| Iraqis celebrate the hanging in Baghdad’s Sadr City slum on Saturday. (AP)
New Delhi, Dec. 30: India today stopped short of condemning the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, confining itself to express disappointment over the hanging.
Delhi’s response was in sharp contrast to angry outbursts by several political parties, including the Left partners of the government, which described the hanging as “illegal”.
“We had already expressed the hope that the execution would not be carried out. We are disappointed that it has been. We hope that this unfortunate event will not affect the process of reconciliation, restoration of peace and normalcy in Iraq,” said external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee in a statement released after the hanging.
The government’s reaction to the hanging was much toned down, particularly when Saddam was seen as a friend of India and his Baath party having close ties with the Congress.
India had reacted cautiously to the confirmation of the death sentence on Saddam and sought mercy for the former Iraqi dictator, saying his execution would not help in the process of reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.
“It is our hope that the sentence will not be carried out and the former President’s life would be spared,” the foreign office had said on Monday after the death sentenced was confirmed.
Experts felt that India should have outrightly condemned the act instead of expressing disappointment. India had earlier termed Saddam’s trial victor’s justice. At one time, Iraq met India’s oil demands and kept a close economic relation.
The US has been putting pressure on India to contribute troops for peacekeeping operations in Iraq. The latest push came in November when US under-secretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns met Indian officials. Delhi told Washington that it was bound by a Parliament resolution against sending troops to Iraq.
The political parties were more forthcoming in raising voices of protest. Leading the pack were the Left parties. They issued a cautious note to the government, saying the strategic alliance with the US will be harmful for India’s interests. The Left parties saw Saddam’s execution as an “illegal and criminal act” of “an imperialist occupying power” which has “no right to violate national sovereignty and dispense justice on those whom they have illegally overthrown”.
The CPM politburo asked the government to “realise that its strategic alliance with the Bush administration, which is notorious for its imperial aggrandisement, will harm India’s interests”.
Sporadic protests took place all over the country. The Left parties staged demonstrations in their stronghold Bengal and held a three-hour hartal in Kerala, where the minority vote plays an influential role.
The Samajwadi Party criticised the UPA government for its “mild” reaction on the execution, saying India should not forget its old friends and become a tool in the hands of the US. “The UPA government has described Saddam’s execution as an unfortunate incident. This reaction is very mild and ritualistic. The UPA government has already surrendered itself to the US,” the party’s general secretary Amar Singh said in a hurriedly convened news conference.