Indians are highly liked in Iraq, says bookApril 27th, 2008 - 1:41 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) War or peace, Iraqis have great admiration for Indians and everything Indian. So says Ranjit Singh Kalha, who was India’s ambassador to Baghdad from 1992 to 1994, by when the first Gulf War had taken place in the wake of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
“Any Indian visitor to Iraq could not but be impressed by the general warmth and feelings of goodwill that the Iraqis had for India. This was true not only in governmental circles but it was the dominant view of the ordinary Iraqi,” Kalha says in his book, “The Ultimate Prize: Oil and Saddam’s Iraq” (Allied).
“They would go out of their way to express such warm feelings. Admiration for India was deep and proud.
“What impressed most Iraqis was what India stood for. India’s ancient civilization, its technical prowess and its emerging economic strength were invariably mentioned.
“India’s democratic form of government and its non-aligned foreign policy were also universally admired and praised.”
Kalha says that relations between India and Iraq have existed for centuries. During Ottoman times, the Indian rupee was widely used and generally accepted as the currency for commerce.
When the British took over Baghdad in 1917, the rupee became the official currency of Iraq. The Indian postal department also ran Iraq’s postal system till the mid 1930s.
Kalha, who interacted with as many ordinary Iraqis as possible, says that “most Iraqis were some of the finest human beings that I have met, generous to a fault and even in the most adverse circumstances, ever willing to share a meal.
“The advantages of being an Indian and an ambassador were obvious. India was universally admired and respected.”
He adds: “Wherever we went, whether in the north or in the south, the one common factor that stood out was the universal liking for India and Indians.
“That was perhaps the reason why the Iraqi government was never hesitant in giving us permission to visit as many ancient and historical sites as was possible.”
The US, the book says, “was always keen to obtain India’s perception of the situation inside Iraq. With all the sophisticated mechanisms available, including satellite imagery, the one thing that the US lacked was personnel on the ground.”
Kalha recalls that he expected trouble when the Babri mosque was demolished in Ayodhya on Dec 6, 1992, triggering widespread Hindu-Muslim violence in India.
“However much to our surprise, nothing actually happened. There were no demonstrations. It seemed as if nothing had happened!”
But Kalha was summoned to the Iraqi foreign office a week later where a junior officer lodged a “very mild” protest.
Kalha was informed that this was so because of ” ‘instructions’ from the ‘very top’, meaning Saddam (Hussein). Saddam has always been good to India.”