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US recruiting Indian ex-soldiers for Iraq

George Iype in Kochi | January 17, 2004 00:38 IST

India may have turned down a request from the United States to send its troops to Iraq but the US army seems to prefer its citizens, particularly ex-soldiers, for security related duties in that country.

In the last two months, leading manpower companies in Kerala have recruited about 300 Indians many of who had worked in the infantry, artillery and armoured corps of the Indian Army. The recruiters are acting on behalf of a Kuwaiti company, which provides support services to the US army.

The unusually high salaries, especially to ex-soldiers, being offered are seen as an indication that may not be deployed in routine duties.

Generally, Indians employed as security personnel in the Gulf get salaries ranging from US $500-700 per month but in this case, the pay offered is in the range of $1,000-2000.

The recruited candidates, aged between 25 and 45 years, have been told to be ready to work anywhere in the Gulf, including Iraq. Travel agents in Kerala disclosed that some have already left for Kuwait.

The assignments are for varying periods ranging from six months to two years. In addition to the good salary package, the candidates have been offered free to-and-fro flight tickets, food, accommodation and uniforms.

Travel agencies say the combination of a free visa and good pay has drawn many youngsters, especially those who had returned from Gulf countries, to take up odd jobs in Iraq.

R Prabhakaran, managing director of Kochi-based S N International Tours and Travels, said, "We recruit able-bodied Indians to work as security guards in Gulf countries. But we have no idea whether the Kuwait firm on behalf of which we are recruiting is deploying our candidates in Iraq."

He refused to confirm whether several of those selected are ex-soldiers.

India has been one of the major suppliers of manpower for back-end and supply functions for US military personnel based in Kuwait and Iraq in the last few months. Various travel agencies across India have recruited a whole range of support staff - chefs, kitchen assistants, service assistants, camp supervisers, mess supervisers, accountants, financial supervisers, bus drivers - for the US army.

The Mumbai-based Royal Consultants revealed it has been recruiting Indians on behalf of the Kuwait Catering Company, which is part of a Kuwait-based investment firm called Kuwait Investment Projects Company. KIPC has an outsourcing contract from the US army.

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