The Indian government is quietly working behind the scenes and rebuilding Syria whilst putting pressure on Turkey which led by its madmen leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not willing to leave Syria till his blood lust is satiated. On Thursday, the Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan held a virtual meeting with Syrian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Dr Faisal Mekdad and assured that India will be constantly involved in the rebuilding of the war-ravaged country.
Though the Western world sees Syria as badly battered and bruised, India sees Damascus as a strong country with a powerful military that has been able to determinedly push back the Islamic State militia, which a few years ago had threatened to overrun the country.
Consequently, India has been at the forefront of developmental activities in the region, just like the way it did with Afghanistan.
In 2016, when former MoS M.J. Akbar met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister Emad Mohammad Deeb Khamis, President Assad is believed to have asked India to play a role in the reconstruction efforts. A bio-tech park and an IT Centre and extended USD 265 million in line of credit for projects in steel and power sectors, is part of this effort. Since 2011, India has provided US 12 million dollars in humanitarian assistance.
India’s involvement in Syria and earning the goodwill of the government spells bad news for Turkey which has been involved in the country since the civil-war erupted nearly a decade ago.
In the last 9 years, its role has been both diplomatic and military. In 2016, the Turkish armed forces entered Syria – they targeted the people’s protection units and the ISIS terrorists. Turkey has been responsible for sending the majority of terror groups into the country.
Despite America’s and Turkey’s valiant attempt to dethrone Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he and his army have up until now thwarted all such plans. Meanwhile, India always has had cordial relations with Syria even amidst the loud din of war.
Former Prime Minister, Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Syria in November 2003. The visit had turned out to be a groundbreaking development as the two countries signed nine agreements across several sectors during that visit. Centre for Biotechnology was also established in the Syrian Capital, Damascus with Indian technical assistance.
Other significant developments were a grant of US $1 million and extension of a line of credit of US $25 million to Syria. India has extended several lines of credit since then that has continuously strengthened the bilateral relations between the two countries. Even though the size of the Indian diaspora in Syria is rather miniscule due to the ongoing crisis in Syria, the two countries have shown signs of greater cultural engagement.
Last year it was reported that India was providing scholarships to 1,000 Syrian students to study in Indian universities, in undergraduate, postgraduate courses, and even PhD.
Behind the move to provide scholarships to students from Syria is a hope that it would in the near future replicate the success stories from the African continent — where several current or former Presidents, Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents have attended educational or training institutions in India.
India earning the goodwill of Syria translates into the fact that Damascus will be open to sharing the crucial intel with India regarding Ankara, which off late has become one of the most underrated enemies of India.
From Erdogan’s nocuous speech at the 74th UNGA on Kashmir to the recent intelligence reports stating that Ankara was the second biggest funder of Islamic separatists in the country and was using the media and study-scholarships as a means to radicalize the Indian youth, Ankara is quietly transforming into a nemesis of India.
In 2018, Turkey signed the Sochi accord with Russia, wherein it agreed to the setting up of a de-escalation zone. Today, Turkey has troops at 12 observation posts in Idlib, back home – it hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees.
Ankara has been time and again threatening Damascus that it will start operations in Idlib.
Recently as part of Operation Spring Shield, Turkey had already shot down two Syrian warplanes and killed more than 2,000 Syrian regime troops,
The increasing menace of Turkey has not gone down well with Russia either as Moscow is now openly supporting the Syrian President and even helped it by giving away the S-300 missile defense system.
While Moscow corners Turkey from one side, New Delhi through its calculated foreign policy is coming from the other side and giving a double whammy to the radicalized regime of Erdogan.
As per the European Union, Syria would require $245 billion to revive its economy. This opens up a massive potential for India to engage with Syria with reconstruction projects. India is eyeing such reconstruction projects across a range of sectors, viz., housing, power, textile and food. Moreover, India is also looking towards bilateral co-operation in counter-terrorism and information sharing mechanisms with Syria given the country’s experience in fighting ISIS and Turkey.
The rebuilding measures shouldn’t only be seen as a goodwill gesture, India under PM Narendra Modi is ushering in a new era of foreign policy where while being non-aligned, the country is not compromising on its own security. New Delhi will be keeping a close eye on Turkey and the sinister operations it is looking to hatch. India is playing the long-game and so far it looks incredibly nuanced with meticulously planned.