April 30, 2004

Come on all of you big, strong (Indian) men.

While India is one of the countries that declined a US request to send peacekeepers to Iraq, Asia Times reports that ex-members of the Indian military are serving in Iraq as mercenaries under US and UK command. The number of ex-soldiers involved is certainly in the hundreds, says the newspaper, and could be in the thousands.

According to reporter Siddharth Srivastava, the drive to recruit Indians is largely due to the increasing casualties in Iraq as the insurgency intensifies. In addition, companies that contract with the US and UK to provide security believe that Indians are less likely to be attacked since Indians are generally viewed positively by Iraqis. The contractors especially look to hire ex-soldiers who've been involved in fighting the various insurgencies in India.

The reason why former members of the Indian military are attracted to mercenary service in Iraq is easy to summarize: Money. Indian military pensions pay very little, while wages in Iraq are high by Indians standards.

The first indication of the transfer of Indian personnel to Iraq was from the south Indian state of Kerala, which is the hub of Indians heading for the Middle East in general as engineers, construction workers and other skilled jobs. The reports said that around 500 ex-servicemen, who had served in various fighting units of the Indian Army (artillery, infantry armored core), had been recruited from the central districts of Kerala for deployment in Iraq. The contingent was termed as the first-ever "Indian regiment" to work as a mercenary force for the US, with the recruitment done by a Kuwaiti company working for the US Army. The entire process was done without the knowledge of the central government in Delhi, or bodies responsible for the welfare of ex-servicemen.

What followed was a series of similar details emerging from the north Indian states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, where the maximum numbers of retired soldiers reside. These ex-servicemen are approached by Indian private security agencies which front for the sub-contractors appointed by the US and British forces in Iraq.

Posted by Magpie at April 30, 2004 06:32 AM | Iraq | Technorati links |