Tuesday, May 27, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

India sets rider for troops to Iraq
To seek clarification from UN
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 26
The Vajpayee government today deftly dealt with the sensitive issue of sending troops to Iraq for assistance purposes as the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) handled the matter diplomatically and decided to obtain clarification from the United Nations and “the Authority” in Iraq on the “parameters and scope” of the UN Security Council Resolution 1483.

Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal today went on record to say that before India acted upon the request made in the Resolution 1483 it was necessary that a number of fundamental questions about the situation in Iraq were answered. He said the “exact modalities” of the Indian presence in Iraq needed to be known and the respective role of various parties in Iraq required to be defined. “Once we have clarity we can take appropriate decision,” Mr Sibal said. Resolution 1483 lifted the 13-year-old sanctions on Iraq but gave “occupying powers” the control of Iraq’s oil resources which they promised to use for the benefit of Iraqi people, besides restoration of peace, security and reconstruction in Iraq.

Shorn of diplomatic parlance, today’s decision of the CCS essentially means that India is not going to send troops to Iraq under the administrative control of “the Authority” — the USA and the United Kingdom— in the near future.

Top sources in the government told The Tribune that the CCS decision only enabled the Vajpayee government to get a word from the UN that the Indian troops in Iraq would be donning blue helmets and would not be taking orders from Anglo-American generals.

However, the Indian troops would eventually be sent to Iraq but it would take weeks, the sources said. India is not impressed with the argument of US-UK combine that multinational forces are “urgently” required for peace-keeping operations in Iraq to maintain law and order there.

The CCS decided that India’s Ambassador to Iraq B B Tyagi, who has been operating from Jordan since the Anglo-American forces launched “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, would return to Baghdad shortly.

Once the Ministry of External Affairs seeks clarifications on the UN resolution, “the Authority” in Iraq and other parties, the MEA would get back to the CCS. The Vajpayee government would then convene an all-party meeting to thrash out a consensus on the Iraq issue.

Top officials of the government said the imprint of Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary and National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra was clear on today’s decision of the CCS on the Iraq issue. They said this was the best strategy by the Vajpayee government as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was going to meet US President George W Bush during his three-nation tour beginning tomorrow.

Soon after Mr Vajpayee returns on June 3, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani is set to leave for the USA on June 8 on a bilateral visit.

The most important consideration before the Vajpayee government is that with a tough stand vis a vis the USA it stands to spoil its chances of gaining business contracts worth billions of dollars, if not tens of billions of dollars.

At the same time, the Opposition has already opposed the government’s move to send the troops to Iraq. Under the circumstances the Vajpayee government can neither please the USA nor annoy it.


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