Friday, Jul 04, 2003
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By Sridhar Krishnaswami
He said there were also "grey areas" and "unresolved ambiguities" in the United Nations resolution on Iraq that would have to be addressed and clarified before any formal decision could be made. New Delhi was also seeing if a "more explicit U.N. mandate" could be obtained.
Arguing that there would have been "absolutely no hesitation" on the part of India if there had been a clear-cut resolution from the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Sibal said that India's track record on peacekeeping was for all to see.
"Normally, India has responded to U.N. mandates; but since there are grey areas, it is necessary for India to be very careful in what it does," Mr. Sibal told mediapersons at the Indian Embassy here on Wednesday.
Mr. Sibal, who is here for the first meeting of the High Technology Cooperation Group, also met top officials of the administration including the National Security Adviser, the Deputy Secretary of Defence and the Deputy Secretary of State. While bilateral relations, including a discussion of the recent initiatives in the subcontinent were took place, the issue of sending Indian troops to Iraq also figured in the discussions.
Mr. Sibal said that even if India decided not to send troops to Iraq, it would not have much impact on bilateral relations for, among other things, the U.S. understood the difficulties of democratic India. He insisted that there was "no pressure" from Washington and that the subject has been raised in a rather "low key" manner.
"...Whatever decision India takes, I don't think it will have an adverse effect on our relations... we are on our way to developing an increasingly cooperative relationship and no single issue will determine the quality of our relationship," Mr. Sibal said.
Asked if the Bush administration has "convinced" India on the troops issue, Mr. Sibal said that this was not the correct approach. "They (meaning the U.S.) don't have to convince us. We have to convince ourselves."
Mr. Sibal characterised his visit to Washington as part of the ongoing decision-making process and that said there were many components to this, including the fuller assessment of India's Ambassador to Iraq after his meeting with the top American administrator, Paul Bremer, and discussions with local Iraqi leaders; and New Delhi's interaction with the countries concerned, including Iraq's neighbours.
The Government of India is now studying the pros and cons of the issue and heading this list would be India's own long-term interests in Iraq; its interests in the region; bilateral relations with the U.S.; the real issues of command and control, funding and the rules of engagement and the evolving political perspective in Iraq itself, it was said.
On the subject of the High Technology Cooperation, Mr. Sibal said that the old days of Washington pressuring New Delhi to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and Fullscope Safeguards were no longer there. Rather, the two sides were into a robust dialogue involving the private sector on a range of high tech areas that included, for instance, in the first meeting here, information technology, life sciences, nano technology and defence technology.
"Both sides discussed changes in policy and regulation that can facilitate such trade and strengthen controls on the possible diversion of sensitive items. Today's meeting of the HTCG was an important step in this process," the U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce, Kenneth Juster, said in a statement. The second meeting of the group will be in New Delhi in November next.
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