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Troops to Iraq only under UN: India
July 14, 2003 14:29 IST
Last Updated: July 14, 2003 23:22 IST
After weeks of dilemma, India on Monday turned down a US request for sending troops to war-ravaged Iraq, making it clear that such a step could be considered if there was an 'explicit' UN mandate.
Text of the CCS statement
Will it hit ties with the US?
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that considered the issue with India's 'longer term national interest', concern for Iraqi people, long-standing ties with Gulf region as well as the growing dialogue and strengthened ties with the US as 'key elements'.
"Were there to be explicit UN mandate for the purpose, the Government of India could consider the deployment of our troops in Iraq," External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha told reporters after the 90-minute meeting that was also attended among others by Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and Defence Minister George Fernandes.
National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, who was also present at the meeting, immediately conveyed New Delhi's decision to US Ambassador Robert Blackwill.
The rejection of the US request comes in the wake of stiff opposition from major political parties, including NDA constituent Samata Party and sections within the BJP.
The coming assembly elections and the lack of political consensus seems to have tied the government's hands on the issue despite a view in influential sections in the government that sending troops could be beneficial to India in the long run.
The US took up the case for Indian troops in Iraq when Advani visited Washington last month and had discussions at the highest levels, which was followed up during Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal's tour of the US.
Washington had also talked of spin-off benefits to India in the Iraqi reconstruction. It had also said India troops could operate under their own flag.
Observing that the government has given 'careful thought' to the question of sending Indian troops to Iraq, Sinha, who read out a press release, said, "India remains ready to respond to the urgent needs of the Iraqi people for stability, security, political progress and economic reconstruction."
Sinha said, "Our longer term national interest, our concern for the people of Iraq, our long-standing ties with the Gulf region as a whole, as well as our growing dialogue and strengthened ties with the US have been key elements in this consideration."
The minister, who declined to take questions, said, "In the meanwhile, Government of India is ready to contribute to the restoration of infrastructure, medical, health, educational, communications and other civilian needs of the Iraqi people."
"As a concrete gesture our support to the Iraqi people, we are already planning to set up, jointly with Jordan, a hospital in Najaf in Iraq," he said.
The Congress Party said the government's decision not to send Indian troops to Iraq 'vindicated' its stand on the issue.
"The government, at the long last, has taken a decision not to send Indian troops to Iraq. The principled stand of the Congress party has been vindicated. The government has done right thing," party spokesman S Jaipal Reddy said.
Reddy said it was the Congress party, which took a principled stand against sending Indian troops and that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had written a letter in this regard to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Gandhi, in her June 5 letter had reminded Vajpayee about the unanimous resolution passed in Parliament against committing Indians troops in Iraq and said any such move would be in violation of the resolution.
PTI with inputs from Tara Shankar Sahay in Delhi