REGION: United States keeping India informed on Iraq
By Josy Joseph
NEW DELHI: While the United States is believed to be ‘happy’ with India’s ‘balanced’ stand on the Iraq issue, India has expressed concern over Iraq’s stability in a post-Saddam Hussein scenario and also of an influx of its nationals working in the Gulf, sources in the government told rediff.com.
The US is believed to be keeping the Indian leadership informed over major developments. Over the past few days, US President George Bush has called Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee twice trying to explain the American position.
US secretary of state Colin Powell had spoken to his Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday and US National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice had spoken to her counterpart Brajesh Mishra on Monday night.
“The calls are part of American attempt to keep all informed” and win over as many allies as possible, the sources said.
The last of the calls came on Thursday within hours of India issuing a strong condemnation of the war on Iraq.
India has been shying away from any strident criticism of the US for its unilateral action and Thursday’s statement was the strongest condemnation yet of the war on Iraq.
Though the statement does not explicitly name the Americans, it expressed India’s ‘deepest anguish’ over the military action. India believes that if Saddam Hussein goes, there are ‘hardly any credible leaders’ left to hold Iraq together.
India also told the US that India has a huge stake in the Gulf region not just because of its oil supplies, but due to the presence of a few million of its citizens.
“Indians are already fleeing Kuwait,” the official said, making a case for the war to be a short and swift one, limited to Iraq.
During the phone calls, the Indian leadership have been stressing on three concerns, which are shared by other countries as well, but almost completely overruled by the US.
International efforts should not focus on a regime change in Iraq, that the people of Iraq have the sole right to decide their rulers
The US and its allies must stick to multilateralism, i.e. the UN Security Council route, and should not venture out on its own, without UNSC approval Peace must be given a chance, and US and its allies must not rush into war
“We have also said that Iraq must implement UN Security Council resolution 1441,” the sources said. —Rediff
War can intensify terrorism, Fernandes
BANGALORE: Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes said Friday the US-led war on Iraq was likely to intensify terrorism and have implications for India’s security.
“One thing we may have to face is terrorism with much greater intensity than we have experienced,” Fernandes told a public meeting in the southern Indian city of Bangalore. “It may be individual terrorism or that terrorism which believes in self-destruction in groups. We can only hope that the conflict will not be prolonged and will end in the shortest possible time,” he added. “The ongoing war will not affect the Indian economy, but will have an implication on ... security.”
He said the attack on Iraq would also pose questions about the future of the United Nations. The Indian government has said the US-led war lacks “justification” and that it favours peaceful disarmament of Iraq under the UN.
India has been subjected to numerous attacks by Islamic militants fighting New Delhi’s rule in divided Kashmir, where a 14-year-old rebellion has claimed 37,500 lives.
The most brazen of the attacks was on India’s parliament in December 2001, in which 15 people died including five gunmen. The assault saw India and Pakistan mass hundreds of thousands of troops on their common border, a later massacre of Indian soldiers and their families bringing the nuclear rivals to the brink of war last June.
Fernandes said India was readying itself with humanitarian assistance for Iraq once the war is over. “We will be there as soon as possible in the aftermath to provide such assistance that the people of Iraq will need,” he said. US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill alluded in a recent interview with the Times of India newspaper that New Delhi could be given a key role in reconstruction projects in Iraq once the conflict is over.
Fernandes said, however, that India would not provide refuelling facilities to American war planes, which New Delhi had done during the 1991 war. “The government has taken a stand on the ongoing conflict. We are not in favour of the conflict. Having taken such a position I cannot visualise government will make available acilities of refuelling,” Fernandes said. —AFP