People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 10

March 04, 2012




Syria and West Asia:

Foreign Policy Slide Again


THE UPA government has done a volte face on Syria.  In October 2011, India had abstained on a resolution in the United Nations Security Council calling for more sanctions against Syria moved by the EU countries which was vetoed by Russia and China.  However, within three months, India did an about turn.  It voted in favour of a resolution sponsored by the Arab League which, in effect, would have legitimised a Libyan style intervention.  This resolution was nullified by the double veto again of Russia and China. But this time, India voted with the US, its NATO allies and its client Arab states. 


Having failed in the Security Council, a resolution was adopted in the UN General Assembly on similar lines for which  too, India voted.  This resolution has no binding effect.  If there was  any ambiguity about India’s  stand on Syria, it was dispelled when the UPA government decided to attend the so-called “Friends of Syria” meeting held in Tunis on February 24.  India sent its joint secretary in the ministry of external affairs in-charge of West Asia and North Africa to attend the meeting reminiscent of the “Friends of Libya” conclaves. 


Since October last year, the Syrian situation has developed  into a deadly conflict.  The United States and the former colonial rulers of Syria, France and Britain along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar have embarked on a course to effect a regime change in  Syria by toppling the Bashar al-Assad government.  For this, Turkey, a NATO ally, is being used as the base for hosting Syrian rebels.  A Syrian National Council  and a Free Syrian army have been  set-up.  NATO has been supplying arms and ferrying Libyan fighters  to Iskerendum in Turkey, close to the Syrian border.  Centering on Homs and other pockets, armed groups are attacking Syrian security forces and  government institutions. Even the Arab League mission which was sent into Syria had reported that an “armed entity” is  attacking “Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the government to respond with further  violence”. 


The western media is providing a one sided and distorted picture  of the violence within Syria.  It is also masking the character of the rebels who are mainly drawn from the Muslim Brotherhood and hotter Islamic groups.  The Al Qaeda  has declared support for the rebellion given the fact that the Syrian government is  the only secular regime within the Arab world today.  The hypocrisy of the West in condemning the authoritarian nature of the Syrian regime is manifest in its calculated use of the authoritarian Saudi and Gulf regimes to target Syria. 


The struggle in Syria is  not some localised affair.  It is part of the geo-political struggle  directed against Iran and the perpetuation of the domination of the  imperial powers over West Asia and the control of the oil resources there.  The United States and its NATO allies would like to effect a regime change in Syria to snap its close ties with Iran.  This would suit Israel’s interests too. Saudi Arabia also sees the removal of the Assad regime as a major step in extending Sunni Wahabi influence over Syria and the isolation of Shia-ite Iran.


Earlier, India had taken a correct stand on Libya in the UN Security Council.   After seeing how the Security Council resolution was used by the NATO powers and its proxies like Qatar, it was imperative that India distance itself from the cynical  power game being planned with regard to Syria.  The reversal of the stand taken in October 2011 can be directly attributed to the pressure of the United States.   This is also becoming  apparent with regard to India’s stand on Iran. 


The United States wants India to fall in line with  its consistent effort to isolate Iran and finally effect a regime change there.   The pressure on India to stop buying oil from Iran and abandon its trade and economic ties is relentless.   The US State Department spokesperson  specifically mentioned India and China  when she said on February 21 that her government was “having talks …with regard to our expectation that countries will increasingly wean themselves off dependence on Iranian oil.” When India announced that it would continue to buy oil from Iran, the former under secretary of state, Nicholas Burns, who is well-known for his role  in negotiating Indo-US nuclear deal  wrote in an article that  India’s decision “is not just a slap in the  face of the US – it raises questions about its ability to lead”.


Notwithstanding the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s statement that India will continue to buy oil from Iran, quietly steps are being taken to reduce  oil imports from Iran.  According to the figures available, from 21.8 million tonnes of Iranian oil imported from 2008-09, it has come down to 18.5 million tonnes in 2010-11.   In the current fiscal year, it has gone down further to 13.1 million tonnes.  The oil ministry has given instructions to the state oil companies to explore other sources.   As per US advice, India has already talked to Saudi Arabia for  stepping up oil imports from that country. India is also quietly accepting the choking of India’s exports to  Iran. 


The Syrian episode and the resiling on Iran once again illustrates the truth about India’s foreign policy. It is no more an independent policy based on enlightened national interests.  It has become vulnerable to the imperialist pressures and geo-political interests of the United States of America.

(February 29, 2012)