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War in the desert raises diplomatic dust

Iraq was the face of global despair this year, while names like BP Ojha and Satyendra Dubey localised the feeling.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2003 23:12 IST


India had to walk the diplomatic tight rope at least thrice this year:

a. In not appearing to be seen as deserting Palestine while cosying up to Israel,

b. In not appearing to be seen as sidestepping the Tibet cause while building bridges with China, and

c. In not appearing to be part of an 'unethical' war on Iraq while still maintaining favour with America and its allies.

It was undoubtedly the crisis in Baghdad that tested India's foreign policy to its limit. The Vajpayee government had trouble backing a war that had no UN mandate. Also, unlike 1990 when Coalition forces entered the Persian Gulf to end Kuwait's illegal occupation, the US had very little support from the Arab states this time around.

President Bush ordered an attack on Iraq on March 24, ostensibly to topple the reactionary Baathist regime and confiscate Saddam Hussein's so-called 'weapons of mass destruction' (WMDs).

Although Baghdad fell to the "Shock and Awe" tactics of the Americans within 21 days, both President Bush and his staunchest ally Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain had to face a flood of protests at home and abroad. Mounting opposition from France, Germany and Russia was made more vociferous by the fact that the occupying forces failed to locate any trace of Saddam's weapon cache. The suicide of Dr David Kelly, a senior British WMD expert who had maintained all along that Iraq possessed no WMDs, only made matters worse.

Problems for Messer Bush & Blair did not end after Saddam Hussein was removed from power. Fidayeens or suicide squads, thought to be acting at the behest of the ousted ruler and his cohorts, wreaked havoc on the coalition forces and appeared to kill them at will. Successes for the occupying army were few and far between - Uday and Qusai, Hussein's infamous sons were gunned down in a bloody battle and their battered bodies put on display. However with the former Iraqi President himself on the loose, the war was never really won.

But the curtain may finally have fallen on the drama in Baghdad. "We have him", announced the US administrator for Iraq Paul Bremer to a shocked gathering on December 13. Saddam Hussein, once American lackey-turned dictator-turned defeated soldier was pulled dishevelled and unkempt from a spider hole dug in the ground, just minutes away from the magnificent place where he had once ruled.

War on Iraq

First Published: Dec 27, 2003 21:09 IST