NEW DELHI – As the Indian government contemplates sending troops to Iraq, strong opposition is building up to the move that peace activists term a “historic crime.”

The United States has been urging India to dispatch at least 15,000 troops as a “stabilization force” to Iraq. The far-right Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the government, favors sending an Army contingent to Iraq.

“The contention that by sending troops, India will be helping the people of Iraq is ridiculous,” remarks Achin Vanaik, a member of the national coordinating committee of India’s Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace, an umbrella body of some 200 organizations. “All that the troops will do is stabilize American dominance there,” he believes.

While most opposition parties oppose the move, India’s largest opposition party, the Congress, stresses that India should get a mandate from the United Nations before dispatching forces to Iraq.

Politicians and rights activists emphasize that sending the troops will be a contradiction of the Indian Parliament’s resolution deploring the American aggression on Iraq.

“The troops in Iraq are occupation forces,” says Parliamentarian Nilotpal Basu of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). “Troops for the stabilization of Iraq will be in effect fighting for the stabilization of the occupation forces,” he remarks.

The activists reject the government belief that by sending its troops to Iraq, India will be a partner in the country’s reconstruction. “India can only gain by getting a share of the pickings left by the bigger vultures – the multi-national companies (MNCs) led by the U.S.,” says Vanaik.

“It is untenable and unacceptable for us to think that the Indian Army will be saluting the American flag,” says Basu. “From acting as sub-contractors for MNCs, we will be sub-contractors for the Pengaton,” he declares.