Saturday, February 4, 2012



The veto by Russia and China on February 4,2012, of a resolution in the UN Security Council that called upon Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down in the face of the persisting movement against his regime is based not on an objective assessment of the ground situation in Syria, but on subjective apprehensions of the implications for the present leaderships in Russia and China should street movements in the Arab countries succeed with external support.

2. The action of the Western powers in pressing for a vote on the resolution, which enjoyed the expected support of the Arab League and the surprise support of India and Pakistan, in the face of a near certainty of a Russian-Chinese veto was motivated by two factors.

3. The first factor was the need to keep the anti-Assad movement in Syria alive despite the brutal suppression by the regime by conveying to it a message of international solidarity. The second factor was the desire to convey a message of hope to the anti-Vladimir Putin dissident elements in Russia and the anti-Communist Party of China elements in China that they too could one day benefit from similar international solidarity if they kept their movements against the Governments in Moscow and Beijing alive.

4.The domestic situation in Russia is showing signs of some turbulence in the face of allegations against the fairness and legality of the recent elections to the Parliament. In China, opposition to the policies of the regime from Tibetan and Uighur elements has been gathering strength and assuming a violent form. Moreover, the economic difficulties are leading to instances of defiance of Governmental and Party authority even from the majority Han elements in the coastal areas.

5. It would be premature to talk of a united anti-regime movement in Russia and China, but there are definitely reports of the emergence of multiple pockets of dissidence against the present regimes. It is important for the West to ensure that these dissident pockets and scattered protest movements do not lose hope in the face of the suppression by the regimes.

6.The West views the ground situation in Syria from the immediate perspective of bringing into power a new regime without a messy military intervention as one saw in Iraq and Libya and from the medium and long-term perspective of encouraging the growth of dissidence in Russia and China.

7. The determined veto of Russia and China on Syria is an indication of their fear that regime change through international solidarity with domestic protest movements could one day endanger their own regimes.

8. The problem is that the Assad regime cannot be saved. It is only a question of time before it falls due to the protest movement. The isolation of Russia and China and the widespread criticism of their veto would convey oxygen to the dissident movements in Russia and China too.

9.India did well in coming to terms with reality and in supporting the resolution. It keeps India on the side of the Syrian people fighting against a repressive regime. So long as external military intervention is not involved, there is no reason why India should remain neutral.

10. Pakistan’s support for the resolution in the face of the Chinese opposition to it is significant. It is a welcome initiative by the civilian Government in Islamabad not to put its eggs in the Chinese basket in the face of the popular anti-regime movements across the region.( 5-2-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )


amitarora said...

Dear Sir,

Suppose Assad regime continues its brutal oppression. COnsider that 5400 people have already died. Isnt it a responsibility of the the world and India to support a military action even if required. Ofcourse a well defined UN mandated strictly to the text military action and not like the one that happened in Libya. After all human life shound be valued above everything else, in my opinion, even above the concept of "sovereignty".

Carlos said...

To amitarora,
1)If you are soooo concerned with human life why are you not raising your voice against Paki atrocities in Balochistan or Chinese killings in Tibet and Xinjiang ??
2) Have you considered who will take power in Syria if Assad is ousted ??? Some Sunni Muslim fanatics ??? Some proxies for Al-Qaeda ??? The Egyptian version of the Muslim Brotherhood ???

amitarora said...

Dear Carlos,
I definately agree with you the human right violations are being done in China and Pakistan. But then One wrong does not make another worng correct. The problem is that in Syria the scale of violence has been unprecedented and the issue is under consideration in the UN general assembly, and the resolution by the Arab League (vetoed by Russia and China) was in my opinion on correct lines to ensure a peaceful transition through a national unity government. If such a transition can be assured nothing like it. My concern is that if its not able to, should such violence be tolerated. Is it okay to allow lives to be sacrificed for the fear that "there is a possibility that a fundamentalist regime may follow. I beg to differ that such pessimism should be used as a reason for inaction.

Carlos said...

Hi Amit,
We can agree to disagree on this issue. I think it is far better to have a reliable dictator (like say the Shah of Iran) than to have a fanatical Islamic ayatollah (like say Khomeini)in power.
Of course, if one could have a moderate democratic regime to replace Assad that would be ideal. Unfortunately, that alternative is not available in Syria today. So knocking out someone who has proven fairly stable over the decades and replacing that person with chaos (like in Egypt)is not really improving the situation for Syria, for its neighbours or for the world in general.
In conclusion, Amit, we should thank our lucky stars (figuratively, of course) that we are Indians :-) With all her drawbacks, India is a great deal better.

amitarora said...

Definately Carlos,
Its a boon to have been born in a country like this. Like Dahrendroff said a mouse even with all luxuries and placed in a golden cage, tries to nibble its way out, something that protests in Bahrain have shown. :)

Paresh said...

Assad was proving a thorn for Israel and an ally of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. That is why he had to go. Also, this way the West is finishing off allies of China and Russia thus isolating them for the final blow.

The West has learnt the pitfalls of direct millitary intervention and thus have innovated this concept of popular uprisings. If successful, this same formula will be reused in Iran, China, Russia.

I really appreciate the strategic and long term thinking of Westerns strategic planners. Excellent chess moves!!

Carlos said...

On the contrary, Israel is quite OK with Assad. In fact, Israel dreads the uncertainty of a fanatical Sunni Muslim regime which perhaps could now come to power in Syria, if Assad falls.
I only wish the West had half the brilliance in thwarting China (especially) that you credit them with. Their stupidity in dealing with both China and Pakistan (the epicentre of terror) is there for all to see.

amitarora said...

Dear Paresh,

I think that is a logic streched too far. Egypt was a strong US ally. So to say that the uprisings have been engineered by West would be inappropriate.

Paresh said...

Tunisia and Egypt revolutions were not engineered by the west. They were instantaneous outbursts of their public fury, which caught even the West by surprise. But from this surprise came opportunity. Why couldn't similar revolutions be engineered in non-friendly countries???

As for Assad, he is the worst enemy for Israel. And the real aim of the West is not just regime change, but also to sow the seeds of civil war by providing arms to different factions. This way those countries remain tied up in internal disputes for decades.

Take it from me - I have studied the methods of the West for the last 5 years :) They are adept at killing multiple birds with one stone!