More NA soldiers likely to wear blue helmetThe new batch of NA peacekeepers will also include former Maoist combatants
Following the green signal from the government, the Nepal Army is pulling out all stops to double its peacekeeping strength in the United Nations peacekeeping missions from current fiscal year.
Over 9,800 Army soldiers, including former Maoists combatants—up from 4,400—will get the opportunity to serve in peacekeeping missions in various war-affected countries across the world if everything goes according to the plan, says the Army.
The move is also likely to take Nepal’s ranking a notch up to make the fifth largest troop contributing nation to the UN. As many as 116 nations are deploying their forces as peacekeeping troops at present. Currently, Nepal has the sixth largest share in the UN peacekeeping missions after Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda. Nepal Army soldiers are currently serving in 15 different UN missions in Lebanon, Haiti, South Sudan and Congo among others.
The doubling effort is expected to cost around Rs 7 billion as the NA has to prepare the troops, according to Brig Gen Suresh Raj Thapa, chief of NA’s Directorate of Peacekeeping Operations (DoPO). DoPO is currently planning to add one battalion, two special companies and one engineering company to its peacekeeping strength. “We need to prove that we have adequate resources. Around Rs 7 billion will be needed to prepare the forces,” said Thapa.
He said that the Army has to acquire adequate number of weapons and mechanised equipment for engineering squad and even helicopters. The Army has sought help from the government as it is not possible to allocate additional budget on its own, he added.
The Army currently uses money from the Nepal Army Welfare Fund to procure the needed materials for the missions. The UN provides $1,332 monthly to each soldier deployed in missions, generating around over Rs 7.1 billion annually. The tenure of the peacekeepers has already been extended to a year from six months.
According to the NA, the new peacekeeping team will also include former Maoist combatants. Over 1,400 former Maoist rebels have been integrated into the Army as part of a peace deal.
They will be part of four battalions—around 22 in each—and will be deployed most probably in Congo, Sudan and Lebanon.
Nepal is a major troop contributor to the UN peacekeeping missions since 1958, and over 110,771 Nepal Army personnel from different ranks have served in various peace missions till date.
At present 4,365 personnel, including 96 female soldiers, are serving in various war-hit countries.