India has asked the US for more time to decide whether it will send troops to Iraq to help stabilise the country after the war to topple Saddam Hussein. Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister L.K. Advani told US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a visit to Washington that the Indian cabinet needed more time to make up its mind and that it was also necessary to build a 'consensus' in the country. The US administration formally invited India to send an army division to be part of a 'stabilisation' force during a meeting of international envoys earlier this month. The Indian ambassador was asked to attend for the first time. Though the formal invitation is recent, the idea has been on the cards since the war ended. But India has been vacillating. While wishing to build on its good relations with the US - flattered to be invited and aware of the prestige that would accrue from playing such a role in Iraq - it also is conscious of the drawbacks. For one, Iraq is still turbulent. Last week, for example, thousands of sacked Iraqi soldiers marched on American offices in Baghdad threatening to launch suicide attacks against coalition troops unless they were paid their wages. India is worried it might end up having to control riots and possibly kill protesters. This is why Mr Advani asked Mr Rumsfeld for more details on the precise role of the stabilisation force, its command structure and how long the task would take. Mr Rumsfeld is believed to have driven home three advantages for India of participating: India would become an active partner in the global war against terror, it would boost its standing in the Gulf region and it would be able to join the reconstruction programme. Ideally, India would have liked to be part of a multilateral security force led by the UN, a possibility looking ever more remote. 'India's fear of participating in a US-led force is that it will be seen as an endorsement of the war and American policy in the region,' defence analyst Uday Bhaskar said. It also has to contend with the inevitable criticism that will come from the opposition, particularly the left-wing parties that had wanted India emphatically to oppose the war in Iraq. The opposition Congress party opposes sending troops to Iraq under any aegis other than the United Nations. 'If we are seen as doing America's dirty work, it won't go down well. We'll be seen as being in league with an imperial power,' Congress leader Jaipal Reddy said. Apart from the opposition, Mr Advani's room for manoeuvre is curtailed by his government's 24 allies. 'They will see this move as highly controversial and will make life miserable for the government if it goes ahead,' said Brahma Chellaney, professor of international studies at Jawarharlal Nehru University.