to protect civilians, build peace

unmiss medal parade serving for peace india south sudan united nations jonglei bor pibor peacekeeping peacekeepers

788 peacekeepers from India deployed to Jonglei received the prestigious United Nations medal for their service to the cause of building an enduring peace in South Sudan. Photo by Mach Samuel/UNMISS.

8 Jun 2022

Serving for Peace: Indian peacekeepers receive prestigious UN medal for their efforts to protect civilians, build peace

Mach Samuel

JONGLEI/GREATER PIBOR: “Working for the South Sudanese people has humbled me,” says Lieutenant-Colonel Harsh Awasthi. “The suffering they have endured and the hope they still keep alive for a more peaceful future is, indeed, special.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Awasthi, a peacekeeper from India, was deployed to the greater Jonglei region in December 2020, together with 788 counterparts.

Nearly one and a half years later, these committed Blue Helmets have nearly completed their tour of duty and were awarded the prestigious United Nations medal for their unflinching service to the cause of shaping a durable peace in the world’s youngest country.

“We hit the ground running when we arrived because apart from an increasing trend of intercommunal violence in hotspots, communities were also reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic at the time,” reminisces the Lieutenant-Colonel.

During their tenure with UNMISS, Lieutenant-Colonel Awasthi and his countrymen have undertaken countless patrols—by air and by land; built trust and confidence among people; and, importantly, protected civilians during armed conflict.

When asked what his most memorable moments are, the officer is quick to respond. “We organized a free veterinary camp for livestock owners in Bor and the response we received from the communities was overwhelming,” he reveals.

What this modest peacekeeper does not articulate is the fact that this very outreach earned him a glowing commendation from his superiors.

“The South Sudanese people welcomed us as if we were family. And we, in turn, did our best to serve and protect them like they were our family too. Being a peacekeeper has taught me the power of empathy,” he states with a smile.

With a career in the Indian Army that has taken him from the plains of Punjab to high-altitude areas in the mighty Himalayas, South Sudan, says Lieutenant-Colonel Awasthi, will always have a place in his heart.

“I wish nothing more than a future of peace and progress for this young nation,” he states passionately.

As the iconic blue flag of the United Nations fluttered under the clear, blue skies, Lieutenant-Colonel Awasthi and his fellow Blue Helmets were pinned with the meaningful medal with its unique inscription—“In Service of Peace”— by Acting Force Commander, Main Ullah Chowdhury.