Familiar script

The Syrian government must halt immediately its relentless bombardment of civilians in Homs. Hundreds of people have been killed in bombings in this city over the last few weeks.

Horrific stories of human suffering are emerging from this besieged city and people are in dire need of medical attention and humanitarian relief. Relief will be able to reach them only if president Bashar al-Assad and the opposition rebels agree to a ceasefire. But neither side is listening to the civilians’ cries for help. Eleven months of protest to Assad’s rule has assumed worrying proportions.  Peaceful protestors have long been sidelined by heavily armed fighters and Assad is not hesitating in pounding his people. Neither side is in a position to take full control. The resulting stalemate is hitting civilians badly. In a bid to quell the opposition to his rule, Assad has held a referendum on a new constitution that will end five decades of one-party rule. But to many Syrians, this gesture is too little and too late.

A meeting of ‘Friends of Syria’ which includes the US, the European Union, and the Arab League among others has voted to step up sanctions on Syria. It has also recognised the opposition Syrian National Council as ‘a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change’. While it made no mention of regime change, there are striking similarities between the agendas of the Libya Contact Group and the Friends of Syria.  A familiar script of effecting regime change is being enacted in Syria too. The US and Saudi Arabia are orchestrating moves to oust Assad.

India has followed up its vote against Assad in the UN Security Council by participating in the ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting. In doing so it has abandoned Assad’s secular regime. It may be recalled that Syria was among the few Arab countries to back India on Kashmir in international forums at the height of the insurgency. It is a pity that Delhi has chosen to abandon an old friend. Its participation in the meet has no doubt warmed hearts in Riyadh and Washington. In supporting western strategies in the West Asia, India has chosen a dangerous road. Civilian killings need to be condemned but New Delhi should have nothing to do with regime change in a sovereign country.

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