| Colin Powell
New Delhi, July 5: India has not given any firm commit- ment to the US about its participation in the stabilisation force in Iraq.
Delhi has made it clear to Washington that the consultation process it has undertaken to assess the situation and the possible reaction to sending troops to Iraq, both within and outside the country, was not yet complete.
This was conveyed by foreign minister Yashwant Sinha to US secretary of state Colin Powell during a telephone conversation on Thursday.
Powell called up Sinha in Pretoria where the minister had gone for a bilateral engagement with South Africa. Powell ostensibly called to convey his condolences for the victims of the terrorist attack on an army camp in Jammu last week.
But India’s possible participation in Iraq came up during the conversation. It is interesting that Powell was taking Sinha’s views at a time when foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal was already consulting key members of the Bush administration, including national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Though details of the call were not divulged, it is learnt that Sinha made it clear the troops decision was crucial as it would impact ties with Iraq’s immediate neighbours and the Islamic world in general. He also told Powell a decision could not be taken in a hurry as it would also have a national reaction.
The leaders also discussed the South Asia situation and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s recent visit to the US. Powell assured Sinha Washington was committed to seeing an end to cross-border terror. President George W. Bush had made this amply clear to Musharraf, he said.
Sinha discussed the South Asian situation with South African President Thabo Mbeki, too. Both stressed the need to stop cross-border terror to normalise India-Pakistan relations.
Mbeki expressed surprise that Musharraf had not made any serious attempt to restore democracy in Pakistan when across the world, and in Africa in particular, the thrust was on bringing back the democratic set-up.
They also discussed Mbeki’s possible state visit to India by the end of the year. Mbeki had earlier visited the country in 1996 when he was vice president of South Africa.
The leaders also dwelt on India’s keenness to develop and strengthen economic ties with other countries in Africa. Mbeki assured Sinha he would convey Delhi’s interest to the countries.