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India may send 'humanitarian' aid to Iraq
July 30, 2003
How many of us thought that the prospect of Indian troops in Iraq ended once the Government of India decided not to send any soldiers in the absence of a mandate from the United Nations? (Not being a fan of the United Nations since its disgusting attitude in 1971, I would have been happier had India's decisions not been dependent on that bloated bunch of bureaucrats!) The surprising thing is that in Amman -- the Jordanian capital where I am writing this column -- everybody is sure that the presence of an Indian contingent is only a matter of time. So what do the Jordanians know that we do not?
The first point explained by my friends in Jordan is that Iraqi airspace is soon going to be opened to normal civilian flights. Royal Jordanian expects to be resuming operations in Baghdad within the next four weeks. This, they insist, is a sign that normal conditions are being restored. The second point is that the Jordanians insist that a 'humanitarian' contingent of Indians is being prepared for work in Iraq -- specifically in the holy city of Najaf, where it shall operate alongside Jordanian colleagues.
I am not in a position right now to contact people in Delhi to find out how much of this is true, but I am going to assume that the Jordanians know what they are talking about. Quite frankly, it makes me queasy to think of Indian doctors, nurses, and other technical staff being sent to Iraq without any protection. But I am probably in the minority on this one since most politicians took the stance -- while the question of sending troops was still up in the air -- that India must send 'humanitarian' aid to its friends in Iraq.
The Americans I have met over here insist that things are not as bad as some reporters would have it. They offer an impressive amount of statistics to back up this claim. According to them, up to 90% of the telephone network in Iraq has been repaired (though the cellular phone networks remain to be repaired). 2,300 of the 3,000 artifacts
My second concern is that while telephones and museums are undoubtedly necessary to a truly civilised existence, there are other, more vital, components that are missing. Let us begin with electricity and a reliable supply of clean drinking water. Even the most optimistic Americans do not claim that the situation is anything better than 60% of normal. In all probability, the situation is more dire -- or thought to be so anyway -- in the larger cities where there is bound to be greater demand for electric power than in the rural areas. Do we really want to send unarmed Indians into cities where
(Am I being alarmist? If you think so, read the accounts of what happened in parts of Delhi in the past two or three summers. Angry consumers came out on the street -- occasionally in so-called 'elite' South Delhi -- enraged by an electric supply that went off at odd hours of day and night. There have also been incidents of rioting over water.)
The counter-argument is that the 'unrest' in Iraq is largely a creation of the media. Visiting Iraq last week, United States Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, sarcastically read out the media's speculations before the war began. Various journalists, he pointed out, had predicted: a. civil war, b. destruction of oil wells, c. environmental catastrophe, d. famine, e. refugee crisis, and f. the aftermath of chemical and biological war. All of them have been proven wrong. So, in all fairness, I must admit that I could be wrong, and the medical team reputedly being planned for Najaf will find that everything goes well.
I suppose there is only one point on which everyone can agree: that the reconstruction of Iraq is more important than conducting any post mortem on the war, better for Iraq and better for the world.
T V R Shenoy