The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi mulls peace force for Iraq

New Delhi, May 10: The army command is considering contingency plans to send troops to Iraq for peacekeeping. The country already has plans to spare troops for UN-led peacekeeping operations. However, despatching troops to Iraq under a dispensation that is not UN-led will be unprecedented.

“Nothing is concrete,” the official spokesman for the army said. The army has also flatly denied that it will have to de-induct forces from Jammu and Kashmir to be able to spare troops for Iraq.

Other sources said the Indian Army has contingency plans to send troops to Iraq if called upon to do so on United Nations peacekeeping operations alone.

The sources were asked to clarify if the army is sending troops to the Gulf. As of now, they said, the army has not been asked to participate in any peacekeeping operation that is not under the UN.

It would be unprecedented for India to send troops to Iraq on a request from Washington to reinforce Anglo-American forces to stabilise the situation in Iraq.

The sources were speaking against the backdrop of Richard Armitage’s visit. They would not give details on the number of troops that the army will be able to spare for such an eventuality.

India has been a major participant in UN peacekeeping operations. “We regularly participate in UN peacekeeping missions. Currently we have Indian Army contingents in Lebanon and in Africa. We have not been asked to prepare to send any contingent under the UN to Iraq. Any decision to send an army contingent to Iraq will be a political-diplomatic one and we cannot comment on it,” the sources said.

The sources said the army has not yet been asked to mobilise a contingent for Iraq because the UN itself is not present in that country in substantial numbers.

The sources denied that the army will have to pull out troops from Jammu and Kashmir to be able to spare soldiers for deployment in Iraq.

They were responding to a story run by a television news channel that India was de-inducting forces from Kashmir to despatch them to Iraq.

There has been diplomatic pressure on the Indian government to reduce its military presence in Kashmir.

One argument is that if infiltration across the Line of Control has been reduced as claimed, there is a logic to reduce military presence. But this was flatly denied by the army sources.

“The question of reducing troop strength in Jammu and Kashmir does not arise,” they said.

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