No Troops For Iraq –– Indo–US Fallout

An IDC Analysis 


New Delhi, 02 August 2003

The troops for Iraq issue has become a bone of contention between the US and India. though it is being kept shrouded in diplomatic niceties. In India a national debate is on and indications are that a majority are against sending Indian troops there for law and order duties till such time as an effective native Iraqi government is in place or the UN assumes responsibility for post war reconstruction work. However, Indian troops could go at this stage for humanitarian tasks like restoration of medical and other civil services and infrastructure.

In fact, the Indian position is very much similar to that of Japan whose ‘diet’ after protracted consideration had approved as late as 26 July, a law to send SDF for noncombatant duties in Iraq –– what will be the first dispatch of Japanese military personnel to a combat zone since World War II. The first contingent of troops is expected to depart in August, followed by a 1,000-strong force in October. The Japanese mission would be to help resettle refugees, rebuild facilities and provide fresh water and supplies. They are banned under the new legislation from providing weapons and ammunition for combat. But opposition parties would continue to question the legitimacy of this move, particularly as Prime Minister Koizumi seeks re-election as head of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The decision has already taken its toll in the form of a change of the Defense Agency's top bureaucrat on 01 August when Takemasa Moriya was promoted in a personnel shakeup to prepare for the planned dispatch of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) troops to Iraq.

Of the 30 countries that have so far pledged to take part in peacekeeping operations in Iraq with US/UK occupation forces, two-thirds are European though mostly former Soviet states who owe so much to US for their new identity. The coalition now has 13,400 non-U.S. troops in Iraq, the bulk of them British. Poland is the largest continental European contributor to the multinational division. It had agreed to post 2,300 troops and take control of one of postwar Iraq's coalition-defined occupation sectors. The Polish-led division will include 1,640 Ukrainian and 1,300 Spanish soldiers.  Bulgaria is sending about 500 troops; Hungary has pledged several hundred; Romania and Latvia each are deploying about 150, while Slovakia and Lithuania are dispatching 85 apiece.

The reasons why European countries have offered military support to coalition forces in Iraq vary. Some, such as Britain, Poland and Spain, have been uninhibited supporters of the justness of the US led war on Saddam's regime. Others have done so as a way of showing their loyalty to Washington. The United States is footing most of the bill for the Polish-led division. Thus it needs to be noted that so far none of the ‘friends’ of US have even all together sent or are ready to send troops to the scale of 17,000, which is what is being sought from India. With the exception of the British, Washington's failure to secure a large contingent of foreign troops has created the impression that US forces, numbering some 150,000, are essentially alone in Iraq.

However, India's improving diplomatic and military relations with the US are expected to suffer a setback over the dispatch of an army division to Iraq as a peacekeeping force without a UN mandate. A furious Bush administration has expressed dismay at India depriving it of around 17,000 desperately needed troops. Although it publicly declared that growing bilateral ties would not be affected, senior US officials have made their displeasure known. Such behaviour, they warned, could have a detrimental effect on Indo–US relations in 'critical areas' like co-operation on hitherto taboo nuclear matters and the supply of hi-tech equipment for civilian and military applications. Discussions with Pentagon officials so far have entailed deploying the Indian peacekeepers for at least three years in northern Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region bordering Turkey, which along with Iran and Syria has warned Delhi against becoming involved.

India has informed Washington that it wanted independent control, making it clear that it would not report to either US or British commanders. By deploying in Iraq, India is also fearful of alienating Arab states on which it is dependent for oil and other energy requirements. The Vajpayee government is also worried about casualties in Iraq that would have negative effects on BJP’s coalition in polls in four important states this year and national elections in 2004. Gen Myers, Joint Chief of Defence during his visit this week to Delhi made the latest US reiteration of its desire for Indian troops. It was however reported that on the Indian suggestion, he denied having made such a request during his press conference.

What needs a look is the mind-set of American officials and professionals who have no qualms about using different yardsticks for other nations. Before the end of cold war, it was –– if you are not with us you are in the Soviet camp –– now if one does not toe their line he’s not a friend. 

This aspect came out very vividly in an international conference on terrorism in India organized by the US–India Political Action Committee and the US–India Institute for Strategic Policy in Washington recently. The panelists included several Indian and US experts. Among Indians, prominent were B Raman, ex RAW Chief, Professor Sumit Ganguly of Indiana University in Bloomington and Anupam Srivastava, executive director of the India Initiative at the University of Georgia in Athens and the South Asia Programme of UGA's Center for International Trade and Security. The most vocal Americans were Frank Gaffney, president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy and a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy in the Reagan Administration, and Tom Donnelly, senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Other panelists included Thomas Neumann, executive director, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow Brookings Institution, but they strayed from the topic at hand and got caught up in Middle East terrorism and the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the Israeli response to Palestinians terrorism carried out by the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and other such groups.

Raman, literally exploded when a bunch of leading American neo-conservatives, obviously still caught up in the mind-set of a Cold War hangover, accused India of not pulling its weight in the US-led war against global terrorism by its rejection of Washington's request to deploy Indian troops in Iraq to alleviate the situation in that country. He asserted, "when nobody was willing to help us against state-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan after the Mumbai blast, it was Saddam Hussein's Iraq who helped us." He recalled, the total lack of sympathy from US, "when New Delhi had prepared a "dossier on Pakistani terrorism and gave it to the State Department. It was only Iraq, which India went to among several other countries to seek support to fight Pakistani-sponsored terrorism, which had readily agreed to help. The US in particular, and other Western governments had simply scoffed at India's allegations and evidence that was presented, saying it was based on police interrogation and that everyone knows that Indian police use torture. But after the Western hostages trekking in Kashmir were killed by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, "the dossier that was earlier rejected," by the State Department, "was accepted by its counter-terrorism bureau”.

This was in the early years of the Clinton Administration. Raman alleged that now since Pakistan was viewed as a strategic ally in the war against al Qaeda, every time there is any intelligence that reaches the State Department about Islamabad's complicity in cross-border terrorism and other terrorist acts directed against India, it is "exorcised from these reports. Any intelligence which shows Pakistan's involvement in acts of terrorism is not shared with India.”

The above was Raman’s retort when Frank Gaffney and Tom Donnelly, argued that India's refusal to contribute troops to help the US in its peacekeeping efforts in Iraq was a manifestation of its tired old non-aligned syndrome which New Delhi had apparently still been unable to shake off. Donnelly said, "India missed a huge opportunity to shed the baggage of its past and make a clear statement," on Iraq. He said President Bush's declaration that "you are with us or against us," in the war against global terrorism, "is perhaps too strong a way to put it, but it is certainly true that the United Nations has not been and will not be a useful tool for fighting terror." Donnelly, also implied that India's rejection of the US request was because of Washington's close alliance with Pakistan on the war on terror and acknowledged that “our short-term relations with Pakistan for example, are throwing off, preventing and screwing up a huge opportunity (for India) that may not be there forever. Non-alignment in the war against terrorism is not a very good option. This certainly is not one that will serve India in these purposes over the long haul. Non-alignment, passive resistance is unhelpful." Taking yet another swipe at Delhi's decision to contribute troops to help stabilize the situation in Iraq only if it is under a United Nations mandate,  Donnelly said, "Fretting whether Indian soldiers in Iraq should get UN wages or not is penny-wise and pound foolish," and exhorted Indian Americans to put pressure on New Delhi to "join the coalition's troops in Iraq."

Gaffney said, "I think it will work to India's benefit if it makes the arguments in much the same way the United States makes its arguments on the war on terror and shows a greater degree of empathy and cooperation with the US as it wages its war on terror." When challenged to show how India has been "unfriendly" in working with the US in the global war on terror, he said, "I find it unfriendly the refusal of the Indian government to help in the rebuilding of Iraq as also India's increasing efforts to increase its arsenal in cooperation with the former Soviet military industrial complex." Gaffney admitted there was no denying "there is a historic pro-Pakistan bias in the rubric of the Cold War. This is the legacy that carries forward and gives an impression that the Pakistanis are more important to US in the war on terror than the Indians. That is the obstacle to be overcome". Gaffney also acknowledged that, "Pakistan is a country, that I don't need to tell this audience, has been up to its eyeballs in terror for several decades at least." But reiterated that  “Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has, to his credit, provided valuable service in several important ways to US and arguably to others in the war on terror, and yet, we have to be honest with one another, Pakistan is one bullet away from once again being a failed state with absolutely unquestioned alliance to and associations with terrorists in Afghanistan, terrorists in the tribal areas of Pakistan itself, terrorists in Kashmir and terrorists in India as well as elsewhere." Thus, he conceded that "Investing in Pakistan as a reliable partner in the war on terror as a result is a dubious proposition."

Raman asserted that "Pakistan is using terrorism as a strategic weapon against us, and we have to make clear that Pakistan has a price to pay if they continue fomenting terrorism against India. We should not depend on the US to help us. If they help, well and good, but if they don't and there are misunderstandings, it cannot be helped. I am prepared to take some actions in our national interests even if it causes some misunderstandings in our relations with the United States.” He also offered a detailed and comprehensive analysis of Pakistan-based and Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir-based terrorism, their infrastructure, where the funding comes from and pointed out, “Today, there is no Kashmiri militancy in Kashmir. It is this Pakistani component of (Osama) bin Laden's International Islamic Front, who are operating under the guise of Kashmiris."

Professor Sumit Ganguly said, "It is only because of tactical reasons that US has the tenuous alliance with Pakistan," and warned, “Americans are proceeding down the same primrose path that they proceeded with (former Pakistani military dictator and president) General Zia-ul Haq." Another Indian panelist, Anupam Srivastava, made an academic presentation on terrorism, including its various facets from political to religious terrorism. He pointed out, "there is no good and bad terrorism. You cannot make a distinction such as that and therefore negotiating with them within very, very confined established parameters of federalism are an absolute must if you have to reach a point of incremental negotiations with them and some accommondation."

American interlocutors warned that if Musharraf was killed, "the US would be in a panic because Pakistan would unmistakably become a failed state and radicalized into a pro-terrorist state and put its nuclear weapons into the hands of terrorists. Whoever comes next would be very hostile to the United States. It will be a very dark day for the US and a relationship with India would be into abeyance."

But Raman scoffed at this contention and so did Ganguly and they pointed out that the death of Zia-ul Haq in an inexplicable plane crash had not led to any such chaos. Ganguly said the Pakistani army for their own vested reasons ‘will hang together’. Musharraf himself is trying to create this scenario of chaos in the minds of the US and knows how to play into the fears of the US. There will be neither any deluge, nor a nuclear holocaust.

When one participant challenged Ganguly on alleged state-sponsored terrorism, the latter acknowledged that what took place in Gujarat could arguably be called that and said, "I think it is one of the blots on India's 21st century history. I hope Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi take a trip to Belgium sometime in the near future, because in Belgium they believe in extraterritoriality because Mr Modi deserves to be tried, in my view, as a war criminal and I'll go on the record on that.”

The discussions at this Conference clearly brought out the official US position and reaction to India dragging its feet in sending troops to Iraq. However, the majority Indian point of view were also very succinctly brought out by Mr Raman.

We hope this analysis would put many Indian minds athinking and help them draw conclusions as to what is in the country’s long term interests.

(Acknowledgement: Aziz Haniffa’s Report in US media.)

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