Syrian crisis: India’s economic, political support sought

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Syria has sought India’s economic and political support and not ground troops to fight terrorism, the strife-hit country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem said on Wednesday.

“We expect India to give economic and political support,” Al-Muallem said at a media briefing here.

The minister, who is on a three-day visit to India from January 11, said he had a very “constructive and productive” meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday.

“Our points of view were mutually converging together. India supports Syria in its fight against terrorism,” Al-Muallem said.

“We discussed bilateral relations and ways to revive the old India-Syria bonds,” he said.

He said Syria has sought from India cooperation in the economic field as international sanctions have been imposed on his conflict-ridden country.

He said that during the talks, Sushma Swaraj offered humanitarian aid to Syria.

“We welcome any Indian aid coming to Syria, whether it be rice or medicines,” he said.

Asked if Syria has sought India’s help in fighting terrorism, including the Islamic State, he said: “We did not ask for ground troops from India to fight terrorism.”

But at the same time he said that terrorism knew no borders and his country was badly affected by this international scourge.

“We have seen how terrorism has affected countries like France, the US, Saudi Arabia and Turkey,” he said.

“That is why we have sought intelligence cooperation from India and offered the same from our side,” said the minister, who met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval during the course of his visit.

Asked about Russia’s intervention in the fight against terrorism, he said his country was grateful to Moscow for this.

“Russian airstrikes in coordination with our ground troops have helped us succeed. What Russia has done in three months is 10 times more than what the US-led coalition could do in 18 months,” Al-Muallem said.

Asked if Syria has sought India’s role in the UN-sponsored Geneva peace process, he replied in the negative.

“In Geneva, the dialogue has to be only between Syrians (Syrian government and the opposition). Outside interference will not help the Geneva peace process progress,” the minister emphasised.

But he added that Damascus did expect political support from New Delhi.

“We believe India deserves to be a part of the solution in Syria,” Al-Muallem said.

The visit by Al-Muallem and his delegation assumes importance in view of fresh initiatives taken by the UN to bring about peace in the war-torn country, where more than 300,000 people have been killed in the past four years and seven million have fled to other countries.

European nations have also witnessed a huge influx of Syrian refugees.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Moscow last month, held detailed talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the growing threat of Islamic State and the Syrian crisis.

Since the Paris terror attack, many Western nations have directly or indirectly established contact with the Syrian government to counter activities of the Islamic State.

Special advisor to the Syrian president, Buthina Shaban, had visited India in March 2013.

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