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[casi] India Should Say 'No'

1) India Should Say 'No'
(... to sending occupation troops to Iraq which btw is part of West-Asia in
her perception.
Why? Because it " .... would [also] betray every ideal that Mahatma Gandhi,
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and other founding fathers of our independence
fought for. )

2) The Iron Handshake
(On the US trying to draw India into the Iraq occupation quagmire after
France, Belgium, Germany, Russia, China [and others ?] have already politely
turned down the invitation to join the suicide party. )


India Should Say 'No'

Send in the engineering or medical corps, but definitely not combat troops


For five decades, India was the odd man out in US perceptions—a democracy
that befriended the Soviet Union and therefore had to be viewed with
suspicion if not outright animosity. Today as that memory fades into history
and Indo-US relations warm to a temperature never attained before, this
budding relationship is posing as many headaches to Indian policy-makers as
the previous wariness and distrust. By far, the most serious is this: can a
country that suffered colonial subjugation for 190 years, and fought for 62
years to free itself, suddenly turn into a colonial power? This moral
dilemma surfaced only days before deputy PM L.

 Under colonial subjugation for 190 years, fighting it for 62 years, can
India be a colonial power now?

  K. Advani's scheduled week-long visit to the US, when the defense
department called on the Indian ambassador in Washington and sounded him out
on India's willingness to send its troops to Iraq to help the US and UK
forces restore order in that country. It became acute when  President Bush
raised the issue during his 'drop-in' talk with Advani in Washington.

Washington, of course, doesn't see its presence in Iraq in that light.
According to it, Iraq has been 'liberated', not conquered. The attacks on
American troops, which are relentlessly taking one or two lives every week,
are the last aftershocks of the war that is over—the work of a thin residue
of Saddam loyalists, Baath party fanatics, and criminals—and not the first
salvos of the guerrilla war that is to come. This is hardly surprising, for
the Bush administration has a lot invested in this interpretation. It has to
show the world that what it did was not only in the world's interest, but
also in the Iraqis'. For, the purpose of the attack on Iraq was not only to
oust the Saddam regime, but also to turn Iraq into a model democracy that
would become a beacon for other countries in West Asia. This, Bush's
advisors have confidently predicted, will deprive the new brand of
international terrorists of their potential state sponsors and bases of

But India cannot take so sanguine a view. Indian policy-makers would do well
to remember that America is the only highly industrialised country (barring
those of Scandinavia) that has never been a colonial power. It is thus the
only country that has only textbook, and not first-hand, knowledge of the
phenomenon known as nationalism, or of the way it feeds upon colonial
oppression to define itself. India, by contrast, has had too much of such
knowledge. Not only was Indian nationalism born out of opposition to British
rule, but since Independence, governments in Delhi have had their hands full
dealing with ethno-national uprisings. No other government in the world
therefore knows how easy it is, in the day of the satellite phone and the
Kalashnikov, to start an insurrection that then feeds upon the very attempts
that it makes to bring it under control.

To those with experience of nationalism and insurgency, the portents in Iraq
are anything but good. Except possibly in Kurdish areas, Iraqis did not
welcome the US and UK troops as liberators. The most one can say is they had
mixed feelings: while most were relieved that Saddam's regime had fallen,
they also resented the invasion that had brought it about. However, the
Americans lost no chance reassuring them that they would leave as soon as
possible after a new Iraqi government had been formed. The Iraqis hence
adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards the US and UK presence in Iraq. But
as it has become apparent that their occupation is open-ended, and that
their purpose is not to instal a government of the Iraqis' choice but one of
the America's choice, Iraqi resentment has begun to harden and manifest

Calls to the Americans and British to leave Iraq are coming not only from
the Sunnis but also the Shia clergy and have become standard fare in the
Friday namaaz.So, the increasingly frequent attacks on US troops look more
like the cutting edge of this hardening resentment, than like the acts of
small bands of 'criminals' driven by hate.

The Americans have already begun to be dragged deeper into the Iraqi
quagmire. The new American administrator for Iraq has postponed attempts to
form an Iraqi government and intends to rule Iraq directly, virtually
indefinitely. The US has stopped thinning its military presence in Iraq and
is reinforcing it: including back-up and logistical elements based in
Kuwait, the US and UK will now have almost 200,000 troops in Iraq—twice the
maximum number an American general had predicted last October. The reaction
of enraged Sunnis and disappointed Shias will be predictable. So, any troops
India sends are likely to be seen by the Iraqis as occupation forces. They
could face the same hostility, and come under the same kind of guerrilla
attack, as the Americans.

This does not mean India should do nothing to help America get Iraq back on
its feet. The task has to be addressed and as quickly as possible. And since
the UN Security Council has entrusted the US with the primary responsibility
of doing so, helping America would only be helping to carry out the wishes
of the UN.

But India must absolutely not send any combat troops. It can send its army
engineers to speed up the restoration of Iraq's power, water supply and
sanitation services; send the army medical corps to man Iraq's hospitals,
and supply large quantities of essential drugs. What is more, since the UN
has been given an important though as yet unspecified role in these areas,
New Delhi can also suggest that its specialist units go in wearing the UN's
blue beret. But to do anything else before Iraq has its own government would
not only endanger the lives of our soldiers and risk getting dragged into
someone else's war, but would betray every ideal that Mahatma Gandhi, Shyama
Prasad Mukherjee and other founding fathers of our independence fought for.



The Iron Handshake

The deputy PM gets his due and more, but better ties still hinge on an
Indian peace-keeping force for Iraq Updates


Whether it was a sign is debatable, but when Lal Krishna Advani and his
entourage arrived in the United States the weeks of incessant rains did
suddenly peter out leaving the capital bathed in brilliant sunshine. It
seemed the elements wanted to encourage the deputy prime minister as he
endeavoured to project himself as a statesman whom the world's only
superpower respected and admired. In fact, they courted him and extended
courtesies they normally don't to others. President George Bush dropped in
when Advani and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice were meeting;
defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld came over to the DPM's hotel;
vice-president Dick Cheney found ample time for the Indian leader; and
attorney general John Ashcroft and homeland security secretary Tom Ridge
exchanged notes with him on combating terrorism.

 Just about everyone Advani met wanted to know whether India would send
troops to 'stabilise' Iraq? New Delhi is still pondering over that one.

Analysts took notice as they dissected the significance of an impressive
array of US leaders meeting Advani. Walter Andersen, deputy director of
South Asia studies at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns
Hopkins University, told Outlook, "The very fact that you had the

president dropping in for such an extensive period of time (30 minutes), and
the fact that the defense secretary visited him at his hotel, all go to show
that the administration takes Advani very seriously as a leader. Of course,
he is also a possible future prime minister." Others thought this also shows
the importance the US attaches to its relationship with India.

Ironically, the weather threatened to change as soon as Advani winged out of
the city. The weatherman predicted weeks of thundershowers—and this could
well turn out to be true for the future of Indo-US relations as well. For,
just about everyone whom Advani met wanted to know: would India accept
America's request to send troops to 'stabilise' Iraq?

The request has been pending for weeks now, and all Advani could offer was
the hope that New Delhi would take a decision soon. Obviously, there were
reservations in India and the US needed to allay these. Always quick on the
draw, the Bush administration declared it was sending a Pentagon team to New
Delhi to address the Indian government's concerns.
Some of which are: why are Indian troops needed? Would they be required to
employ force? And, more importantly, to whom would they report? Even as you
read this report, perhaps the US team is already engaged in fielding such
questions from its Indian counterparts.

 The DPM chose not to expend his energies on the cross-border terrorism
issue, saying it was "India's own problem...we'll deal with it".

Cabinet Committee on Security Affairs in New Delhi has discussed the issue
twice. Its perceived reluctance is not only because the request for Indian
troops hasn't been routed through the United Nations; it is also because
Iraq has plunged into bloody chaos—May witnessed 85 attacks on the US
forces; an American soldier died every day of the month. Add to this the
massive protests against their presence and it's easy to understand why the
US is keen for others to share its burden.

India is preferred because its peacekeeping experience has been laudatory.
There's also the hope its presence could diminish the popular impression in
Iraq that it is under foreign occupation. All this could boomerang on
India—its troops could take hits and it could be perceived in Iraq and the
region to have supped with the imperialists. Weighing against these is the
possibility of New Delhi forging closer ties with the US, of reaping
dividends from assisting the US at a time when other major powers are not
rushing to bail it out from the Iraqi quagmire, of countering Pakistan on
the political chessboard that South Asia has become.

Analysts here feel India's response could indicate the distance New Delhi is
willing to travel to cement Indo-US ties. Says Dana Dillon, senior policy
analyst at the influential conservative thinktank, Heritage Foundation, "I
wouldn't go so far as to say this is a test, but I would say it is an
indicator of the extent to which rhetoric is translated into action." Dillon
is referring to Indian leaders who have made it a habit of visiting
Washington and singing paeans to the friendship between the two
countries—what Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee described as two "natural
allies". He adds, "We have now offered India an opportunity to help, and
whatever decision they make will show us how India defines 'better
relations' with the US."

Others see Washington's request as an echo of its feeling that India is an
emerging power. Explains Andersen, "The request shows that the United States
considers India a major player in the Indian Ocean's affairs. The US would
like to have India involved in major issues of security management. If India
does send troops, people will feel it is working with the US."

Ultimately, New Delhi has to decide what it wants, and what it expects in
return from the US. Dillon spells it out, "If India sends troops to Iraq,
then we will have to consider India as a coalition partner that is helping
us fight our war on terrorism. Can we be any less forthcoming with India? If
we want India to be a good ally, we will have to be a good ally towards
India." For India, agree analysts, a "good ally" would mean Washington
mounting pressure on Islamabad to curb cross-border terrorism.

Now thinking of Advani, you would think him to be obsessed with Pakistan and
cross-border terrorism. Yet he chose to not unduly expend his energies on
the issue, prompting Indian officials to explain that New Delhi is keen to
delink Pakistan from its bilateral relations with Washington. Terrorism
surfaced during his meeting with Bush and Rumsfeld, and Advani said he had
been assured that India's security concerns would be raised during Pakistan
president Pervez Musharraf's visit to the US later this month. To the press,
Advani said, "Cross-border terrorism is a problem that is essentially
India's own...and we will deal with it."

There was also a reference to the unseemly leadership struggle Advani was
inadvertently caught in at the time he left India. He alluded to it in his
address to the nris in Washington, cryptically remarking that Vajpayee would
"continue to rule the country for years". Such a pithy and prosaic comment,
though, disappointed his fans as well as those from the media.

And it's not as if everyone is enamoured of the DPM. A motley crew of
people, including relatives of victims of the Gujarat riots and Indian
Americans, gathered outside the Indian embassy on June 10, holding placards
depicting Advani with a Hitler moustache. Professor Mohan Bhagat, one of the
protesters, thought it was important to stage at least a token protest
against Advani—to demonstrate that the BJP-led government's policies were
not acceptable to all Indian Americans.

Letters of protest were also sent to senior Bush administration officials by
the Coalition to Support Democracy and Pluralism in India, an assortment of
Indian American organisations. Referring to a recent cbi chargesheet against
Advani, the coalition said in its letter, "His actions have undermined the
global war on terror by encouraging religious extremism in India."
Meanwhile, there was the controversy over the presence of family members in
his extended entourage. The DPM, when asked, joked it was a matter of piety.

Advani's America visit was also crafted as an opportunity to provide a
fillip to the Sangh. Its leaders in the diaspora agree that his interactions
in Washington, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York were an attempt to bolster
support for the saffron brigade amongst the deeply divided community. But it
looked like Advani had not properly judged these differences when he used
Hindi over English to address a community reception in Washington. Some
second generation and non-Hindi speaking first generation Indian Americans
were later heard complaining about a "wasted evening".Wasted is hardly an
adjective Advani would use to describe the trip.

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