Monday, Jun 16, 2003
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By Hasan Suroor
Indian sources, while denying that there was any pressure, appeared quietly resigned to the prospect of the British side bringing up the issue even as a host of South Asian civil rights groups warned against any move that might seem like legitimising an "unjust and discredited war".
"We believe that any move to send Indian troops to Iraqi soil will place India in the role of a collaborator in an unjust and discredited war which has claimed thousands of innocent Iraqi lives. It would pit India against the national aspirations of the people of Iraq and intensify our isolation from the Arab nations," said a strongly-worded statement jointly issued by over a dozen organisations as they prepared to picket Mr. Advani to demand a tougher Indian response to Western pressures.
Indian diplomats were reluctant to be drawn on it, and instead focussed on the issues Mr. Advani was likely to raise. Apart from bilateral relations, which would include a review of trade ties, he was expected to voice India's continuing concern over cross-border terrorism and urge his British hosts to press Islamabad to do more to rein in the terror groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir.
With the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, also expected here on Tuesday, the Indian side expects Mr. Blair to raise India's concerns with him. India-watchers would be keenly following the Blair-Musharraf meeting for clues as to how strongly the Indian point of view is put across by Mr. Blair and the General's response. This is Mr. Advani's second visit to Britain in less than a year, and besides Mr. Blair he would have talks with the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, and his British counterpart, John Prescott, at whose invitation he has come.
Meanwhile, protesters, gathering outside the venue of a reception held for Mr. Advani on Sunday evening, said they also opposed reported American "plans" to seek bases in India arguing that this would "undermine" India's sovereignty and facilitate increased U.S. "intervention" in South Asia. They carried placards saying: "No Indian Troops in Iraq, No U.S. Bases in India."
Several Muslim groups said they had decided to boycott the reception and instead join the protest but their focus was on Mr. Advani's alleged role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the BJP's "fascist" agenda. They demanded his dismissal from the Government as "one of the chief instigators" behind the demolition of the mosque. A spokesperson of the South Asia Solidarity Group, under whose auspices Sunday's protest was called, said they would submit a memorandum to Mr. Advani.
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