In Mission Kashmir, Akbar meets Assad

In the first visit by an Indian Minister to war-torn Syria since the conflict began in 2011, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar met Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Photo: MEA  

Bracing for more statements on Kashmir from members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), India has launched a counter-diplomacy initiative of its own, reaching out to several West Asian nations to discuss common concerns about terrorism.

In the first visit by an Indian Minister to war-torn Syria since the conflict began in 2011, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar met Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, and called for “an age of reconstruction” to follow the “age of destruction” that the country has seen.

The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said Mr. Akbar “highlighted the importance of cooperation in the field of combating terrorism and consolidating the Syrians’ achievements in this regard.”

President Assad has often been castigated by the OIC for human rights violations and Syria was suspended from the grouping in 2012.

Despite once voting against Syria on human rights issues at the U.N., India has consistently held out against foreign intervention for regime change as advocated by the U.S. and European countries.

“President Assad welcomed India’s objective position on the conflict in Syria,” government sources said about the meeting, adding that both sides agreed on upgrading security consultations between them.

Mr. Akbar is on a week-long visit to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, part of the new push in West Asian diplomacy of the Modi government. While the government has focussed in the past year on the Gulf countries: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran, it is now moving further west.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Delhi last week to ask for cooperation on prosecuting ‘Gulenist’ supporters of the coup attempt in Turkey; preparations are on for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to visit India next month, sources have confirmed to The Hindu.

OIC’s tough stand

The outgoing and incoming visits are significant as they come in the wake of a tough position on the situation in Kashmir from the 57-member OIC, which spoke of “human rights violations” and “excessive violence” in Kashmir.

According to a statement on the OIC website on the visit made by OIC secretary-general Iyad Ameen Madani to Islamabad on August 20, “The Secretary-General was briefed on the latest alarming situation in the Indian Held Kashmir [Jammu and Kashmir] including the grave human rights violation of the Kashmiri people and excessive violence used against them. Both sides also reviewed the additional actions that the OIC needs to adopt in order to further help the Kashmiri people.”

The visit by the OIC official followed Mr. Cavusoglu’s own trip to Islamabad on August 2, where he had demanded that an OIC delegation be allowed to go on a fact-finding mission to Kashmir. The Hindu has learnt that the MEA had taken up the statements with the Foreign Ministry in Ankara, which explained that Turkey’s position remains that Kashmir is a bilateral dispute to be resolved between India and Pakistan.

Even so, by renewing its diplomatic initiatives in more parts of the Islamic world than have been reached out to in the recent past, the government is hoping to counter the statements.

(With Kallol Bhattacherjee)

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 3:14:51 PM |

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