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UAE nod for troops to Iraq

New Delhi, July 1: The United Arab Emirates has said it will be happy to see India as part of the US-initiated stabilisation effort in Iraq.

It feels Delhi’s presence will contribute positively in giving the foreign troops, composed mainly of American and British personnel, a global colour.

The visiting chief of UAE’s defence forces and the country’s de facto national security adviser Sheikh Mohamad bin Zayed conveyed this to the Indian leadership during talks over the past two days. The situation in Iraq and the likely scenario that may emerge were also discussed.

The UAE’s views on Iraq is an indication that it has finally started recognising India as a key player that can lend stability to the region. This is significant as till recently it was seen as an ally of Pakistan and maintained warm but distant relations with Delhi. But now, signals suggest that both countries are keen to break away from the existing mould and start afresh.

The two sides signed an agreement on defence cooperation, including training defence personnel, coordinating bilateral defence policies, joint development and research of defence equipment, export and import of military hardware and closer cooperation between the two defence establishments.

The agreement, which flowed from the first-ever strategic dialogue between the sides, is indication of the keenness of Delhi and Abu Dhabi to give a new dimension to bilateral relations.

Sheikh Mohamad was today treated as a valued guest with Atal Bihari Vajpayee cancelling his appointments to make time for him. During a brief interaction, he handed a letter to the Prime Minister from his father and UAE President Sheikh Zayed, inviting Vajpayee to visit the country.

Sheikh Mohamad also met other leaders, including deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and defence minister George Fernandes.

Over the past few weeks, Indian officials visiting Iraq’s neighbours had conveyed that most of them, including Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, were not averse to India sending troops there. Syria is opposed to Delhi’s presence and Iran is non-committal.

It is not clear whether this will be reason enough for Delhi to decide in favour of sending troops. India maintains that the US has not clarified various issues that came up for discussion. Indications are foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, now in Washington, may return with some answers.

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