Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, during his meeting with Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar in Damascus on Saturday, sought India’s help in the reconstruction of his country’s economy while the two countries agreed to upgrade their security consultations as well following the ongoing war in Syria and recurring cases of Indians being influenced by the Islamic State.
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"There was an agreement between both sides for further upgrading security consultations," The Indian Express quoted a source as saying.
Both the leaders acknowledged that terrorism was a global problem. Akbar said that the age of destruction should give way to reconstruction in Syria.
Assad also welcomed India’s objective position on the conflict in Syria. According to a report by DNA, he urged India to play the role of a growing power to stabilise West Asia rather than being defensive.
India’s opposition to foreign intervention and support for state sovereignty might make its position favorable to the Assad government. Almost seven million Indians are currently working in West Asia.
Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had reiterated India’s opposition to foreign interference in Syria during his meeting with the Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al-Halki on the sidelines of the NAM Summit in Tehran in 2012. He had said that the solution to the crisis in the country should be through a comprehensive political process that achieves and accommodates the aspirations of the Syrian people, reported AMN.
Singh had also hailed the friendly bilateral and cultural ties between the two countries while stressing the importance of halting the violence.
Assad addressed a letter to Singh on the eve of the fourth Brics summit in 2012 and delivered it via envoy Bouthaina Shaaban. According to Syrian Radio & TV, Shaaban thanked India for its support to a political solution in Syria away from foreign meddling.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the then External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid reiterated India’s position with respect to Syria in the UN-sponsored international conference on Syria in 2014.
"India supports an all-inclusive Syrian-led process to chart out the future of Syria, its political structures and leadership," Khurshid had said.
During President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Jordan, Israel and Palestine last year, India’s then Secretary (East) at the Ministry of External Affairs said that India wants a peaceful resolution to the Syrian crisis and its stance on Russian military intervention in Syria was acknowledgement that Moscow was doing so to “halt the advances of the Islamic State (IS),” according to a Scroll article.
Syrian Ambassador to India, Riad Kamel Abbas, referred to India as a friend of Syria. In an interview with The Hindu, he said, “If everybody has done what India has done, we wouldn’t have any problem in Syria. It’s a champion of the principle that there should not be any external interference in the internal affairs of a country.”
He further hailed PM Narendra Modi and said that the prime minister has made it very clear that "there’s no bad terrorism and good terrorism. There’s only terrorism."
India’s interest lies in Syria mainly because of the seven million Indians working in the West Asia region. The terror attack in Dhaka claimed by Islamic State and the arrests of suspected Islamic State operatives in the country has become a matter of concern.
The growing threat of Islamic State in India
Six Islamic State operatives had allegedly conspired to carry out terror activities in the national capital and adjoining regions during the Ardh Kumbh in Haridwar to terrorise people, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) said.
Al-Hindi, head of a group of Indian jihadists based out of Raqqa in Syria, is still on the run. In June this year, NIA arrested five men from Hyderabad who alleged that they were members of an Islamic State cell that was being operated under the command of Muhammad Shafi Armar.
Earlier this year, a special cell of the Delhi Police arrested Mohsin Ibrahim Sayeed – another suspected Islamic State operative.
The Kerala Police too arrested a 24-year-old man for his alleged Islamic State links, Firstpost had earlier reported. The NIA described Kerala as a highly volatile state with a huge presence of Indian Mujahideen and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) elements.
On 7 August, a youth from Parbhani was caught by the Maharashtra Police for his alleged Islamic State links.
Areeb Majeed, another Islamic State operative and a civil engineering student from Kalyan in Mumbai, was a part of a group of four who had left India on 23 May 2013.
Islamic State has gradually been seeping into India and therefore, India does not want Syria to follow the path of Libya, which has become a breeding ground for Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. However, if Assad is dethroned, Syria is likely to follow the same path because of the political vacuum.
With inputs from agencies