The present hostage crisis, therefore should be accordingly dealt with. One cannot intervene in a sovereign state without invitation, as it has long-term consequences, specially in context of West Asia where long term energy imperatives are involved. Nevertheless, a mix of diplomacy backed by demonstration of military muscle (not intervention) can achieve the desired results. What good is INS Vikrmaditya for, if it cannot support Indian diplomacy at this critical period and that too in the region.
Visits to New Delhi by leaders of Saudi Arabia, Iran in quick succession would seem to suggest something new is happening in West Asia to which Indian attention is required. Some historic changes have already placed the region on a path of hope: the election of President Hassan Rouhani, his historic telephonic "hullo" with President Barack Obama, positive movement of the Geneva process on Iran’s nuclear programme, etcetera.
Riyadh and Jerusalem, hand in hand, are imploring Washington to go slow on Iran and certainly not to invite Iran to the Conference on Syria, Geneva II. Kerry is walking around the minefields with great skill. “Iran has not been invited” says he, or words to that effect. And he is not telling a lie. Iran has not been invited, “not yet”. It will be different situation when the nuclear deal with Iran is set into operation on Monday. Kerry has made it clear on several occasions that he accords a higher priority to the nuclear deal than to Iran’s stand on Syria.
The decision making systems in Washington must be saturated with memos, position papers, backgrounders, by dove-nosed hawks and hawk-nosed doves, both in and outside the administration, on the atmospherics required for the initial moves with Iran after the recent signs of a thaw. President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, must also be casting a glance on the internal dynamics in Iran. That a casual meeting with President Obama on the margins of the UN General Assembly did “not” take place is, by the admission of Iranian diplomats, a “good outcome” because a “casual” meeting at such a delicate juncture would give out misleading signals.
As I mentioned at the outset, the attack on Syria, should it happen, will be the umpteenth US-led military action against a Muslim country since the collapse of the Soviet Union. I mention the Soviet Union repeatedly because unprecedented military might in the possession of a nation in decline is a dangerous new global reality. New Delhi’s silence in such situations may be commended by those who place a value on cunning and craft. But cunning and craft towards what end? I like to imagine neither Jawaharlal Nehru nor Atal Behari Vajpayee would have remained silent if there any risk to Damascus, the world’s oldest, continuous habitation and the great civilization of which it is the capital.
In the fictitious script Hillary Clinton says India has no clout in the region. Possibly true. But how did Nehru and Indira Gandhi have influence in the area.
Why this focus on Damascus now? Have they found oil on a scale comparable with Iraq?
China’s response to the recent protests for democratic change in North Africa and the Arab world has been one that has mixed caution with aggressive diplomacy.