Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was non-commital Tuesday on the issue of sending Indian troops to Iraq, observing that the role of the United Nations itself has been "called into question by some recent developments."
"Was it open?" he countered when asked if India was still keeping its option open on despatching its forces to the war-ravaged country, shortly before he emplaned for Turkey en route to the UN on a 13-day tour.
Also see: No troops for Iraq, UN resolution or no UN resolution
Replying to questions on the Iraq issue, he told reporters at the airport: "The UN is going to meet. If they (the world body) take a decision, we will also take a decision."
The prime minister's remarks come in the backdrop of the defence ministry making it clear that it cannot spare troops for deployment in Iraq at this juncture as there is no let up in Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism and they are needed to effectively counter it.
Vajpayee, who is heading a high-level delegation, said: "The UN session is going to be very important. To what extent the international community can maintain world peace and carry everybody along will be discussed. There are a number of issues of international concern facing the world and particularly the role and structure of the UN has itself been called into question by some recent developments."
On his three-day visit to Turkey, the prime minister said New Delhi's relations with Ankara are as old as its great civilisation. "We are now witnessing a new commitment and surge to our cooperation."
Bilateral exchanges have intensified and trade between the two countries has increased significantly. "We share common values of secularism and democracy with this important country which straddles the continents of Europe and Asia. Both political and economic factors encourage an expansion of our cooperation," he said.
The visit will give him an opportunity to establish contact with the leadership of the new government in Turkey. "I look forward to exchanging views on international and regional issues with Turkish Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan and other representatives of the Turkish leadership."
Besides Ankara, he will also visit the historic city of Istanbul. Indian business delegation accompanying him to Turkey will hold interactions with their counterparts to provide a sound basis for significantly expanded Indo-Turkish economic cooperation. An Indian industry exhibition is being held in Istanbul.
The prime minister will interact with the Indian community both in Turkey and the US to acquaint himself with their perspectives on developments in India and their progress and successes in the country of domicile.
In the US, Vajpayee will meet President George W Bush and possibly Russian leader Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York beginning September 23. There will be no meeting between Vajpayee or any member of his delegation with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf or at any level, Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said.
The prime minister will address the UNGA on September 25, two days after Bush's speech on the opening day, and will hold a series of bilateral meetings with various other leaders. Terrorism, West Asia crisis, developments in Iraq, US efforts for a UN resolution for a multilateral force in Afghanistan and the failure of the WTO summit in Cancun are among the issues expected to dominate the agenda at the UN.