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Iraq standby

New Delhi, July 11: The Indian Air Force is ready with support for Indian troops if the Centre decides to send the army to Iraq, Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy said here today.

“If the government decides to send troops, we are fully equipped to send aircraft. I don’t believe we would need to send combat aircraft. If we go, it will be in support of the army,” he said.

The defence establishment has presented the Centre with two options for sending forces to Iraq. One, a reinforced division and, the other, a brigade-plus force. Both projections involve sending armoured elements and infantry troops with the support of the navy and the air force.

The military has made the projections, pending the Centre’s political decision on the US request for Indian participation in a stabilisation force.

“It would be logical to think that our role would be that of transportation, logistic support with the help of helicopters. We have no problems in sending aircraft,” Krishnaswamy said, after speaking to an Indian contingent leaving for Congo to participate in UN peacekeeping operations in the African country.

The contingent includes the largest ever air force element so far sent by India for peacekeeping overseas. Krishnaswamy said the troops, including 90 soldiers from the army for security duties, will be based near Congo’s borders with Uganda and Rwanda.

“Combat is not expected in an operation of this kind. The UN rules of engagement clearly state that no peacekeeping force can mount an offensive operation. It is only if we face any danger that we can fire, but not necessarily to kill,” the air chief said on the mission to Congo.

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