Friday, Jun 20, 2003
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By Amit Baruah
Talking to The Hindu today, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador, Robert Blackwill, said that India could play a "major role" and serve on the "inner board of directors" managing the security of Iraq in its transition to democracy. Discussions on the issue would go on.
India, the U.S. had in mind, would be at the "centre on the security side" with a few other countries. This, he said, would inevitably have consequences for India's influence on the political and diplomatic side.
On the issue of "who pays" for troops to Iraq, Mr. Blackwill spoke of general principles rather than of India specifically. "...Our view is that the nations that choose to do this will do it for their own interest and, therefore, should pay for it.''
The Ambassador, who leaves India at the end of July, said the countries sending troops would not be doing the U.S. a favour. "Our team came here (on Monday) led by Assistant Secretary (Peter) Rodman... I think that he answered several questions that the Government of India had..." he said, adding that the U.S. was willing to give more clarifications to India on the scope and terms of troop deployment.
Asked if the repeated reference to sending troops to Iraq at a series of recent meetings with Indian leaders did not constitute "pressure", Mr. Blackwill claimed that the "other side" did not feel any pressure.
"...Let me say that India is not this timid little entity that says `oh my goodness the Americans can't talk to us because we'll feel pressured'. India is a rising great power with great confidence, civilisational power, military power, diplomatic power. We can say things to India without India... shrinking back...''
"It is rather... two mature democracies with increasing strategic collaboration talking about a major international issue... on equal terms."
Asked for his assessment on whether India would send troops to Iraq or not, Mr. Blackwill said he "didn't know" but India was in the middle of a very serious, deliberative, democratic process on the issue. "I don't want to predict...because I don't know how it's going to come out."
Refusing to be drawn on the issue of U.S. military sales to Pakistan, he, however, denied press reports that the U.S. Secretary for Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, had told the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, that Washington would sell F-16s to Islamabad.
Mr. Blackwill said he had "two regrets" as he was leaving India. One, India continued to suffer from terrorism when he came two year ago and the situation persisted even today. Second, he regretted the lack of movement on the India-U.S. trade relationship.
India continued to suffer terrorism on a daily basis despite the "enormous effort" made by the U.S. President, George W. Bush, and the "top" of his administration. "... I wish we (the U.S.) could have been more successful than we have been (on tackling terrorism faced by India)... but I can tell you that we are not going to stop trying," he stressed.
On the India-Pakistan territorial issue, Mr. Blackwill made it clear that Washington did not have any ideas about a "final outcome" when it came to a solution to the question.
Stressing that the U.S. was simply interested in "process'', he said the Bush administration hoped that India and Pakistan would "get together and talk" of the areas they disagreed on.
"...We are not going to slide into outcomes here... there is no interest in Washington in doing that... we are not going to fool around with (the) final outcome..." he added.
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