India listens in on Iran conference on SyriaAugust 9th, 2012 - 9:09 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) India has taken part in a ministerial conference convened by Iran, Damascus’ staunchest ally, that seeks to push an “indigenous solution” to the Syrian crisis.
Rajiv Shahare, joint secretary in charge of West Asia and North Africa in the external affairs ministry, represented India at the day-long foreign ministers’ conference in Tehran on Thursday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad billed the meet an opportunity “to replace military clashes with political, indigenous approaches to settle disputes”.
More than 15 countries were invited for the meeting. Besides India, diplomats from China, Russia, Iraq, Algeria, Tajikistan, Venezuela and Pakistan were among those who participated in the conference.
At the opening, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi called for “serious and inclusive” talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups.
Salehi said that Iran “rejects any foreign and military intervention in Syrian and backs and supports U.N. efforts to resolve the crisis”. In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post on Wednesday, Salehi warned that the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be catastrophic for the country and the region.
India decided to participate in the Tehran conference as it is in favour of a Syrian-led political reconciliation and is keen to encourage any viable option that lead to a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
The Iran conference came days after a vote in the UN General Assembly on a Saudi-drafted resolution on Syria that denounced the violence in the country and referred to the Arab League’s resolution for Assad to step down.
India abstained from the vote as it does not want to be seen a party to any regime change or external intervention and wants the Syria crisis to be resolved by the Syrian people.
Explaining New Delhi’s position, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri said in New York that New Delhi decided to to abstain from voting as the resolution referred to another resolution passed by the Arab League last month, calling for Assad to step down.
“Though we do not hold any brief for any particular Syrian leader, we cannot welcome the League of Arab States resolution of 22 July, which openly called for President Assad to step down from power and for other UN members to sever diplomatic contacts with Syria,” he said. “It is unfortunate that this element of the present resolution was not removed, and hence we have abstained from the resolution.”
India is “extremely worried and alarmed” over the escalating violence in Syria and is apprehensive of the spillover effects of the crisis into the larger West Asia region, which is home to over six million Indians.
India is also closely monitoring reports of the infiltration of Al Qaeda elements into the Syrian rebel forces and feels that it does not bode well for either stability of Syria or that of the larger region.
Last month, India asked its nationals and the families of the staff of the Indian mission in Damascus to leave the violence-beset country. There were around 900 Indians in Syria when violence started exacerbating nearly three months ago, but now most Indians have left. The Indian mission, with nearly 13 diplomatic staff, is however, functioning in Damascus, with Indian ambassador V.P. Haran closely watching developments in the country.
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