The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India seeks bigger role in Baghdad
- Talks likely with US before committing troops

Berlin, May 27: India wants a hand in shaping the politics of post-war Iraq and not only a military role by sending troops for “stabilisation and security”.

Delhi is likely to open a dialogue with Washington on several issues that would have a bearing on its decision to send troops to Iraq. The US has been suggesting to India that it play a role in Iraq by helping govern one of the five administrative zones it has now been divided into.

“We are not in a hurry to go to Iraq. We have political, commercial and strategic interests in the Gulf and in West Asia. Keeping these interests in mind, we have to decide what our role in Iraq should be,” a government source said.

He said there was no division on this issue in the Cabinet Committee on Security. The four questions that India needs clear answers to before making up its mind, according to him, were: For how long would Indian troops remain in Iraq' Who will underwrite the expenses for their deployment' What does establishing security and stability mean' What kind of stability is being sought and under which political system'

India, he claimed, did not want only a military role in Iraq. “India must have a clearly defined political role. We are not mercenaries. Except for the UN command in peacekeeping operations, we do not accept any foreign military command.”

As of now, the suggestion is that Indian troops work under the American-British Authority that is attempting to govern Iraq.

For the US also, he said, the Indian presence in Iraq was not only one of somehow getting some troops there. Once India decides to get involved in post-war Iraq, the official said, “sending a military contingent may not be the only option before us. We may want a different role”.

Sending troops would not be a violation of the resolution passed by Parliament against the Iraq war, the official clarified. The resolution, he said, specified three things — that the military campaign must end; that the US forces must withdraw soon; and that there be a UN sanction for governing post-war Iraq.

The military campaign, he said, was over even as the resolution was being passed — Baghdad fell the same evening. For the withdrawal of foreign forces, a deadline of one year seems to have been specified.

With the adoption of the Security Council Resolution 1483, sanction has been given to the American-British Authority to govern post-war Iraq for a year.

Therefore, if now India decided to send a military contingent to Iraq, it would not in any way violate the parliamentary resolution, the official said.

He confirmed that there would be no one-to-one meeting between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, either at St Petersburg or at Evian in France.

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