August 14, 2011

India identifies with US-Saudi stance on Syria

The account of the telephone conversation between Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and his counterpart in Damascus Walid Muallem throw light on Moscow’s thinking on the “situation in and around Syria.”. There is noticeable absence of direct criticism of the Syrian regime. Russia urges the regime to accelerate reforms but the MFA account makes it a point also to take note of the processes initiated in this direction by president Bashar al-Assad. Again, there is urgent need of holding “broad and constructive national dialogue”, but then, this should be an exclusively Syrian affair “without any outside interference”. The reference to “outside interference” is significant.

Equally, Moscow suggests that the role of the international community should be to “put pressure” on the opposition to “respond to the authorities’ invitation for dialogue”, implying the clout of external parties over the Syrian opposition and the opposition’s recalcitrant attitude. The most interesting aspect, however, is the MFA harking back to radical opposition’s calibrated attempt to repeat the “Libya scenario” in Syria. On balance, Russia empathises with the Syrian regime while acknowledging the imperative need of political reforms in that country. The contrast couldn’t be sharper with the recent remarks by president Dmitry Medvedev who all but writes off Assad. Moscow seems moving on two tracks.

Of course, the Indian position more or less identifies with the US-led cabal, as was apparent during EAM Krishna’s conversation with the visiting Syrian DFM Faisal Mekdad. Krishna was harsh on the Syrian regime and completely ignored the complexities of the situation. His one-dimensional perspective would have surely sounded music to Saudi (and Israeli) ears. The Saudis enjoy special relations with Congress Party and its ally the Muslim League, and with the UP elections approaching, the nexus gains importance. Incidentally, India keeps mum on the NATO atrocities in Libya or the Saudi-led repression in Bahrain.

The stage is being set for India to join the western bandwagon on Syria after making the pretense of an independent stance such as the visit by a Special Envoy to Damascus as reported by Associated Press. (MEA hasn’t yet divulged the details of the SE’s visit.) Later today, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon is submitting to the security council his report on Syria. Ban can never overlook an American wish and there is no need to second-guess what his report would contain. How India, which presides over the security council through August,handles Ban’s report and is willing to be a junior partner, will be under close American scrutiny.

Posted in Diplomacy.

Tagged with Ban Ki-Moon, Bashar al-Assad, Faisal Mekdad, Russia-India, S.M.Krishna, Syria, US-India.

By M K Bhadrakumar – August 11, 2011

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