The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi keeps door open on troops to Iraq

New Delhi, Aug. 21: India today said it could not be pressured into sending troops to Iraq, but added that it was keeping its options open.

India said it would keep its interests in mind and could yet send troops to the war-ravaged country, even if this involved more than conventional peacekeeping duties.

“We cannot be pushed into taking any decision that is not of our own making. Our decisions will always be arrived at after careful consideration of all relevant aspects of issues under examination and will be guided, in the final analysis, solely by our national interests,” foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said here today. He was speaking at a seminar on complex peace operations: traditional premises and new realities.

Sibal’s remarks come at a time when the US is trying to persuade the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution asking member states to contribute forces for stabilising Iraq.

Foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said India, like many other countries, was following developments at the UN headquarters, but would take a decision only after a clear picture emerges.

Sibal said the US was not pressuring India to send troops. “There has been no US pressure on India. The US would, of course, like India to contribute to the stabilisation force but to say that a request amounts to pressure would be a reflection of an undue sense of vulnerability.”

The foreign secretary said India valued its relations with the US and “whenever possible”, would explore areas where the two sides could work together. But it would be an “injustice” to construe that Delhi was “bending to pressure”, he added.

India had said on Tuesday that it would not send troops even if the newly-formed Iraq governing council requests it to do so and would review its stand only if there is an “explicit mandate” from the UN. Delhi added that it was not clear if its troops would be engaged in peacekeeping or peace enforcing.

However, Sibal’s remarks today leave enough room for India to eventually send troops even if peacekeeping operations do not take place under a UN banner.

“We have insisted that peacekeeping operations should be considered only at the request of the member states involved and should be under the command and control of the UN,” the foreign secretary said.

But he was quick to say India was “alive and sensitive” to the changing nature of peacekeeping and the growing complexity and scale of these operations.

Sibal said peacekeeping operations had become multi-dimensional in the last decade and now involved a number of activities, including establishing transitional governments.

He said because of changing realities India could not respond automatically to a UN request. Nor could it disregard requests from other quarters. Sibal said there were “too many conflicts”, “too many requests” and “too few resources” for India to respond every time. A decision to commit troops was based on “…bilateral relations, regional equations and an assessment of India’s interests”, the secretary said.

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