| Natwar Singh
New Delhi, July 14: India might not send troops to Iraq but is willing to play a significant role in its reconstruction by training policemen, teachers, nurses, IT personnel, diplomats and administrative staffers.
Even so, it has expressed concern over the situation there, saying early return of “security and stability” is necessary if Indians are to go over and help.
The issue came up for discussion between visiting US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and the Indian leadership during a series of meetings here today. The role India can play in reconstruction came up by way of Delhi’s clarification on its Iraq policy, especially over whether it supports the US-initiated democratisation process.
The Indian leaders spoke about Delhi’s “traditional close links” with Iraqis, but made it clear that its citizens would decide how much of a role in the reconstruction was “acceptable”.
India said it welcomed the UN resolution that led to the transfer of power from the US to an Iraqi interim government, but wants Baghdad’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to be safeguarded.
Armitage met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, foreign minister K. Natwar Singh and senior foreign ministry officials. He also briefly met defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and called on leader of the Opposition .K. Advani in the morning; national security adviser J.. Dixit hosted a lunch for him.
The deputy secretary of state, who left for Islamabad this evening, said he would discuss the situation in south Asia and the India-Pakistan peace process with President Pervez Musharraf and other Pakistani leaders. He stressed that “violence and infiltration” must stop completely, but expressed happiness over the growing support for the composite dialogue that the neighbours have started to normalise relations and resolve their differences.
Delhi’s attempt to let Armitage know it is willing to help in Iraq was a signal that it does not want to create a fresh controversy over the issue. Last month, Natwar Singh had sown confusion by hinting that India could send troops to Baghdad.
Armitage said he had not requested India for troops: “The issue of troops for Iraq did not come up at the meeting.” He said the situation in Baghdad and developments since power was handed over to interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi were discussed.
The deputy secretary of state denied that the US was isolated as more and more countries are unwilling to send troops. He said Australia and Jordan were ready to send troops, adding that the unanimous UN resolution and transfer of power were accepted with “alacrity” by Iraq’s neighbours and other countries.
Speaking about the continuing Iraq violence, Armitage said: “If polls are to be believed, then over 70 per cent of the Iraqis feel that this is a very good government and they have a sovereign government.”