UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has honoured an Indian police officer with a prestigious medal for sacrificing his life during the world body's peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Jitendra Kumar was posthumously awarded the Dag Hammarskjold medal on Friday at the UN headquarters during a special tea reception hosted by India's Permanent Mission to the UN to commemorate the International Day of UN Peacekeepers and "pay homage to those who couldn't return" after their service in the missions.
Kumar, who is among the 119 men and women to be awarded the medal for their courage and sacrifice in the line of duty, laid down his life while serving in the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Central African country.
India's envoy to the UN Syed Akbaruddin received the award on his behalf.
The recipients for this year's award included military and police personnel, international civil servants, national staff and UN Volunteers from 38 countries who served in 12 different UN peace operations around the world.
Admiring their bravery and courage, the UN chief said, "hailing from different backgrounds, our fallen heroes were united in their efforts to help the UN attain its most important objective - to save further generations from the scourge of war."
Guterres also laid a wreath to honour the fallen peacekeepers.
"We ask much of our peacekeepers. In return, we must continue to do all we can to ensure they are as safe as possible," he said, adding that more than 3,800 peacekeepers have lost their lives in the 72 peacekeeping missions since 1948.
Noting that the missions in Mali, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Lebanon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo "are among the most dangerous that we have ever undertaken," he said, "last year we lost 98 military, police and civilian peacekeepers from 36 countries."
Speaking on the occasion, Akbaruddin said the award has given UN member states 'images for our heroes'. " Since the award was instituted, the peacekeepers were 'unnamed, faceless heroes'. The Secretary-General has given us a face that all of us can revere at the United Nations," he said.
The Dag Hammarskjold medal is named after the UN's second Secretary-General who died in a plane crash in the Congo in 1961 while trying to broker a peace agreement to end the conflict in the country.
India is the fourth largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN peacekeeping.
It currently contributes more than 6,400 military and police personnel to the UN peace operations in Abyei, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Lebanon, the Middle East, South Sudan and the Western Sahara.