New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) India is concerned about its 190 peacekeepers stationed at the Golan Heights with Austria withdrawing its forces from the ceasefire zone that has grown volatile due to the intensification and the spillover of the Syrian civil war. .
Austria has begun withdrawing its 378 UN peacekeepers from the demilitarised zone, leaving the forces of India, Fiji and the Philippines. The peacekeepers are part of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which has monitored a ceasefire between Israel and Syria since 1974.
The Austrian forces comprised a major chunk of the around 1,000 peacekeepers stationed there.
The withdrawal of the Austrian forces “is an issue of concern” for India, especially in view of the EU announcing easing of the weapons embargo for the rebels last month, said an official source. India continues to maintain its forces there, but its concerns need to be taken into account in the very volatile region, added the source.
“We need to make sure the 190 Indian peacekeepers are well protected,” the source added.
India is also supportive of the Geneva II initiative for a political resolution of the Syrian crisis that has seen an estimated 70,000 people killed and tens of thousands fleeing the country in the over two years of fighting, he added.
While India has not been invited to the talks as yet, New Delhi is prepared to contribute in an “appropriate manner”. India is also keen not to make the ground “more complicated with more players”, said the source, adding that the US-Russia sponsored conference under the auspices of the UN is consistent with India’s stand that all parties should come to the negotiating table.
India, along with 58 other countries, had last month abstained from a UN resolution drafted by Arab states supporting the rebels and calling for a political transition in Syria.
India, which is against a military solution in Syria, has spoken with the moderate faction of the rebels so far, the official said
The humanitarian crisis is also of “extreme concern” and India has pledged $2.5 million and sent fortified biscuits as part of that effort.
India also supports a UN probe into the alleged use of sarin gas in Syria, the official added.