The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Russia lobbies against troops

New Delhi, June 18: Russia will not be too happy if India sends in troops to Iraq to help the US stabilise the war-ravaged country.

Delhi’s traditional ally has not officially asked India to not send in troops. But it has conveyed its reservations and said that the force will be seen as an occupying army if it heads there without UN approval.

The issue came up for discussion on Monday between Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov and the Indian leadership. Ivanov was conveying Moscow’s views at a time when a team from Pentagon was trying to convince South Block officials to send an Indian contingent to Iraq.

Ivanov apprised both foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of Moscow’s concerns. Ivanov said his country would not send in troops to Iraq even if it were requested to do so by the US.

Vajpayee, who generally allows his aides to do most of the talking, decided to ask Ivanov a number of questions to gauge what Russia felt about the issue.

Ivanov said the situation in Iraq was uncertain with looting, rioting and fighting being a regular feature. He said the US and British troops were at a loss in dealing with the situation and were seen as an occupying force by Iraqis and the rest of the world.

India’s participation would only give legitimacy to the US action, he said.

Ivanov said last month’s UN Security Council resolution asking member states to strengthen US and British efforts to stabilise Iraq did not make it clear if it wanted them to contribute troops.

The minister said Russia wanted the council, of which it is a member, to pass a fresh resolution to put in place an interim government in Iraq. Moscow wants a multinational force under UN command to usher in stability; anything short of this would not have legitimacy in the eyes of Iraq and the rest of the world, it says.

While India mulls over whether to send in troops, it feels it has nothing to do with Russian objections to the US invitation.

Moscow is aware that contracts it won during the Saddam Hussein regime may not be honoured by the US and Britain, who now have the final word on how the reconstruction pie is to be shared.

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