10 April 2004

Indian troops for Iraq is "wishful thinking"

10 April 2004
The Times of India

Indian troops for Iraq is "wishful thinking"


NEW DELHI: The Vajpayee government may not have put out an official denial yet but senior officials say a US State Department spokesman's claim about New Delhi considering the dispatch of troops to Iraq is a case of "wishful thinking, pure and simple".

A number of South Block officials involved with the issue told The Times of India on Saturday that there had, not even been any new request from Washington for Indian troops to be sent into Iraq after the so-called transfer of sovereignty takes place on June 30.

"Given the violence there, and the fact that we're going in for elections, it is completely unrealistic for the US to think India can reconsider its stand," said a senior official, adding "Washington is usually never realistic but this is going too far".

According to PTI, Adam Ereli of the State Department told reporters on Friday, "We have, I think, regular and ongoing contacts not only obviously, with the members of the coalition currently in Iraq, but possible new countries that might want to contribute. These include India and Bangladesh".

Ereli was replying to a question about a statement made by US secretary of state Colin Powell that a number of countries, including India, were still open to the idea of sending troops.

Indian officials see these 'optimistic' statements as a sign of Washington's growing desperation with the unfolding crisis in Iraq. "It wouldn't surprise me if these things are said with a domestic US audience in mind, that a bail-out by the rest of the world is on the cards."

If at all Washington has sought to open a channel with New Delhi on Iraq, this is likely to have been at the political (i.e. PMO) rather than official (i.e.MEA) level.

The French government has confirmed that it has been approached by the US to contribute troops for a multinational force to protect UN personnel in Iraq.

But Paris is unwilling to budge. And given the scale of the ongoing insurgency in Iraq, the large number of civilians killed and injured by the US occupiers and the growing signs of a unified, non-sectarian patriotic sentiment among ordinary Iraqis, no Indian leader is likely to want to send Indian troops there.

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