US strike in Syria: Reason behind India's carefully worded response
India has given a very cautious reaction to missile strikes by the US, UK and France in Syria. India has neither outrightly opposed the strikes nor has it supported it. Looks like a lot of high level diplomatic thinking has gone into it as India's response was, in a sense, delayed. MEA statement on Syria strikes came on Saturday evening when most countries had reacted to it by Saturday afternoon.
At this point in time, New Delhi cannot afford to irk either Moscow or Washington. India did not criticise the US like Iran did, and just said "We urge all Parties to show restraint and to avoid any further escalation in the situation". US carried out strikes claiming that Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad was developing chemical weapons, which both Syria and Russia have vehementely denied. When it comes to the part where chemical weapons are mentioned, India statement says "The alleged use of chemical weapons, if true, is deplorable."
The phrase "if true" is significant here. By saying "alleged" and "If true", India has not totally endorsed US claims of chemical weapons being developed by Syria. This statement in itself is a diplomatic masterstroke wherein India has managed to give a clear signal that it is neither siding with US, nor does it want to irk Russia.
This was MEA's statement released on Saturday evening, "We urge all Parties to show restraint and to avoid any further escalation in the situation. The matter should be resolved through dialogue and negotiations and on the basis of the principles of the UN Charter the in accordance with international law. We have taken note of the recent strikes in Syria. India is closely following the situation. The alleged use of chemical weapons, if true, is deplorable. We call for an impartial and objective investigation by the OPCW to establish the facts."
Reason for India's stand:
Although it may seem that India is slowly moving away from Russia for supply of defence euipment and depending more on the US, France and Israel, the ties between Moscow and New Delhi are old. India cannot do away with its dependence on Russia for help in defence supplies. Two of the most important projects - BrahMos and Sukhoi- have Russian involvement. Moreover, there are still a lot MiG fighters in IAF's fleet which need service support from Russia. Russia has in the past stood by India as a strong ally, since Nehru's times.
As far the US is concerned, India Air Force is facing with the problem of depleting squadron strength. Reports suggest that India might consider a number of F-18 or F-16 fighter jets to address this problem. Recently, India had purchased Apache helicopters from the US. During PM Modi's last visit to the US, it was being speculated that India may buy Predator drones from US.
So, all in all, India needs both the US and Russia and cannot afford to irk either of them.
International reactions to US strikes:
Germany said it supports the action taken to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons on its own citizens.
"The military operation was necessary and appropriate to preserve the effectiveness of the international ban on the use of chemical weapons and to warn the Syrian regime of further violations.100 years after the end of the First World War, we are all called upon to counteract the erosion of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Germany will resolutely support all diplomatic action in this direction," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has reportedly said that Tehran would continue to stand by Syria. Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Saturday that the country's Ministry of Health has offered to send medical aid to Syria should it be required.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused the US and its allies of committing a "major crime" with its trilateral strikes on Syrian targets overnight, in a tweet on Saturday morning.
The European Union is supportive of all efforts aimed at preventing the use of chemical weapons, its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said in a statement on Saturday.
The EU has called on "all countries, notably Russia and Iran" to use their influence in preventing any further use of chemical weapons, according to the statement.
Chinese Foreign Ministry said it believed political settlement is the only realistic way to resolve the Syrian issue and called for a fair probe into Syria's suspected chemical weapon attacks. It added that any military action that bypassed the UN Security Council violated the international law.
Isreal and Turkey have supported the airstrikes. Turkey has dubbed the strikes as "appropriate response".