An Indian army unit has lost out on a coveted United Nations peacekeeping mission because it was manning a military base in Uri when 19 soldiers were killed in a deadly fidayeen strike in September 2016, said two persons familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The army responded to the attack 11 days later by conducting surgical strikes against terror pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to avenge the killings – the highest number of army casualties in a single incident in nearly three decades.

The unit has been replaced by another battalion from the same infantry regiment that will head for the Congo early next year to be a part of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known by its French acronym Monusco, the two people added. Indian units that serve on UN missions are picked by the army headquarters.

The Congo accounts for the largest deployment of Indian forces on foreign soil.

“The Uri attack showed the infantry unit in negative light. It was selected but it’s no longer going to the Congo. Units have to go through a rigourous selection procedure before they are assigned to UN roles, with overall performance being the top parameter,” said one of the officials cited above.

The pre-dawn Uri terror strike took place when this unit was in the process of being replaced by another infantry battalion after completing its three-year term along the Line of Control (LoC). A large number of soldiers were stationed in tents and temporary shelters when the rotation was underway.

Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd), who was the northern army commander when the surgical strikes were conducted after the Uri attack, said, “I am not aware of the case of this particular unit. But I can tell you that the grading system for units assigned to UN missions is very stringent.”

In addition to the salaries paid by their home countries, peacekeepers also draw pay and allowances from the UN.

In the case of the Uri attack, the terrorists got lucky as huge amounts of fuel were stored in makeshift shelters; these caught fire, leading to greater loss of lives.

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