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Advani ducks US request for Indian
troops to help stabilise Iraq
Aziz Haniffa in Washington |
June 09, 2003 12:29 IST
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a nearly hour-long meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani officially requested India to contribute peacekeeping forces to help in the stabilisation of Iraq, but the latter diplomatically ducked the request by saying the proposal is under consideration.
Obviously mindful of India's track-record in providing peacekeeping forces to several trouble-spots around the world over the past couple of decades under the auspices of the United Nations, Rumsfeld, Bush Administration and diplomatic sources acknowledged, had made a strong pitch for India to send a contingent of peacekeeping forces to Iraq.
Advani had reportedly informed Rumsfeld that the 'matter was under consideration' and that 'a decision will be taken after taking all aspects into account'.
Several Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have declared publicly that India will contribute peacekeeping forces to alleviate the situation in Iraq only if it is under United Nations auspices and not under the unilateral or joint command of US and British forces.
In a special gesture, Rumsfeld, instead of meeting Advani at the Pentagon as earlier scheduled, called on the deputy prime minister at his hotel and also delayed an overseas trip by several hours to accommodate the meeting with the Indian deputy prime minister, who arrived in New York on Saturday and took a train on Sunday morning to get to Washington.
Advani had reportedly expressed appreciation to Rumsfeld for his gesture to both delay his trip and come to the hotel to meet him.
Much of the meeting is believed to have centered around the burgeoning defence and military relationship between the United States and India.
The two leaders proposed that the next Defense Policy Group meeting, to be co-chaired by Under Secretary of State for Policy Douglas Feith and Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal, be held in Washington DC in August 6-7.
The sources said that as expected the discussions had also involved terrorism.
Lauding the India's peace overtures to Pakistan, Rumsfeld hoped it could lead to the start of a peace process to resolve all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, to which Advani is believed to have said it all depends on Musharraf's halting of cross-border terrorism.
Advani forcefully told Rumsfeld that Pakistan continues to foment cross-border terrorism in J&K and that until it is halted permanently a high-level dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad was unlikely.
Rumsfeld, who was accompanied for the talks by US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill and some senior Pentagon officials, for his part had given the usual Bush Administration spiel that terrorism anywhere could not be tolerated and that there has to be a concerted international action to quell this scourge.
Rumsfeld has publicly appreciated President Gen Pervez Musharraf for his Pakistan's role as a frontline ally in the US-led war on terrorism.
The sources said that there had been absolutely no mention about American interest in Indian military bases and training facilities.
One source said that Advani and Blackwill had both expressed surprise about reports to this effect in the media.
Although there was some discussion on technology transfers, 'they did not get into anything specific', the sources said adding this would be the purview of the DPG.
Advani was assisted in the talks with Rumsfeld by Ambassador Lalit Mansingh, Deputy Chief of Mission Alok Prasad, Home Secretary Gopalaswamy, Officer on Special Duty to the PMO Ajay Prasad, Intelligence Bureau Director K P Singh and his private secretary Deepak Chopra.