US disappointed as India pulls the plug on Ir

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Posted by Esarhaddon from ( on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 at 0:01AM :



WASHINGTON: The Bush Administration is disappointed at India's call not to send troops to Iraq but says the decision will not affect the bilateral relations between the two countries.

"While we had hoped India would take a different decision, the transformation of US-India relations will continue as before. India remains an important strategic partner for the US," a US official said, following the announcement that the Cabinet Committee on Security had rejected Washington's request for Indian help in Iraq.

The Indian decision on the issue over the weekend came as a surprise here because the lines of communication were buzzing as late as Friday when India's ambassador Lalit Mansingh met senior Pentagon officials to review the ground situation in Iraq.

In answering the many clarifications New Delhi sought, US officials explained the formation of the governing council in Iraq with powers for appointing ambassadors and ministers. India was also given a sense of the geography, terrain, and social tensions of the areas in Northern Iraq it was invited to police.

US officials were also preparing grounds for reconciliation with the United Nations, whose Secretary General Kofi Annan, is due in Washington on Tuesday for talks with President Bush.

But New Delhi pulled the plug ahead of that meeting.

Officials from both sides agreed that while the ground situation in Iraq appeared to be congenial for Indian troop placement, New Delhi was primarily inhibited by domestic constraints, including fears that the issue would become a political football in an election year.

"The decision is a political one," a key Indian official told this newspaper.

The Indian decision was particularly hard on the outgoing US ambassador in New Delhi Robert Blackwill who had pushed hard on the deployment issue arguing that an Indian commitment in Iraq would have been a good strategic investment. An Indian affirmative would also have strengthened Blackwill's political future in Washington.

But despite his close personal rapport with the principals of India's cabinet, caution and prudence appears to have won over what was widely seen as an iffy, risky venture.

-- Esarhaddon
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