Sunday, July 06, 2003
Re: Indian troops in Iraq

Ramki, I completely disagree with your take, arguing the case based on ideological/moral grounds. Nevertheless, a brief response to what you said -- Wolfowitz, etc are not liberals. they are neo-realists, and their fundamental principle is national security. Yes, they do believe in the value of soft power and deepening its influence, which they see as liberal democracy in the case of the USA. But that is secondary.

Now to argue the case at hand based on some more realistic grounds:

Yes, India does need moral cover, but that's not all. In any case, such cover is not for our own consumption, but rather for the rest of the world. So we either need (a) a UN approved intervention (b) a Council of Iraqis with some control over administration there, which Bremmer hasn't been able to put together yet..or (c) last and least convincingly, some sort of survey and assurance that the Iraqi populace will not be antagonistic to Indian faces in uniform patrolling their territory.

Remember that Iraq was friendly towards India, but that is to say that the Saddam administration was India's friend. Iraq's masses are a different matter. In fact, as you can see, they are gathering around an Iran-returned Ayatollah -- not exactly in Saddam's footsteps.

Secondly, the USA will not be compensating us monetarily for the help. That's ok. But worse, its quite likely that our troops will be under foreign (US/UK) command. That's unacceptable.

Thirdly, we need to know for sure what our returns will be. (a) immediate and assuredly sustained transfer of hi-tech dual-use technology from the US? (b) assurance of bigger reconstruction contracts in Iraq? Note that the latter is tough to ensure, because it will be at least 2 years before some of these contract-works are even begun.

Fourth, some quid pro quo on US alms to Pak. $3 bn just received sin't a good signal.

Five, at least an attempt at better atmospherics from the US administration. The recent MacDonald report on our Armed Services is superficial and stupid, and meant to provoke and arm-twist, and demand obedience.

More could be added to the list. On the other hand, we don't want to be pre-empted by "other" countries, and be driven further away from Uncle. After all, it may be humiliating to "co-operate" with DC, but it can be much more painful to actively disagree.

If we decline, we must do it sweetly.

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