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India rules out sending troops to Iraq
New Delhi | July 06, 2004 21:29 IST
The Government of India today firmly ruled out sending its troops to war-ravaged Iraq taking into account "ground realities" and "national sentiment" and termed as "abhorrent" the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by the United States-led coalition forces.
"The question of sending troops to Iraq does not arise," External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh said in the Lok Sabha while winding up a discussion on the situation in Iraq that was initiated by the Communist Party of India. The CPI supports the Manmohan Singh government in the Lok Sabha.
Contending that the New Delhi had not been approached "recently" for the dispatch of troops, he said, "Even if asked, India will not send its troops... I am saying it in black and white."
With the BJP-led Opposition boycotting the day's proceedings in the House, the NDA benches wore deserted look.
The Minister also set at rest speculations in the media about his remarks in Washington after meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell on a government rethink on the issue of sending troops that had triggered a strong reaction from the Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
"To assume that I will compromise on this issue is inconceivable," Singh said, adding he had spoken to CPI-M leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet from Washington.
Making the Manmohan Singh's Government's first comments on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, particularly inmates at the Abu Gharib jail, by the coalition forces, he said, "Like the rest of the world, the Government considers the ill-treatment and abuse of Iraqi prisoners abhorrent." He said the acts could not be condoned.
Observing that India is vitally interested in peace and prosperity of the Gulf region, Singh said a stable and peaceful Iraq is essential for the stability of the region and the world.
India, he said, has close and friendly relations with the people of Iraq and is firmly committed to assist them in their humanitarian and reconstruction efforts.
Expressing his concern over the plight of number of Indians working in Iraq, many of whom have been misled by "unscrupulous" recruiting agents, he said inquiries indicated that none of them were in "direct employment" of the coalition forces and were engaged in "non-combat and civilian jobs".
They have been employed by private contractors who have been hired by the US government for rendering various support services such as maintenance of buildings, laundry, kitchen and dining facilities, and watch and ward civilian duties at their bases in Iraq, he said.
"We have given clear instructions to our missions in the Gulf countries and particularly in Iraq and its neighbours to extend all possible assistance to them to return to India," he said, adding ten of them had left Iraq on July 2 and eight yesterday.
The minister said emigration clearance for Iraq, which had been suspended, would continue.