Washington, DC – The United States on Wednesday continued to downplay the significance of the recent visit of a high level cabinet minister of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Syria.
Asked if the subject of the visit of the Indian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Mobasher Jawed Akbar to Damascus, came up during the ongoing visit of John Kerry, US Secretary of State to New Delhi, the State Department declined to confirm. Indian Minister Akbar was received by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad.
A Department of State spokesperson told Indian American Times (IAT), “We won’t go into the specifics of diplomatic meetings, but we discussed the full range of regional issues commensurate with our global strategic partnership.”
Earlier, replying to a question on the subject from IAT, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said at a briefing, “I’m not aware that it came up.”
The questions were raised to gauge the US reactions as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries started engaging with Assad regime after the direct Russian intervention in the Syria war since last September.
Earlier Chinese Admiral Guan Youfei visited Damascus, signing a cooperation agreement with the Syrian military. Although the details of the pact were sketchy, the pact itself represents a landmark shift in the ongoing position of Assad in the geopolitical equations.
All BRICS countries including India never closed their respective embassies in Syria, since start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. With this visit of Akbar, India and Syria announced to upgrade bilateral security consultation and to jumpstart economic projects on-hold for years. The projects including a $320 million power plant project, were revived and Syria promised to facilitate construction and guaranteed safety of Indian nationals and firms operating in Syria.
Indian Minister Akbar’s visit came seven months after the visit of Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem to India, during which the Syrian regime asked Modi government to help prop up war-torn economy along with political nods on the international stage. The visiting Indian minister also received an invitation for Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to visit Damascus in the last quarter of 2016.