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Statement by Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajapyee in both Houses Of Parliament on the situation relating to Iraq

March 12, 2003

Following is the text of the Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement in both Houses of Parliament on the situation relating to Iraq, here today: -

"The situation relating to Iraq has been rapidly evolving over the past few weeks. India has consistently stood for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq issue. The peace and prosperity of the Gulf is of vital interest to India given our long standing political, cultural and economic ties with the countries of the region. There are over 3.5 million Indians working in the Gulf, whose welfare is of great concern to us. Their remittances are an important source of foreign exchange for the country. Over 60 percent of India’s crude oil imports are sourced from the region. The Gulf countries have also emerged as important destinations for our exports.

India recognizes the validity of the unanimous decision of the UN Security Council in its Resolution 1441, which provides for the disarmament of Iraq and also reaffirms the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, Kuwait and the neighbouring States. Resolution 1441 provides a stringent regime of inspections designed to meet the international community’s desire that Weapons of Mass Destruction are eliminated from Iraq. We believe that Iraq must cooperate actively with the inspection process and comply fully with all relevant Security Council Resolutions. If the pace of this cooperation had been quicker, it may have enabled UNMOVIC and IAEA to certify to the UN Security Council that Iraq was in full compliance of Resolution 1441.

The work of the inspectors is continuing in Iraq. The Security Council should decide on what further action needs to be taken. The international community must take a very careful look both at the objective of achieving Iraq’s full compliance with UN resolutions and at the means to be adopted to reach this goal. This can best be achieved by a collective decision through the United Nations. If permitting more time and formulation of clearer criteria can facilitate a decision within the UN framework, we believe this option should be given a chance. We hope that the members of the Security Council will harmonise their positions to ensure that its final decision enhances the legitimacy and credibility of the United Nations. If unilateralism prevails, the U.N. would be deeply scarred, with disastrous consequences for the world order. The Government of India would strongly urge that no military action be taken, which does not have the collective concurrence of the international community.

India has voiced its concern on various occasions about the difficult humanitarian situation in Iraq. The Iraqi people have suffered severe shortages and hardships for over a decade. We have consistently stated that if Iraq complies fully with the provisions of relevant Security Council resolutions, then sanctions against that country should be lifted.

While we sincerely hope, in the interest of all humanity, that the matter can be resolved peacefully through the United Nations, my Government has drawn up contingency plans to deal with any eventuality. There are less than 50 Indian nationals in Iraq at present and they have all been advised to leave the country in the coming days. It is unlikely that there would be any large scale dislocation of the Indian communities in the neighbouring countries on a possible outbreak of hostilities. Nevertheless the Ministry of Civil Aviation has drawn up plans to evacuate Indians, if necessary. The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has taken steps to shore up our inventories of crude oil. While no major dislocation in crude oil imports is envisaged, India has adequate foreign exchange reserves to meet a higher crude oil import bill if prices continue to rise in the short run".

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