The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal offers US a way out

Moscow, Nov. 13: Describing the situation in Iraq as a “grave international crisis”, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today made a strong case for the UN to act to stem the violence and prevent the wanton killings of innocents in that country. He charged the US with the primary responsibility to see that this happened.

Vajpayee’s statement on Iraq came after indications that the situation in that country was worsening and a major attack in Nassiriya a day earlier on Italian troops. Besides 18 Italians, several Iraqis also died there.

Vajpayee said: “Innocent people are being killed in Iraq. There is murder and mayhem. It is the responsibility of the United Nations to take some steps in this regard. Principally, it is the US which has the responsibility (to ensure this).”

The Prime Minister said that the crisis in Iraq was grave and India hoped that a solution would be found to ameliorate it. Vajpayee took the opportunity to express his views on the worsening situation in Iraq at a gathering of the non-resident Indian community here.

In the mess that the Americans find themselves in Iraq, India seems to see a vindication of its position of not getting involved by sending its troops there under US control.

Vajpayee explained at length how the Indian position on Iraq differed with that of the US and Britain. “Our views were similar to that of some other big nations,” he said, referring to Russia, France and Germany.

He recalled why and how India had refused to send troops to help the Americans in Iraq. India, he said, had expressed its inability to do so for two reasons. “One, we have a crisis on our own borders. Under these circumstances, should we worry about ourselves or about the potential threats to the US' Second, ours is a big country — there is always some internal security problems or the other arising all the time. So we told our friends that we would find it very difficult to send our forces. They understood our difficulties,” Vajpayee explained.

Besides, the Prime Minister pointed out that Parliament had unanimously passed a resolution that “we would not get involved in the Iraq imbroglio”.

The resolution also calls for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraqi soil and for Iraqis running their own affairs.

Elaborating on how India arrived at its considered position on Iraq, Vajpayee said: “Ours is a coalition government. It moves after taking into account the views of all (the coalition partners). It can act only if it enjoys the confidence of all.”

The Prime Minister praised the Indian political system for standing united on the question of Iraq. “It is because of this that our friends abroad as well as those opposed to us understood that no one person can take decisions for India. We sit together and then take a common decision. It is the duty of those in power to take into account the views of even those who sit in the Opposition,” he explained.

Foreigners and those not familiar with India, Vajpayee said, often wondered how with different languages and different voices, India could still stay together.

“I tell them when we have to stay together we unite and don’t speak much. It is not necessary to verbalise everything. This mantra works even in international relations,” the Prime Minister said.

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