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  • Arab Spring: Aspirations Met Or Dreams Unfulfilled?

    As we move into the second winter of the Arab Spring, this Issue Brief attempts to take stock of the progress of the Arab Spring and examine whether the aspirations of people have been met or have they been handed a raw deal.

    October 26, 2012

    Aarti Panchal asked: Why has Syria been expelled from the Arab League? What were the key reasons cited in this regard?

    P.K. Pradhan replies: Syria has been suspended from the Arab League allegedly for its failure to comply with a previous order passed by the League to end the violent crackdown on the protesters. The decision to suspend Syria from the League was taken at an emergency meeting in November 2011 where 18 out of 22 members supported the decision while Lebanon, Yemen and Syria voted against and Iraq abstained. In the meeting, the members also decided to impose some economic and political sanctions on Syria and, at the same time, appealed the member countries to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus.

    Syria says the decision of the League is biased and illegal. But beyond the reason cited by the Arab League, there seem to be a number of political factors working behind the decision. The Bashar al Assad’s regime is heavily unpopular among other dominant and powerful members in the organisation. Assad is a friend and an ally of Iran which poses a geopolitical challenge to its Gulf Arab neighbours. For them, fall of Assad will significantly reduce Iranian power and influence in the region. Also, Assad being an Alawite Shia does not get along well with the powerful Sunni Arab rulers in the region. They have differences of opinion over regional issues, such as, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, etc. The proximity of the Arab countries to the United States and the rivalry between the United States and the Assad regime are other factors which may have influenced the decision of the Arab League.

    Is Arab Spring Part-2 Unravelling?

    Just when it seemed that the Arab Spring was almost over and the region was entering a phase of political transition, a flurry of developments in the first week of October 2012 has brought the region back into focus.

    October 12, 2012

    Vishal Kisan Kamble asked: What are China's interests in Syria?

    P.K. Pradhan replies: Syria is an important country for China in the West Asian region. While the region has been dominated by the USA, other powers like China and Russia have been vying for influence among the countries in the region. The recent conflict in Syria and China’s use of veto on the resolutions against the Assad regime has brought to fore the Chinese actions and interests in the country. For China, Syria is a strategic ally in the troubled region and in recent times both the countries have attempted to strengthen their relationship.

    China enjoys good relationship with Iran as well and at times has tried to take advantage of Iran’s close ties with Syria in strengthening its foothold in the region. Thus, strategically, China’s relationship with regimes like Iran and Syria challenges the traditional American dominance in the region. It also makes clear the Chinese intention of playing a role in the troubled region, though the Chinese leaders shy away of making such statements in public. During the vote on the Syrian issue in the UN Security Council, China was opposed to the use of force for regime change and had demanded a peaceful settlement of the conflict through dialogue and consultation, which shows that they have stakes involved with the current regime.

    On the economic front, China is an important trading partner of Syria. The bilateral trade is heavily in favour of China. In 2011, China’s exports to Syria totalled US$ 2.4 billion, while imports from Syria stood at US$ 26 million. China also has stakes in Syria’s oil industry with the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signing huge deals for exploration and developmental activities in the country. Furthermore, China intends to use Syria, given its geographical proximity with the EU, Africa and other West Asian countries, as a trading hub for its products.

    The Beginning of the End in Syria

    The WMD insinuation by the West, the debate over the impending genocide in Aleppo, and the swelling ranks of refugees, all point to an orchestrated shift in the narrative of the conflict that makes external intervention an ‘inevitability’.

    August 07, 2012

    Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Conflict

    It is expected that the Syrian inventory could contain several thousand aerial bombs filled mostly with the chemical agent Sarin, and between 50 and 100 ballistic missile warheads.

    July 30, 2012

    Is the Arab spring over?

    Whatever may be the eventual outcome in Syria, there is no denying the fact that for all practical purposes the dream of establishing democracy and the rule of law and the institution of human rights in the Arab World is almost over.

    June 26, 2012

    GCC and the Syrian Crisis

    The approach of GCC countries towards the Syrian crisis has shifted from appealing for political reforms to internationalising the issue to arming the regime’s opposition.

    June 21, 2012

    Syrian Turmoil: A Test for the US Position

    The absence of a credible secular substitute for Assad, a divided opposition, and deadlock in the Security Council, are all acting as stumbling blocks for the US wish to unseat Assad from power.

    May 23, 2012

    Shubhda Chaudhary asked : What is India’s position on the Syrian crisis and how has the uprising in Syria affected the relationship between the two countries?

    Prasanta Kumar Pradhan replies: India has expressed its concern about the deteriorating situation in Syria. India acknowledges Syria as an important country in the region and believes that any protracted internal conflict will have its impact not only on the internal peace but on the regional stability as well. India wants the Syrian crisis to end in a peaceful manner ensuring the human rights of the people. India has called for “a peaceful and inclusive political process to address the grievances of all sections of Syrian society.” Also, India opposes any kind of external intervention in Syria to end the conflict as societies cannot be reordered from outside. Thus, India supports a non-military solution to the conflict and is of the view that the threat of use of force would be detrimental to the territorial integrity and political independence of the country.

    Despite the ongoing tension in the region, India is trying to maintain good relationship with Syria. It is too early to gauge the negative impact of the conflict on the India-Syria relationship as the situation is still unfolding; and India remains hopeful of a peaceful resolution of the conflict. India has had good ties with the current regime. President Pratibha Patil had visited the country in November 2010, just before the protests began in the Arab world. Both the countries can focus on further developing bilateral relationship after the present turmoil is over.