New Delhi, Nov. 15: It is an honour India could have done without. An Iraqi proposal that Indian experts should join the UN arms inspectors’ team appears to have landed Delhi in a spot.
UN teams of arms inspectors have run into trouble in the past and there is no guarantee that the new team’s fate will be any different. Though it is not clear whether Iraq wants India to be there as independent observers or as part of the UN inspector's team, neither seems to appeal to Delhi. As arms inspectors will play a crucial role in determining the course of action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, India would be happy if it has nothing to do with it.
“India is a major international player. It has good relations with the US and has traditional linkages with Iraq. India should play its role to ensure that the US and other countries adhere to the UN charter and the international law,” the Iraqi ambassador in Delhi Salah al-Mukhtar said this afternoon. He said Indian inspectors should join the team to “prevent” it from coming under US and British “pressure”.
But Delhi does not seem to share Iraqi’s view. It is already reeling under the request to have Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al Sahaf over for consultations. Sahaf is arriving on November 21 for two days.
India is trying to play down the Iraqi proposal. “We have not received any formal offer from Iraq,” foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said. He said a decision would be taken by the Security Council.
But in private, officials made it clear that Iraq’s suggestion has put India in a spot. Since the initiative undertaken by the Bush administration against Saddam, India has tried to maintain its neutrality. The stress was on going along with the Security Council rather than sticking out its neck in Saddam’s support.
India has welcomed the Security Council resolution on Iraq. It has emphasised that all steps should be taken to disarm Baghdad but no attempt should be made to alter its territorial sovereignty. It also favours UN sanctions being lifted in tandem with Saddam’s compliance with the resolution. But this is as far as India wants to go.
South Block argues that though India is opposed to US unilateralism, it is not in a position to block it from going ahead with armed action, if any, against Baghdad. Moreover, no major world player has taken a stand in total defiance of the US.
Given this, Delhi feels it is wiser to adopt a wait and watch policy than do anything that might jeopardise ties with the US.
Asked if Iraq was satisfied with India’s role, the ambassador said: “Yes, we are satisfied. But we hope India will play a more active role than what it is currently doing.”