Gaddafi antagonised India with Kashmir remarksOctober 20th, 2011 - 11:50 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) India has been scaling up its relations with Libya over the years, largely driven by energy interests, but its long-standing ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed Thursday, was no great friend of New Delhi.
In fact, under his regime India and Libya have been at best distant neighbors. Gaddafi was perceived here to be a friend of Pakistan who benefited from the A.Q Khan illicit nuclear smuggling network and one who raked up the Kashmir issue in the UN General Assembly two years ago.
Much to the outrage of New Delhi, Gaddafi supported the idea of an “independent state” for Kashmir and said that it should be a “Baathist state” between India and Pakistan.
“Kashmir should be an independent state, not Indian, not Pakistani. We should end this conflict. It should be a Ba’athist state between India and Pakistan,” Gaddafi said.
In his much-reported colourful speech at the UN General Assembly in 2009, he mentioned India as among the countries that will be competing for a permanent seat in the Security Council and added that since India and Pakistan were both nuclear powers, if India had a seat then Pakistan would want a seat as well.
Calling for equality among member states, Gaddafi said said the induction of big powers would “add more poverty, more injustice, more tension at the world level”.
He antagonised India again when, on the eve of the UN Security Council debate and vote against Libya in February, he compared his crackdown against the Libyan opposition to India’s actions in Kashmir.
When the Western powers mounted pressure on him, he wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and also sought Indian investments in Libya’s oil and gas industry at the height of the civil war.
Indira Gandhi was the last Indian prime minister to visit Libya in 1984. The visit by India’s then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was the first high-level visit from the Indian side after decades and underlined a new pragmatism by New Delhi to guard its energy interests amid attempts by the West to woo the Libyan leader.
When it suited him, Gaddafi turned on his charm on New Delhi. “India and Libya can play a major role in bringing Asia and Africa closer as Libya is the northern gate of Africa, and India is an active member seeking to play an essential role in Asia,” the Libyan official news agency JANA quoted Gaddafi as saying.
In March, India abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution approving “all necessary measures,” including imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.
India supported sanctions against the Gaddafi regime but maintained the need for dialogue to resolve the Libyan impasse.
With Qaddafi’s death, India, which has been cautiously watching developments in Libya, will have to craft a new policy of engagement with the new dispensation that emerges in Tripoli.
In September, India reached out to the Transitional National Council (TNC) of Libya and expressed willingness to extend assistance to the Libyan people in their transition, rebuilding and reconstruction activities.
Soon after the news of Gaddafi death hit the headlines, India said it was ready “to extend all possible assistance to the people of Libya in their political transition and rebuilding of the country,” signaling a new phase of proactive diplomacy in its relations with the oil-rich North African country.
India has significant investment in energy sector in Libya. Around 18,000 Indians lived in Libya till the civil war erupted early this year, following which most of them were evacuated with the help of the Indian government.
India’s bilateral trade with Libya is estimated to be around $1 billion, which excludes oil and gas.
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Tags: council debate, distant neighbors, energy interests, external affairs minister, external affairs minister pranab mukherjee, independent state, india and pakistan, indian investments, indian prime minister, indira gandhi, kashmir issue, libyan opposition, manmohan singh, muammar gaddafi, nuclear powers, pranab mukherjee, prime minister manmohan, prime minister manmohan singh, un general assembly, un security council