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Syria sees a big role for India in West Asia

Syria sees a big role for India in West Asia
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First Published: Thu, Jun 19 2008. 10 00 PM IST

Boosting ties: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
Boosting ties: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
Updated: Thu, Jun 19 2008. 10 00 PM IST
New Delhi: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad believes that India’s “good relations” with the US, Israel and the rest of the Arab world puts the country in a unique position to help take the West Asian peace process forward.
Boosting ties: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad
“Most important, India has credibility,” he said on a state visit, the first by a Syrian president in 30 years. “It has always been supportive of the Arab cause. It can talk to Israel and to the US.”
Asked if Syria was distressed about growing ties between India and Israel, Assad said: “India did not allow its relations with any country to grow at the expense of others.”
Meanwhile, Assad’s visit has been somewhat overshadowed by renewed domestic political questions over the Indo-US nuclear deal forward. A number of Arab countries have privately wondered whether India’s growing intimacy with the US will change its equations in West Asia.
Even the Left parties in India, which support the ruling coalition, have accused the government of engaging in a strategic partnership with the US to the exclusion of all other countries. It was in part to counter this impression that the Syrian president was invited to India, say some foreign ministry officials.
But Assad, whose father, then Syrian president Hafez al-Assad came to India in 1978, says he hopes to use the fact of India as a “rising power” to promote relations in the new world order.
India and Syria signed three agreements on mutual promotion and protection of investments, avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income, as well as a work plan for agriculture.
Annual bilateral trade currently stands at about $500 million. Technology and peaceful space applications are of key interest to Syria he said, ahead of a planned visit to Infosys Technologies Ltd and the Indian Space Research Organisation in Bangalore.
PTI and Reuters contributed to this story.
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First Published: Thu, Jun 19 2008. 10 00 PM IST