Fayssal Mekdad, Syria’s foreign affairs minister, on Monday concluded his official visit to India during which he met India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar and held bilateral talks on a host of bilateral issues.
Discussion between the two sides, on 18 November, revolved around “extending humanitarian & developmental support to Syria, capacity building of Syrian youth and collaboration in sectors like fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, IT, etc," according to a press release by the Ministry of External Affairs.
Minister Mekdad began his first visit to India as foreign minister on 17 November.
“For Syria, this visit was fairly consequential," says Kabir Taneja, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. “There are still very few countries in the world where Syrian officials can go. It allows them to show that a number of countries still have normal relations with the Assad regime," Taneja added.
For the present dispensation with Syria, India’s position during the Arab Spring was particularly important. “The idea of removing Bashar Al-Assad from office when the protests were happening did not find much favour with India. New Delhi has generally been anti-interventionist on Middle East, " says Taneja.
Muddassir Quamar, associate fellow at the Manohar Parikkar Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, concurs that the visit is signficant. India, Quamar says, did not close its embassy during the conflict in Syria and continued bilateral relations.
“The visit must also been seen in the context of the reconstruction that is underway in Syria. The civil war is in its final stages and talk has turned towards the country’s future reconstruction. There has been discussion about whether India can help Syria in this process," says Quamar.
Energy security and a common worldview on issues relating to terrorism and radicalisation have also driven the relationship between both countries, Quamar believes.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, “India over the years has been extending humanitarian, technical and developmental assistance to Syria through bilateral and multilateral channels. Consignments of food and medicines have been supplied to Syria from time to time, including during the pandemic. India has offered Lines of Credit worth USD 280 million to Syria for building a power plant and a steel plant in the country." New Delhi has also provided scholarships for Syrian students to study in India.
Mekdad also met Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar during his visit. He also participated in events with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and NASSCOM.
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