“India and the Syrian Conflict,” by Niraj Srivastava

NirajIndia and the Syrian Conflict
by Amb. Niraj Srivastava
For Syria Comment, May 26, 2016

It was reported in the Indian media that on May 20 the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a new 22-minute Arabic language documentary online featuring purported Indian Jihadi fighters in its ranks. The video included interviews with five Indian Jihadis known to have joined the ISIS since 2014. In one of the interviews, Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, an Indian student from Thane, says that he will return to India to “avenge the Babri Masjid, and the killings of Muslims in Kashmir, Gujarat, and in Muzaffarnagar.”

Al Masdar News has also reported that in a video released on May 20, ISIS “showed off their large Indian force operating against Syrian government forces in east Homs countryside,” and called on Indians to leave their country and join the Jihad in Syria against the “infidels.” The agency, however, stated that it was not clear how many Indians were fighting with Islamic State forces in Syria.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 7.54.19 AM

The above developments have brought the ISIS, and the ongoing conflict in Syria, uncomfortably close to India. So far, the Syrian conflict had been seen in India as an event taking place in a distant land. But the release of the above video suggests that the ISIS is perhaps planning to draw more Indian nationals into the Syrian imbroglio, as well as expand its operations in this country. This cannot be good news for India, which may have to track the activities of ISIS more carefully, both here as well as in Syria.

India’s position on Syria, as on Libya, has been that it is for the people of Syria to decide who should govern them. The destiny of Syria should be decided by Syrians. India had abstained on the vote on Libya in the UN Security Council in March 2011, when it was a non-permanent member of the Security Council.

The Feb. 27 partial cease-fire in Syria and the resumption of peace talks in Geneva between the opposition and the Assad government had raised hopes of finding a political solution to the bloodbath in the country, which has so far resulted in the deaths of nearly half a million people and displacement of almost half of Syria’s pre-war population of about 23 million. However, developments in April and May 2016 belied any such hopes, pointing, instead, to further complications.

First, the Saudi-backed High Negotiations Committee (HNC), representing the opposition groups in Syria, walked out of the Geneva talks on April 18, ostensibly due to cease-fire violations by the Assad regime. It had also failed to reach an agreement over the formation of a transitional governing body before elections are held in Syria to form a new government. The HNC did not want President Assad to be a part of any such body while the regime insisted that Assad’s role in it was not up for discussion in Geneva.

Second, fighting flared up in Syria around the same time, particularly in Aleppo. Russian and Syrian aircraft bombed the rebel-held areas in the east while the Nusra Front directed artillery fire at western Aleppo. Some of the bombs and shells hit hospitals on both sides, resulting in the deaths of several doctors, patients, and innocent civilians. Fighting also broke out in parts of Idlib, Homs, and Hama. It had continued for almost two weeks before a fragile truce was brokered by the US and Russia on May 4. By that time, nearly 300 people had been killed, most of them civilians.

Third, it is also clear that the two sides used the two-month truce to strengthen their military capabilities as well as their positions on the ground. More sophisticated military hardware continued to flow to the Russian and Syrian forces, whose ranks were also augmented by paramilitary fighters from Iraq, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon. On the other hand, the rebels received TOW anti-tank missiles and possibly shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADS), which were probably used to shoot down two Syrian air force aircraft in March and April.

It is evident that the Syrian and Russian militaries launched a determined assault in April on Aleppo and the other areas to regain territory held by the rebels, but did not fully succeed. On the other hand, it is also clear that the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and their allies have not given up their goal of “regime change.” In defiance of their stance, the Syrian government held Parliamentary elections in April in areas controlled by it. The elections were won handsomely by the ruling Baath Party. Both sides are still pursuing a military solution to the conflict, although talks might continue in Geneva to find a political settlement, which would be more durable.

Another significant development has been the deployment of more US “boots on the ground” in Syria, contrary to earlier US statements. On April 25, President Obama announced the deployment of 250 troops, including Special Forces, in addition to the 50 deployed in Nov. 2015. The stated objective of the deployment is to fight ISIS in Syria. But the troops could also be used to target other groups, including the Syrian military.

Significantly, the US, Britain and France recently turned down a Russian proposal to the UN Security Council to designate the Saudi and Turkey-backed groups Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, which have links with ISIS and Al Qaida, as terrorist groups. On May 3, Secretary Kerry also warned Assad of the consequences of a “new US approach” if he does not accept a political transition by Aug. 1, 2016, without specifying what that “new approach” would be.

Meanwhile, as mentioned above, there is no softening of the positions of the other leading players including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel, all of whom appear intent on regime change in Syria. They will also benefit if Syria breaks up. Netanyahu, in fact, held a meeting of his cabinet on the Golan Heights on April 17 during which he declared that Israel will never give the Golan Heights back to Syria. Turkey has regularly called for setting up “safe zones” or “no-fly zones” in Syria, which it could easily annex if Syria disintegrates.

On May 17, the 20-member International Support Group for Syria (ISSG) met in Vienna under the Co-Chairmanship of the US and Russia. The Group agreed to strengthen the cessation of hostilities, facilitate full humanitarian access to relief agencies in Syria, and ensure progress towards a peaceful political transition by Aug. 1, 2016, under UN Security Council Resolution 2254. The political transition will be overseen by a transitional governing body formed by mutual consent of the main parties concerned.

The actual implementation of the above recommendations may be problematic, due to the reasons cited above. Fighting continues to rage in some parts of Syria. Humanitarian access has improved, but more needs to be done. The most difficult part may be the constitution of the transitional governing body. As mentioned above, the HNC does not want President Assad to have any role in it, which is entirely unacceptable to the regime. It is not clear how this deadlock can be overcome. Significantly, no date has yet been set for the resumption of the Geneva talks.

As things stand, the situation in Syria remains fluid and uncertain. Though Russian and Syrian aircraft continue to bomb ISIS and Al Nusra strongholds around Aleppo and other strategic areas, there seems to be a stalemate on the ground. All the players are keeping all their options open—including the military one—which makes it difficult to predict future developments in that country. But one thing appears certain—the conflict in Syria is not going to end anytime soon. It is likely to continue beyond the US presidential elections in Nov. 2016. India will have to ensure that its nationals do not get sucked into the Syrian conflict and that ISIS is not allowed to expand its footprint in this country.

Niraj Srivastava is a retired Indian diplomat. He was India’s ambassador to Denmark and Uganda, and has spent more than ten years in Arab countries including Syria, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. He has also taught undergraduate students at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. His other postings include the United States and Canada. He is currently an independent international affairs consultant based in New Delhi, India. The views expressed are personal.

Comments (3)

Sami said:

If Israel and the US are truly intent on regime change, Assad would be long gone.

I can understand the US being labeled an opposition supporter, but Israel has only acted when it perceives its self interests being compromised or threatened. That shouldn’t translate to supporting the opposition.

As long as the Taliban and the various ISI backed terrorist groups exist, Daesh won’t find the broad support it would need to really survive in the South East Asian countries. They’ve tried establishing a foothold in Afghanistan with very minimal success.

May 26th, 2016, 2:25 pm



US and ISRAEL have been dealing with IRAN since the 80´s. When palestinians were displaced by Assad and Hezbollah it was planned by Israel/US. When Hezbollah took the place of the ¨resistance¨ without really challenging Israel but destroying the future of Lebanon it was planned and accepted by Israel and executed by his servant Al Assad. Israel and the US share with Iran the view of a New Persian Empire getting to the Mediterranean shores. Islam divided in sunna/shia contest, sunna arabs divided by the ¨Axis of Evil¨ leaving Turkey to the north and arabs to the south. We know this is a dirty big game but most people ignore that this plan started in the eighties when HA was promoted to hijack the palestinian/arab resistance.

In the long term nothing would have been worse for Israel than a stable and competitive Lebanon, an arab sunni Syria working together with other sunna states.

May 27th, 2016, 4:16 am


samir sardana said:

What about the Kashmir Genocide ?

The Ruling political dispensation of India (Hindoosthan) is a front of the RSS (a quasi wanna be Nazi party).The RSS in its documented history and intellectual posits has admired,co-opted and co-owned Hitler – not merely as a Role Model – but as a Kalki Avatar (re-incarnate) – or an Avatar of Vishnoo – the Hindoo God !

The “SS part” of the RSS is a lift from the Nazi SS and the “R” stands for “Rats”

The RSS is infested by the vermins of the Brahmin/Bania/Kayastha triad – which represent the priestly and trading classes of Hindoosthan who never fought a war for their nation – but incited the same and also carried out the largest unknown genocide in History – that of the Buddhists

The Bhagwad Gita (the REAL Constitution of the Hindoos) JUSTIFIES genocide, w/o remorse,guilt and WITH DIVINE SANCTION.The Indian Military and Para Military,is a race of criminal mercenaries called Kshatriyas – who were the offspring of rapes by the Huns,Mongols,Sakas, Scythians,Persians, Parthinians,Greeks 1500-2000 years ago.These illegitimate litter of rapes and incest, were discarded by their races and interbred interse and intra se, and were treated as outcastes for centuries – until the Brahmins co-opted them as criminal mass murderers (around 1080 years ago) – and who are now in Kashmir – for their FINAL SOLUTION !

These mercenaries were used 1800 years ago by the Brahmins to extetrminate the Buddhists as atheists and followers
of a false prophet !

Nazis are on record JUSTIFYING their actions based on the “thesis” of the Bhagwad Gita, which is explained in this note.

History Records that the Nazis were “ALSO inspired” by the Gita, per se


Why the “Nazis and Hitler and Himmler”, love the Gita

“Dindoo Hindoo Bindoo Gandoos” consider “Hitler to be a Vishnoo Avatar”

The scene is played – when Krishna the Bhagvat (Hindoo God) was fed up trying to explain to “Arjuna the – why he “needed to exterminate his foes” – this was the “last attempt” in the 18th Chapter of the Gita – and the logic to justify mass murder and genocide, is as under (note the culminating crescendo in 18.1.7 below) :

Lumen Naturale 1 – There are “5 precedents to sense-perception and action”

मूल श्लोकः
शरीरवाङ्मनोभिर्यत्कर्म प्रारभते नरः।
न्याय्यं वा विपरीतं वा पञ्चैते तस्य हेतवः।।18.15।।

18.14 The locus as also the agent, the different kinds of organs, the many and distinct activities, and, the “divine is here the fifth”.

Lumen Naturale 2 – There “5 are causes of all action” and are “independent of the mind and body dualism” of Descartes and “also the Soul “!

मूल श्लोकः
यस्य नाहंकृतो भावो बुद्धिर्यस्य न लिप्यते।
हत्वापि स इमाँल्लोकान्न हन्ति न निबध्यते।।18.17।।

18.15 For whatever action a man undertakes by his body, speech and mind, whether right or wrong,i.e., enjoined or forbidden by the Sastras, “the following five”, are its causes:

Lumen Naturale 3 – Hence,you can “kill,murder and rape” – provided it is done with “no ego and no feelings “- for it is the “Act of the Divine” ! Just like the Nazis ! “Heil Krishna,the Bhagwat “!

मूल श्लोकः
अधिष्ठानं तथा कर्ता करणं च पृथग्विधम्।
विविधाश्च पृथक्चेष्टा दैवं चैवात्र पञ्चमम्।।18.14।।

18.17 He who has not the “feeling of egoism”, whose intellect is not tainted, he does not kill, nor does he become bound-“even by killing these creatures” !

January 12th, 2020, 7:52 am


Post a comment

Neoprofit AI