If the report of New Delhi calibrating its stance on Syria is correct, it needs to be welcomed. Indeed, there is no coherent Arab League [AL] stance on Syria. The cabal of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] states within the AL has hijacked the regional forum in pursuit of its agenda to force a regime change in Damascus.
The fundamentalist stance of the GCC poses an obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis. Within the GCC, Saudi and Qatari position is of an extreme nature. The al-Arabiya channel disclosed that Saudi FM Saud Faisal staged a ‘walkout’ from the recent ‘Friends of Syria’ [FOS] meet in Tunis, miffed over the lack of support for Riyadh’s project on arming the Syrian rebels.
India attended the FOS meet for some incomprehensible reason that Delhi doesn’t divulge. India didn’t belong there. We are not in the business of forcing ‘regime change’. Nor do we want to get involved with arming the opposition forces in a country and violating international law and trashing its national sovereignty. It’s time that India bids goodbye to the FOS platform. The FOS didn’t even invite a representative of the Syrian government, which shows its mind. Conflict resolution involves engaging all protagonists to the situation.
So, where does India go from here? Syria is undoubtedly the most critical international issue today. And, India is just about rediscovering ‘Non-Alignment.2′. There is need to reflect: how relevant is the tenet of non-alignment to the Syrian situation? Firstly, whether ‘non-alignment’ has any relevance beyond the Asia-Pacific?
To my mind, there is. Non-alignment is not to be equated with neutrality or passivity. It implies constructive engagement.
How does India engage? To begin with, it is time India evolved the high principles that it is confident of consistently espousing in the coming months (or years) as the upheaval in West Asia rolls on. Obviously, India favors reform and regeneration of the Arab world in a climate free of violence. Indeed, this transformation is best achieved through dialogue and reconciliation and by the countries of the region themselves without outside interference.
Moving on to the realm of diplomacy, India should join hands with like-minded countries like Russia, China, Brazil and South Africa to espouse the cause of the rollback of outside intervention in Syria, of arming the Syrian rebels, of inciting civil-war conditions. The reform programme of President Bashar al-Assad should be given a try and if 50% of what he promises are deliverable, a fair ground will have been covered to make Syria a multi-party system.
Most important, India should firmly oppose a Libya-like western intervention in Syria, which would lead to a bloodbath and radicalise the entire region.
In sum, a BRICS voice needs to raised and India is going to chair the forum through the coming one-year period. India is too big a country to take a limited, opportunistic perspective of the situation as a mere new game on the West Asian chessboard. It is a fallacy to imagine that being ‘non-aligned’ via-a-vis West Asian situation means simply not taking sides between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Being ‘non-aligned’ actually means to be able to occupy the heights from where it becomes possible for India introduce into the West Asian situation the impetus toward creating an authentic Arab narrative that is free of manipulation by Nicolas Sarkozy or David Cameron. That is what Nehru would have done.
Alas, South Block didn’t consider it necessary to issue even a one-line statement commending the arrival of Kofi Annan on the scene. Annan is a great friend of India. We respect him profoundly as a man of peace. We trust his integrity and his wisdom. We rely on his vast experience in conflict management.
Why don’t we invite Annan to New Delhi to meet the BRICS leaders as they gather for the annual summit on March 28-29? The BRICS, after all, stands for the primacy of the United Nations in resolving international disputes and regional conflicts.
South Block needs to think big — real big. Don’t let this period be written off as a chronicle of wasted time, of small men grappling with a big world.
– March 4, 2012