Last week, India abstained from voting on a crucial United Nations General Assembly resolution (tabled by Canada) expressing outrage at the violence in Syria, especially in Aleppo, and calling for immediate ceasefire in the country. The reasons for India’s decision to abstain are clear and strategic. In addition to good relations with the Bashar al-Assad regime, the current NDA government has backed Moscow’s policies in the region to “halt the advances of the Islamic State”.
Reason to abstain
However, this assertion is not in consonance with the position taken by the former UPA government which highlighted that “there could be no military solution to this conflict”. Both Damascus and New Delhi have converged on issues of fighting terrorism perpetrated by the likes of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, and the defence of their respective human rights record.
While the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, with its administrative centre in Saudi Arabia, suspended Syria in 2012 for the violent suppression of the popular revolt, it has, on certain occasions, also criticised India over its alleged human rights violations in Kashmir. Syria’s Ambassador to India, Dr Rial Kamel Abbas, recently said in an interview with an Indian news publication, “What is going on in Kashmir is the first step of terrorism. The government of India has right to solve it in any manner.”
In other words, on the issue of Kashmir, the Assad regime has backed India's position. Beyond this dynamic, India does not seek to annoy Russia or the United States in voting one way or another. The decision to abstain, thus, seems best from New Delhi’s perspective.