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+ Yes, India should not get involved in IraqBy S. GOPIKRISHNA

Despite a legendary reputation for wrong decision making, India seems to be on the right track by staying out of the Iraq war.

And why would India want to involve itself in a war of dubious merit?

It is painfully evident that Messrs. Bush and Blair relied on unreliable evidence exemplifying the best practices of “reverse research” (research requires analysis of evidence before arriving at a conclusion while “reverse research” jumps to a conclusion first and then looks for supporting evidence) to support their attacking Iraq. Iraq didn’t have the capacity to sustain any significant nuclear or biological warfare, despite the cowboy brigade’s strident claims. The connections between Saddam’s regime and the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks are nebulous at best.

India would therefore do itself a great injustice by joining a war no more justifiable than Hitler’s blitzkrieg.

While America loves contributions of “allies” in “peacekeeping” measures, what can be expected in return? Two careless American fighter pilots killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and have successfully avoided a court martial. There has been no apology to the grieving families of the soldiers involved in a war demonstrating American might.

Based on Canada’s experience, India should join the war only if comfortable with a strong dose of insensitivity.

It is possible that siding with the U.S. would improves trade relations with the superpower, and the U.S. would be inclined to lend a sympathetic ear to India in international issues.

Since the U.S. has economically punished countries for not being “friendly” enough, it is necessary to examine the consequences of indifference towards Bush’s bashing brigade. India has successfully withstood economic sanctions imposed after the 1998 nuclear bomb testing. Given America’s ailing economy, the strong Indian presence in the technological sector, and the resulting indirect influence, any further restrictions are more inimical to the U.S. than India.

India therefore doesn’t have to feel intimidated into joining the quixotic Iraqi expedition.

India needn’t have any illusions about America’s coddling them on the Kashmir issue in return for support in Iraq. America needs Pakistan more than India to retain a hold on a restive Afghanistan and can therefore be expected to favor the former in case of a disagreement.

It is evident that there exists no reason, moral or practical, for India to join the military misadventure. India, as a champion of the now slumbering Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) would serve everybody’s interests best by not rushing in where angels fear to tread.
S. Gopikrishna writes on India and Indians from Toronto.

+ No, the Indian presence is in the national interest

As I write this, it is not clear whether India will in fact send troops to Iraq. But I do believe India should, for sound tactical and strategic reasons.

The case for an Indian presence goes as follows: there is precedent for successful Indian peacekeeping operations under the U.N. banner before; this is an opportunity to demand a proper quid pro quo from the Americans; and Iraqis in particular have positive memories of an Indian military presence in their country.

India has consistently participated in U.N.-supported peacekeeping. Consider Somalia, where the Indian contingent endeared itself by setting up field hospitals and building roads. Consider the Indian Gurkha regiment guarding a bridge in Lebanon during Israel’s invasion. The Israelis overran every other U.N. position, but bypassed the bridge. They knew the Gurkhas would not surrender the bridge.

A very interesting question is the quid pro quo from the U.S. After all, Indians don’t need to be in Iraq, but the American body bag count is going up, so the latter are clearly supplicants. To start with, demand equal pay and benefits for the Indian troops as compared to Western troops. This has been a major irritant: for instance with the Gurkhas in the British Army, who feel like they are low-cost cannon fodder. Similarly, white commanders have refused to serve under Indians, e.g. General Vijay Nambiar in Bosnia. This should not be tolerated.

What other pound of flesh can India extract? We can start the bargaining with, metaphorically speaking, Musharraf’s head on a platter. In decreasing order of importance, other demands: the verifiable cessation of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan; a U.S.-brokered deal so that the Line of Control is converted to the international border in Kashmir; the 20 wanted criminals protected by Musharraf; neutralizing of Pakistan’s nuclear “crown jewels” by the Americans; a go-ahead for the Arrow system; supporting India’s Security Council ambitions (and no watered-down, non-veto version, either, please); and so on and so on.

Let us see what bold negotiations can bring us; no need to be shy.

As for the Indian presence in Iraq, it was the Indian Army that set up the current state of Iraq. The Indian rupee was the official currency there until 1932. There is a residual positive feeling towards India from the common Iraqi.

The Indian contingent will go to Iraq not as high-handed occupiers (as Americans, alas, have a tendency to be), but as friends rebuilding infrastructure like roads and medical facilities—just as in Afghanistan and Somalia—and that makes all the difference.

Strategically, it does India no harm to get a military presence next to the Persian Gulf, especially if the Americans now decide to “liberate” Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia.
Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this opinion from Bangalore, India.