Syria is witnessing a number of threats and challenges along the same lines with the operations of liberating certain areas from the possession of terrorist groups.
The operations take place with the aim to reunite internal efforts for Syria’s post-war reconstruction and regain stability with the help of some local and international strategic allies, like India.
The Syrian government has invited India to take part in the reconstruction process by granting it some facilitations, such as taxes relaxations. Moreover, New Delhi is taking part at the Damascus International Fair, which kicked off Sept. 6 and will last until Sept. 15.
India’s Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian delegation to Syria to take part at the joint business committee meeting in addition to taking part at the fair.
In early August 2018, the Syrian ambassador to India invited Indian companies, investors and businesses to help rebuilding his war-torn Syria. “Syria was able to defeat terrorists and all the conspiracies against Syria. Now we are planning to rebuild Syria and we are looking for help from our friends, especially India.”
In this context, and in addition to the Russian and Iranian support to the Syrian airstrikes against terrorist cells, Syria was able to reclaim many Syrian lands from the grip of terrorist organizations.
The India-Syria relations
India and Syria have strong and historic relations that got polished after India’s independence. Relations between the two countries date back to 1948 when Syria, as a member at the Security Council, supported Pakistan in the Kashmir cause, based on Egypt’s request at the time. In return, India recognized Israel as a state in 1950, arousing resentment among Arabs.
With the rise of Arab nationalism, and Egyptian former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s support to the Non-Aligned Movement, relations and cooperation between India and Arab countries, especially Syria, significantly improved.
But even with this, new partnerships were sought by former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, away from the Middle East, in order to encounter Syria’s regional isolation that was resulted through competition with Israel and Gulf states.
During this era, New Delhi found it to be much easier to deal with Damascus, therefore, India agree with Syria on many political cases that are still being raised until now. This is in addition to Syria’s support to India in the Kashmir cause, despite not being of power in the region, however, the step was welcomed.
India’s stand on the Syrian crisis
New Delhi adopted a certain approach towards the Arab revolutions in consistence with its national interests that aim at achieving internal stability, all in parallel with achieving its aims of sustainable development.
As the Syrian revolution sparked, turning into an armed conflict, India attempted to deal with the crisis with wisdom and moderation through the ongoing diplomatic relations between the two countries. However, India does not plan to appoint a new ambassador to Syria at the meantime, considering this step to be “extremely dangerous.”
India have long sought to introduce itself as an important ally and partner to Damascus in a certain period after the war; it began taking part in the reconstruction plans, like in May 2014, when the Indian Chamber of Commerce dispatched a delegation of businessmen to discuss potential business opportunities between the two countries.
For its part, the Syrian government have also been shedding the light on India’s potential role in the reconstruction process following the civil war.
Also, India kept its silence regarding the April 4, 2017 chemical attack that was carried out on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria, which resulted the killing of around 85 civilians (including 20 children), as an indication to India’s “balanced” stand on the ongoing civil war crisis.
In this regard, the Indian government, headed by Prime Minister of India, chose not to get involved “directly” or “indirectly” in Syria’s internal affair, while still supporting the Syrian regime, to avoid the spread of chaos and instability in Syria, like the situation in Libya. In return, India supported the presence of Damascus in the 2018 New Delhi conference.
It is pertinent to mention that India, which Syria considers a “quiet ally”, has called for negotiation and dialogue in Syria that are consistent with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and in conformity with international law, in order to avoid escalation.
Foundations of India’s relation with Syria
India has pursued an external policy of not allying with nor targeting other countries and regions, despite following more principle of openness; the Indian-Syrian relation is based on several foundations:
- Preserving national security; as India believes that a popular unrest in the region would negatively affect its affairs, and it also fears an infiltration by extremists to its lands.
- Protection of energy security; India seeks to protect its security in the energy field, away from international conflicts, lest prices of global energy become unstable and affect its economy and development.
- India’s national interest; India adopts external policies that are coherent with its national interest, therefore, it seeks to maintain the current situations, away from chaos and instability, to insure an ongoing flow of money from Indian labor in the region.
- Building balanced relations; India is trying to protect its interests in the Gulf region, so it remained neutral regarding the revolutions in some Arab states.
- Rapprochement with the Islamic world; New Delhi is taking advantage of the conflict in the Arab region to carefully get closer to Syria. It aims to get out of the isolation state that was imposed by countries that are taking Pakistan’s side in the Kashmir case; especially after losing two of its most important allies, namely Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.
Relations between India and Syria will likely keep their steady and calm pace, which supports India’s national strategy in the Arab region, especially with the anticipated 2019 legislative election. The relation between India and Syria are of a pragmatic nature with geostrategic dimensions; both two countries allies with each other to balance their relations with other international powers.
1- “India’s growing interests in Syria” – Asharq Al-Awsat (issue. 14524), Sept. 3, 2018: http://cutt.us/2iqoB
2- “Syrian ambassador invites Indian companies to rebuild war-torn country”, the times of India, 1/8/2018. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/syria-invites-indian-companies-to-rebuild-war-torn-country/articleshow/65234190.cms
3- KETAN MEHTA, “Understanding India’s response to the Syrian civil war”, Observer Research Foundation. https://www.orfonline.org/research/understanding_india_response_syrian_civil_war/#_edn25
4- Surya Rajkumar, ” Why India’s Silence On The Chemical Attack In Syria Is Deeply Worrying”, 17/4/2017. https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2017/04/where-does-india-stand-in-terms-of-the-syrian-civil-war/
5- “Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, “India distances itself from military strikes in Syria”, The economic times, 26/7/2018. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/india-distances-itself-from-military-strikes-in-syria/articleshow/63763279.cms