[Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar met Syrian President Bashar Al Assad on Monday. (MEA photo) ]
New Delhi: In a sudden shift in India's Middle East Policy, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar a day earlier flew to Syria and called on Bashar Al Assad - the struggling president of the war-torn country. This is the first visit by an Indian minister to Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
Ministry of External Affairs reports said Akbar is on a week long visit to the Middle East during which besides Syria he will also visit Iraq and Lebanon.
Though most of the media houses have called the Akbar's visit to Syria, Iraq and Lebanon a routine diplomatic outreach, some others including the influential 'The Hindu' have termed the visit as significant, in the wake of, the newspaper has termed as, "a tough position on the situation in Kashmir from the 57-member OIC".
"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", The Hindu said in its report published Monday.
"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", The Hindu noted in its report.
President Assad has often been castigated by the OIC for human rights violations and Syria was suspended from the grouping in 2012. President Assad has also been held responsible for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Muslims - mostly Sunnis, in Syria.
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."
Interestingly, India had earlier voted against Syria on human rights issues at the United Nations.
The sudden shift in India's foreign policy comes after a consistent efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who in the last two years visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and other Muslim and Arab countries to strengthen what India called its "Look East Policy" started by the erstwhile Manmohan SIngh government..
However, if the observations of The Hindu are true then it would be another blunder by the Modi government. For, in the present scenario the Assad regime in Syria despite Russian is backing is completely isolated. And, under the current volatile situation in the Middle East, especially in Syria, such blunders can be suicidal for the country.