Lt. Gen. Prem Chand - Tribute

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Lt. Gen. Prem Chand - Tribute

Postby Philip » 21 Dec 2003 00:30

The legendary "UN Peacekeeper",Lt.Gen.Prem Chand is no more.Here is a fine tribute to a great soldier and peacekeeper,just the sort of soldier,diplomat and gentleman sorely needed at this time to bring peace to Iraq. /20/db2003.xml&sSheet=/portal/2003/12/20/ixportal.html

Lieutenant-General Prem Chand
(Filed: 20/12/2003)

Lieutenant-General Prem Chand, who has died aged 87, played a key role in some of the United Nations' most successful interventions; he was described by the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as a legend among UN peace-keepers.

A United Nations force arrived on Cyprus in 1964 to try to prevent further fighting between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities. In 1974, in response to a Greek military coup which overthrew the Cyprus government, Turkish mainland forces invaded in strength. The UN force, commanded by Prem Chand, had no mandate from the Security Council to resist the invaders and had neither the men nor the weapons to do so.

It was feared that Nicosia would suffer heavy loss of life, but Prem Chand secured an agreement that there should be no air attacks or use of heavy weapons within the city. After Turkey had agreed to a general ceasefire, he acted quickly and courageously in taking control of Nicosia airport to prevent a fight for it. This initiative was subsequently endorsed by the Security Council but, at the time, it brought the UN troops dangerously close to conflict with the Turkish forces.

Prem Chand was indefatigable in his efforts to contain the fighting and, in an operation fraught with danger and difficulty, showed great sureness of touch. When he left in 1976, it was with his reputation much enhanced.

Dewan Prem Chand was born on June 14 1916 at Muzzafargarh, near Multan, in what is now Pakistan. He was educated at Government College, Lahore, and commissioned from the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun, into the Dorsetshire Regiment. He subsequently joined the 10th Baluch Regiment with which he served on the North West Frontier during the Second World War.

Prem Chand saw active service in Malaya and, after India's independence, transferred to the 1st Gurkha Rifles. Subsequent appointments included being commander of the Indian Army's Gurkha Training Centre, Director of Military Intelligence and Chief of Staff Western Command.

When the Belgian Congo became independent in 1960, the copper-rich province of Katanga seceded. The government in Kinshasa did not recognise its independence, fighting broke out and, in 1962, Prem Chand was appointed commander of a UN peacekeeping operation.

His troops came under fire from the Katanganese gendarmerie and suffered casualties, but a combination of economic and military pressure together with diplomacy brought Katanga's president, Moise Tshombe, to the negotiating table. Katanga was re-integrated into the Republic of Congo in January 1963.

The part Prem Chand played in bringing to an end more than two years of conflict and crisis was recognised by the award of the Indian Distinguished Service Medal.

Prem Chand's extraordinary ability to reconcile adversaries riven by seemingly intractable conflicts of interest was born of his inexhaustible goodwill, unfeigned respect for disparate cultures and an innate humility. These, together with his charm and ready sense of humour, help to explain his success in welding together a highly effective UN force.

Prem Chand retired from the Indian Army in 1967. Ten years later, after six years in Cyprus, he was appointed UN Representative (designate) and visited Rhodesia with Field Marshal Lord Carver, the British High Commissioner-Designate, to take part in what proved to be abortive negotiations to bring to an end the country's unilaterally declared independence.

Prem Chand was aged 72 in 1989 when he was appointed commander of the UN Transition Assistance Group for Namibia. For almost 10 years, as force-commander designate, he had worked tirelessly to help bring about an internationally acceptable transition to independence for the country.

His main tasks were to oversee a ceasefire between South African forces and guerrillas from the South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) and then to monitor elections that would lead to independence. A cutback in his force levels almost led to his resignation, but UN-supervised elections were held which resulted in a victory for SWAPO, and Namibia became independent on March 21 1990.

On his way home from Namibia, Prem Chand was received in audience by the Queen. He did not have his uniform with him, so he borrowed a morning coat from Field Marshal Sir John Chapple, Chief of the General Staff. The Queen, he recounted afterwards, had greeted him by saying, "General, I understand that you have commanded more regiments of the British Army than most British generals".

Prem Chand was a voracious reader and an enthusiastic correspondent with his many friends until failing eyesight made this difficult. Prem Chand died on November 3. He married first, in 1943, Preminda Singh. The marriage was dissolved and he married secondly, in 1968, Lota Sen. She predeceased him, and he is survived by two sons from his first marriage.

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