George H W Bush dies: India’s non-alignment came in jeopardy once during his tenure
New Delhi, Dec 2: India saw its age-old non-alignment policy under threat when the Chandra Shekhar government allowed American military jets to refuel at the Mumbai (Bombay then) airport during the first Gulf War in 1990-1991.
It was said that the refuelling of the jets was going on for several months under the VP Singh and Chandra Shekhar government till a photographer from the Times of India spotted it and the news made the headlines, creating a storm. The C-141 transport planes were touching the Indian soil en route from the Pacific to the Persian Gulf and the uproar had the potential to bring down the Chandra Shekhar government which it anyhow did in just seven months.
The Chandra Shekhar government had taken a stand critical of Iraq which had upset many, including nearly every other political party, and the then prime minister from the erstwhile Samajwadi Janata Party was accused of bowing before "American imperialism".
Among Chandra Shekhar's critics were the Left and also the Congress which had supported him to stay in power. Chandr Shekhar's predecessor VP Singh also slammed the government saying any stand that seemed to be pro-US was against India's traditional non-alignment posture.
Ever since the Gulf War started after the US went after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who invaded Kuwait in 1990, Chandra Shekhar seemed to dissociate his government from what an expert said "third-world romanticism" about Hussein.
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India and Iraq had close ties till then - fields of diplomacy and economy. In 1990, Baghdad stood up for India from among Islamic countries and refused to condemn NewDelhi over its allegedly suppressive role in Kashmir.