In India, Syrian regime courts BRIC countries

An embassy employee prepares a portrait of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ahead of a press conference by Bouthaina Shaaban, a cabinet-level adviser to the Syrian president, at the India Islamic Centre in New Delhi. (AFP/Raveendrandra Veendran)

An employee prepares a portrait of Bashar al-Assad ahead of Syrian minister Bouthaina Shaaban's press conference in New Delhi. (AFP/Raveendrandra Veendran)

The bloc of the five emerging economies called BRICS may have lost some of its sheen recently, but it is being wooed as an important lobbying group by the besieged Syrian government.

During her three-day visit to India, senior Syrian minister Bouthaina Shaaban asked New Delhi to take the lead in drafting a strong statement in support of Syria, when the five nations -- comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- meet at a conference later this month.

Shaaban said she had handed Indian officials a letter from the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad addressed to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The letter, she said, asked India to call for a peaceful resolution that did not impinge on Syria’s sovereignty.

“We want India, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa to make a very strong decision to support a political solution in Syria, to support the right of the Syrian people to decide a future for themselves,” Shaaban, the political and media advisor to Assad, told reporters in New Delhi on Friday.

Shaabansaid that the armed anti-government rebels were religious fundamentalists, and criticized Western nations for supporting the fighters.

“Thank God, there are countries like the BRICS… to introduce reason into what is happening in the international community,” Shabaan said. “Otherwise we would have faced what Libya is facing today. BRICS have been taking a very honest and very balanced stance.”

In the past two years, Syria has been rocked by a bloody revolt that has killed tens of thousands of people. China and Russia have opposed moves by the the United States and other western nations to impose sanctions to pressure the Syrian government. Last year, the BRICS nations called for an end to the rhetoric of military action against Syria.

India has until now walked the tightrope between the United States and Syria. It voted in favor of sanctions, but later abstained from another vote in the United Nations General Assembly, saying it opposed acts that aimed at change of regime in Syria.

On Wednesday, India’s foreign office expressed its “deep concern on the security situation in Syria” and said that the Geneva Communique, which had called for respecting Syria’s sovereignty, must form the basis for a solution.

On Friday, Shaaban also urged reporters to use the term “international community” with caution.

“The BRICS is also a big part of the international community, so please stop using the term when you are referring to Western forces,” Shaaban said. Then she added, “It is very difficult to counter Western narrative.”

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