The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US seeks India clarity on Iraq

New Delhi, July 9: The US has asked India to clearly spell out its Iraq policy, calling for a reassessment in light of the UN-mandated transition to democracy in the war-torn country.

Washington’s view was expressed by its ambassador David Mulford barely three days after the government announced in Parliament it would not send troops to Iraq.

“We have heard that India wanted to play a role in Iraq, particularly in its reconstruction. But it is not clear what kind of role it wants to play,” Mulford said this afternoon.

He added that Delhi should review its approach as Iraq embarks on a path to democracy.

Although it was not said in so many words, what the US wants to find out is whether or not it supports the current American effort to put in place a regime of the Iraqi people and establish democracy. India has so far been ambiguous, offering support for Iraq’s sovereignty without specifying its form.

Iraq will be on the table when US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage comes to Delhi on an official visit on July 13. The US administration sees the trip as important as this will be the first major interaction between Armitage — the state department’s point man for South Asia — and the Congress-led new dispensation in India.

Speaking a day after the budget, Mulford expressed satisfaction with the opening up of insurance, civil aviation and telecom further to foreign investment.

But he also pointed out that the US would like to see all limits on foreign investment in the three areas removed.

“It would be to our advantage to invest in India. More important, it is good for India to open up if it wants to have 8 or 9 per cent growth rate. If India wants to sustain its level of growth, it should be interested in a more open investment and trade regime,” he said.

The US has been insisting that India dismantle foreign investment restrictions and the fact that the budget had addressed the issue has encouraged the Americans.

The ambassador even sought to play down the Left criticism, saying: “The fact that there is opposition is not surprising. But what is important is that the government has announced its decision to open up,” Mulford said.

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