Shivansh Jauhri, Khabar India Network-31st january –The world is watching Geneva II talks on Syria where for the first time a regime and the opposition are face to face to negotiate terms. The Syrian government, after facing three years of brutal civil war is trying to find a possible solution. Also, for the first time, India has been invited to this forum to deliberate Syria’s future.
Interestingly India hasn’t been grouped with either the American camp or the Russian camp. Although India might have an official poison on the negotiations, it has largely viewed this conflict from a global perspective.
The negotiations will continue for some time as both the sides are stalemated. During this time India can use this opportunity to assess where the negotiations are heading to, where the tide is turning, and how can India benefit from it.
Despite the divergent views on this crisis, the Syrian impasse is no simple issue of democracy. This conflict is religious, ethnic and economic as much as it is political. The advocates of democracy trace this conflict back to 2011 military crackdown on pro-democracy protestors which later took the shape of a nationwide rebellion. However, some quarters believe that the conflict is the product of economic frustration. Syria had been facing massive economic slowdown for past four years which reduced two million people to extreme poverty, unemployment and starvation. On top of this, the Sunni majority could not accept the rule of Bashar al Assad with is an alliance of Alawite, Shiite and Christian factions of the population. The Sunni majority does not want the nation to lose its religious identity.
Ever since the conflict became violent two years ago there has been a lot of bloodshed and brutality. Many civilians have died while protesting against the Assad government. This conflict has also brought Assad a lot of criticism and many small hostile groups have come together against him.
The US will be too happy if Assad has to go as this would improve America’s ‘pro-democracy’ agenda, and may also please an upset Israel. Also, it would help the United States to restrict Russia and Iran to dominate the West Asia arena. For Russia this is a must-win situation as Syria is the last foothold for them in the region, except Iran. Almost every other regime in the region supports the United States.
Unfortunately for India, this is a very perplexing and difficult-to-balance situation. The reason is India’s friendship with every rival – Israel, Iran, Russia, US and Syria. However, India has chosen to support the Russian camp, given its diplomatic priorities.
India does not have many expatriates residing in Syria, nor is it interested in any oil venture. The impacts of the war are indirect. Syria supports India for a permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations. What should be the chief concern, which remains un-discussed so far, is the fact that if the present scenario continues then Syria might get close to becoming a hostile Islamist regime than remain a friendly regime. Not counting the holes punched in Assad’s governance, he is the only one in the Middle East running a secular regime. India supports Syria in the Golan Heights and in exchange Syria endorses India’s stand on Kashmir issue. Such a support is fascinating for the Arab world. Although the Arab League never takes a stand on Kashmir Issue, they tend to empathise with Pakistan which happens to be an Islamist state after all.
This deplorable war and brutality must stop in all earnestness. But the point is what India should do. Should it support Assad and upset Israel and the US? Should it support the moves to bring down Assad and give a cold shoulder to Russia? If Syria turns into a hostile Islamist regime then India will suffer a major setback. Can India afford to let Assad go?