The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Popular mood & massacre fuel flip-flop

New Delhi, April 11: The Parliament resolution criticising the US war on Iraq appears to have followed a conflict of business and political-ideological interests of the BJP and the RSS.

The BJP and the Centre had avoided committing to a specific stand at the beginning of the war. The BJP — which on occasions felt unshackled enough to take a stand divergent from the government’s on economic and communal issues — was clear the US should not be named officially lest this restrict Delhi’s manoeuvring space after the war.

BJP sources, quoting from the Afghan experience, initially felt “non-commitment” or “neutrality” could help Delhi engage in Iraq’s reconstruction and thus boost India’s business and infrastructure sectors. So the failure of an all-party meeting — convened by the Prime Minister a week into the war — to yield a resolution had as much to do with Delhi’s ambivalence as the BJP’s.

Even the otherwise confused RSS was clear on the business aspect as an editorial in the March 30 issue of its in-house journal Organiser shows: “The reconstruction phase of Iraq is something that the entire world seems to be waiting for even more eagerly than the war-ravaged streets of Baghdad and Basra. Aurum et opes (gold and riches) were considered to be the chief causes of wars. Add oil, cement and weapons to the list. And do not forget to include the contracts for reconstruction.”

The outfit, however, was unclear on the ideological and political imperatives. “The US state department is free to set the agenda for the Americans, not for the world, and certainly not for the unipolar world passing on to a multipolar one. At the same time, the argument as to why the US must seek the permission of Bonn or Beijing to use its military might against what it perceives as a threat to its security and well-being seems to hold water,” the editorial said.

This, despite RSS sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan questioning the US’ motives in a suo motu statement before the war.

According to RSS and BJP sources, the reasons for changing their stand included:

- Sentiments on the ground and the feedback that the war was no longer seen as a Hindu-Muslim divisive issue. RSS spokesman Ram Madhav was quoted in the press as saying: “We don’t see this war at all from a communal or Muslim perspective. If anything, Hindus have been protesting more than Muslims against the war.”

Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat on March 22 publicly said the US, by going to war without UN sanction, was isolated in the international community.

- The US’ refusal to view Iraq and Pakistan in the same light even after the Nadimarg massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pundits. What was worse was the US “advice” to resume dialogue with Pakistan. “It’s like us asking the US to talk to Saddam Hussein after they were able to prove he had weapons of mass destruction,” a BJP functionary said.

- Correct the impression the Sangh parivar was pro-US. “If we did not listen to the Opposition and bring a resolution in Parliament, the impression would go around we were caving to US pressure,” a BJP source said.

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