The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi puts UN before Iraq council

New Delhi, Aug. 20: Ending all speculation, India has said it will not send troops to Iraq even if the governing council there requests it to do so. Delhi will review its stand only if there is an “explicit mandate” from the United Nations Security Council.

After months of debate, India had announced on July 14 that it would not send troops to Iraq solely on the basis of a request from the US.

The Cabinet Committee on Security had said Delhi would change its mind only if the Security Council passes a resolution explicitly mandating its member nations to send armed forces to stabilise Iraq.

“It is not clear yet whether the Indian soldiers will have to play the role of peacekeepers or peace enforcers in Iraq,” a senior foreign ministry official said yesterday.

He added that this would become clear only when the matter was discussed and a fresh resolution passed by the council.

The official said troops could be deployed only under the UN banner or if they were “explicitly authorised”, as was done in the case of Kosovo, where a peacekeeping force was sent in after the 1999 war.

After the cabinet committee announced its decision, it was speculated that India might send troops if the newly-formed Iraq governing council made a request.

Some sections felt that if the council, whose formation has been welcomed by the international community, was given Iraq’s seat in the General Assembly, it would acquire legitimacy and be regarded as representing all Iraqis.

It was argued that if the council made a request, it would make it easier for Delhi to send in troops.

But the foreign ministry has now made it clear that it wants an explicit UN mandate.

Yesterday’s clarification by a senior South Block official shows that Delhi has taken note of the continuing violence and political instability in Iraq.

It will not rush into taking a decision that could jeopardise the lives of Indian soldiers and prove to be a mistake at a time when five states are heading for elections.

Elsewhere, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha has condemned yesterday’s suspected suicide attack which killed the UN Special Representative to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and at least 19 persons.

“On behalf of the government and the people of India, and on my own personal behalf, I wish to convey to you our heartfelt condolences on the demise of de Mello following the dastardly attack on the UN office in Baghdad yesterday,” Sinha said in a letter to UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

He said: “No words can be strong enough in condemning the reprehensible act of terrorism that took away the lives of several dedicated UN personnel, including that of Sergio de Mello, a distinguished professional who had served the cause of the United Nations and international peace, security and development throughout his career.”

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