The Indian vote at the IAEA meet on Syria in Vienna on Thursday remains an enigma - and unavoidably, a matter of great curiosity. Russia and China voted against the western-sponsored resolution referring the ‘Syria nuclear file’ to the UN Security Council - similar to the infamous western move on Iran in 2006. Four other countries voted against the resolution, 11 abstained while 17 voted in favour.
I am dying with curiosity to know what was India’s vote like. These are rare occasions that become a litmus test of the directions of India’s foreign policy behind the purdah, so to speak. Let us recall that on Iran nuclear issue, India had sided with the western move in February 2006 - and the UPA1 pleaded that so did Russia and China at that time, while flatly denying that the leadership in Delhi was arm-twisted by George W. Bush administration ( as subsequently borne out by the WikiLeaks as well.) By that logic of commonality of interests with Russia and China, India should have voted against the resolution on Syria on Thursday. But did it?
India of course enjoyed a very old and warm friendship with Syria. Damascus has always been helpful within the OIC, Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement and such other forums in regard of Indian interests. President Bashar al-Assad had a memorable visit to India in June 2008 and Delhi viewed him as a forward-looking leader with whom India can do business in the strategic West Asia region. An ancient civilisation like India couldn’t and shouldn’t have changed its mind about friendship in a matter of 3 years. But one can never tell under the present leadership in Delhi with its unalloyed passion for the ‘Washington consensus’.
Without doubt, a high principle is involved as the IAEA vote is primarily intended to bully Assad into submission. The dispute is over Dair Alzour construction site which the West alleges could have been a nasent nuclear reactor and Syria denies flatly and explains as a military facility, and which anyway the Israeli aircraft unilaterally went and bombed and flatly destroyed in 2007 against all norms of international conduct and the UN Charter. Under Japan’s Yukiya Amano, IAEA has become the West’s rubber stamp. (An eyeopener for those among us who may think seeking top jobs in international organisations like the IMF for emerging economies is a ‘colonial hangover’.)
Israel is also very keen to put Syria in the docks and rachet up one more pressure point at a time when it is itself facing regional isolation amidst the upheaval in the Middle East. The US and Israel tried their damnest to break up the Syria-Iran axis and they failed and thus a concerted attempt has begun to instigate a regime change in Damascus under the garb of the ‘Arab Spring’. The pattern is the same as in Libya - covertly instigate disgruntled elements into violence and thereby build up the cycle of violence to a point that western ‘humanitarian intervention’ can be justified. Barack Obama made clear in his speech last month on the Middle East that he wants to see Assad overthrown one way or another.
Syria is a key factor in the US-Israeli strategy to dominate the Middle East. Syria has big influence over the Hamas leadership in Gaza and on Hezbollah in Lebanon ; it has a say in the Iraqi situation; its alliance with Iran neutralises the US’ containment strategy toward Iran; and, most important, Syria is one of the charioters of ‘Arabism’, which challenges Israel’s regional hegemony and aggressive behaviour. Israel and US are petrified that any Palestinian move to get UN recognition for statehood at the forthcoming UN general assembly session in September will easily sail through.
Thus, pressure is being put on Syria and Iran, which are the principal backers of the Palestinian move at the UN. The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that an Israeli military attack on Iran is likely between now and September. The former Mossad chief Meir Dagan has openly warned the Israeli government that such an attack will be fraught with dangerous consequences for regional stability. The US wants Assad to rein in the Hamas leadership living in exile in Damascus.
Delhi knows all this and much more. Therefore, any stance other than that of Russia and China at this juncture can only be interpreted as a stance conditioned by a compulsion to heed US and Israeli pressure. Thursday’s vote in the IAEA is yet another signpost that India will be called upon to take a stance on very many tricky situations in the UN Security Council in the coming period as the West keeps pushing its agenda for the making of the ‘new Middle East’ and the perpetuation of its historical political, military and economic dominance of the Muslim world.