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Doctors on Iraq recce

New Delhi, June 17: A team of Indian military doctors and diplomats has reached Iraq and begun a survey even as the Centre decides on despatching a military contingent to the embattled country.

The team was in central Iraq yesterday but was expected to visit more areas before returning next week.

It is not clear if the Indian team has been sent to Iraq on an invitation from the Anglo-American forces, who are currently occupying the country, or whether it was a unilateral decision.

“The decision to send the team was taken after a discussion between the defence and external affairs ministries,” army sources said.

The adjutant general for the army, Lt Gen. A Natarajan, said here today that three doctors from the Armed Forces Medical Corps have reached Iraq to work out the logistics to set up a hospital. Based on the report submitted by the team, the Indian military would decide on the location for and the size of a hospital to be set up in Iraq.

Lt Gen. B.. Shahi of the Armed Forces Medical Corps said the Indian facility would be a field hospital of about 60 beds to start with. But depending on the infrastructure available, the hospital could be expanded to a 300-bed facility. The staff requirement has been estimated at between 275 and 300.

“It will be a hospital with all the basic facilities as per the requirement of the environment,” Lt Gen. Shahi said.

Medical teams from the Indian military have worked overseas independently of the forces. Even during America’s Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the Indian military hospital at Farkhor on the border with north Afghanistan continued working. The hospital was later shifted to Kabul.

Amid reports that the Farkhor facility functioned as a “listening post”, the medical corps continued providing succour to the then Northern Alliance and victims of Taliban aggression.

Among the team of doctors is an officer who is designated to be commandant of the hospital when it is set up. The two others from the medical corps will be assessing logistics and studying the situation on the ground. “It is basically a humanitarian endeavour,” Lt Gen. Shahi said.

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