By going along with the vetoed United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, India primarily expressed its disappointment with the continued prevarication by the Assad government in implementing the political package of reforms it promised late last year and over several incidents of armed assault on peaceful protesting congregations since discontent engulfed the country last year.

The pre-vote statement by India's Permanent Representative in the U.N., Hardeep Puri, read with his explanation of vote (EOV), showed that New Delhi was upset at the winding up of the Arab League's observer mission in Syria but it differed widely from the AL's prescriptions, reflected in the draft resolution. Unlike the AL and the draft resolution, India did not ask for multiparty elections in a time frame or the freedom of movement sought all over the country for a wide range of actors from AL observers to the international media and humanitarian organisations.

Mr. Puri's pre-vote statement provided a more detailed explanation of India rupturing its four decades-long association with the ruling Assad family and aligning itself with virtually all AL demands. But as opposed to the draft resolution midwifed by the western bloc advocating the AL's demand for multiparty elections, India's public statements remained confined to seeking concurrence among all sides for a solution that manages to “address the grievances of the Syrian people.” India added a further caveat to its support for dialogue, pointing out that the outcome must not be “pre-judged.”

Stress on direct talks

India pointed out that the problem was political and economic and within this formulation laid great stress on direct talks between the warring sides which must further fine-tune the political reforms package announced by the Assad government. This was the closest India came to expressing its disapproval of the political reforms announced by the Syrian government.

On the security side of the problem, Indian statements were even-handed, criticising both the government and the armed groups in the opposition for perpetuating the cycle of violence. But it condemned “violations of human rights and rights of expression and peaceful assembly.” The EOV added the rider that peaceful assemblies must be mindful of the stability and security of society.

On both the political and security aspects, India's public statements gave no hint of the wide variety of demands put forward in the resolution including giving the AL, many of whose members have been active in backing Syrian protesters, virtual powers to run a parallel enquiry commission. For instance, the struck-down resolution wanted not only full and unhindered access and freedom of movement to AL observers but also their empowerment to “freely” question whoever they wanted. Nor did the Indian statements mention the timelines contained in the resolution.

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