Syrian Conflict has different meaning for different Nations; however, they stand united on one important issue – Counter-Terrorism.
Syria recently asked India to play a greater role in resolving the conflict there. New Delhi has consistently maintained that dialogue is the only way to solve the crisis in Syria. However, it has backed Russia’s recent military intervention in the country.
Syria’s civil war has now taken a dramatic turn with Russian & Iranian involvement in helping Bashar al-Assad’s depleted army and could change the dynamics in the Middle East for the next decade.
India’s Role so far
India’s responses to the Syrian civil war have thus far been on the side-lines of the UN, where it has often tilted in favor of the Assad regime.
2011 saw India voting in favor of a UNSC draft resolution that would implement a peace plan proposed by the Arab League only after a call for Assad to step down was dropped. Then, in October that year, India abstained from a UNSC resolution condemning Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The following August, in 2012, India abstained from an UNGA resolution that expressed “grave concern” for the escalation of violence. The reason India gave for this decision was that the resolution referred to Arab League calls for Assad to step down and for UN member states to severe ties with Syria.
Another Indian show of support for the Assad regime took place during the Geneva II talks in 2013 that sought to end the crisis. Former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid was firmly against the idea of military intervention. At the time, Russia, China and Iran held the same view.
However, the contours of the conflict have dramatically changed since the Geneva talks.
Yet, India has not taken the lead and has kept its role restricted to diplomatic peace efforts.
Now, there seems to be a need for a shift in India’s policy on the issue, and here are the reasons.
- India in United Nations Security Council as a permanent member: India has been trying to garner support for its bid to the United Nations Security Council as the emerging power from Asia for quite some time now. To be included in the UNSC means that India will have to take sides and clear its view point on global events where at-least multiple countries are involved.
- Isis’s influence poses an immediate challenge: India has been prone to terror attacks coming from foreign soil and it shouldn’t let another outfit join the list. So far, New Delhi has been successful in proactively monitoring cyber recruitments by terror outfits and keeping a real time check. However, given the terror policy adopted by its neighbors and the growing unrest in the country over sacrileges & religious intolerance towards minorities, it is not the best of time for freedom of religion.
- Pakistan’s continuous threat of first-use nuclear policy: In order to check Pakistan’s nuclear strike threat if it comes to war with India, New Delhi must send a clear message of its military prowess. Pakistan’s policy seems to be of misdirect, the objective being to unite militant groups engaged in armed conflict within Pakistani to unify & redirect their attacks against India.
- With the U.S. – Iran Nuclear standoff being settled, the geopolitical picture is changing with Iran coming closer to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Gulf has remained no man’s land when it comes to U.S. & Russia and U.S. involvement or argument has always been to prevent one single power from controlling the region’s resources – OIL. The nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1-China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States plus Germany-raises the possibility, albeit a distant one, of creating a new security order in the Gulf, one that could improve relations between Iran and the Gulf Arab states and help reduce the American military commitment. This deal has opened up huge commercial and strategic opportunities for India and Iran after a decade of U.S. pressure to restrict ties.
- The Modi government’s emphasis on greater synergies both economic and strategic with the GCC and Israel.
This changing environment makes the time ripe for India to chart its revised foreign policy.
India’s goal to emerge as a major player in West Asia will remain unrealized until India decides to play a greater role in the Middle East.