Saturday, June 14, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

BJP for consensus on sending troops to Iraq
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 13
The BJP, which has been candid in asserting that criticising the USA from the rooftop on Iraq will not help India, has been politically forced to tread on the consensus route on the issue of committing Indian troops in Iraq. “We would like the government to evolve a broad consensus before deciding on whether or not to send Indian troops to Iraq,” BJP’s Foreign Affairs Cell convenor Surendra R Arora told The Tribune here today.

Under the present circumstances, the outcome of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s meeting with Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi and the visit of the Pentagon team from the USA to India next week will be key factors enabling the government to arrive at a firm decision on the issue, Mr Arora said.

While Mr Arora avoided making a direct statement on whether or not India should send its force to Iraq, he was candid in criticising the US baiters.

“How will it serve our national interest if we antagonised the USA on the question of Iraq? We have registered our disapproval of the war (through a resolution in Parliament) and that should be enough. Criticising the USA from the rooftop will not help us,” Mr Arora said.

However, he asserted that no Indian troop could participate in the peace-keeping mission in Iraq under the US command.

“What will be the command structure? What will be the primary duties?...all these questions need to be considered thoroughly, Mr Arora said, adding that the decision was not going to be that easy as it was not going to be a “direct UN-governed mission”.

Meanwhile, leaders in the BJP seem to be divided on the issue with some feeling that New Delhi should not unnecessarily get involved in a tricky situation, while others favouring troops commitment to join the big league.

Those who favoured troops commitment argue that since it was the United Nations, which had authorised the USA and the United Kingdom to work on rebuilding Iraq vide its special resolution, a linkage to the United Nations could well be found through the same resolution for sending Indian troops to Iraq.

Those who oppose sending troops strongly feel that the USA is only looking after its own interest and also trying put its interest in Iraq first while not adequately supporting India’s interest vis-a-vis Pakistan.

They also point out that the USA has been keen on the Indian troops in Iraq as American soldiers are facing hostility from the Iraqi people and in recent weeks the number of US casualties have been going up. Indian soldiers should not be treated as “canon fodder”, they assert.

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