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BRICS to work at narrowing opinion gap on Syria issue

While South Africa and Brazil share the West's opinion, China and Russia are against a change of regime. Jayanth Jacob reports.

delhi Updated: Mar 25, 2012 00:52 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times

After Sri Lanka, Syria is the next challenge that faces India at BRICS. The group – consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – is gearing up for its annual summit in New Delhi on March 29, and opinions are divided with regard to the situation in the West Asian country.

Efforts are on to list out the “minimum common positions on the issue” in the joint communique to be adopted at the summit. However, as the communique is only “declaratory” in nature, unlike the more action-oriented United Nations resolutions, the task would not be as onerous, officials say.

BRICS was previously divided over the Sri Lankan issue, with Russia and China maintaining that the island nation was capable of dealing with its internal affairs.

“The BRICS member countries also share many common concerns on Syria. After all, we are working on a joint statement and not a UN resolution,” said Li Kexin, deputy director general, Department of Internat-ional Organisations at the Chinese foreign ministry.

As it happened with the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on Sri Lanka, two countries belonging to BRICS — China and Russia — had earlier vetoed the West-backed UN resolution on Syria.

The resolution, which India supported, had not explicitly called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. It was reflective of the position of the Arab League, which had earlier recommended that Assad make way for the vice-president as head of the national unity government to resolve the unrest in the country.

China and Russia are firmly against a change of regime in Syria. Though India is against a regime change through external interferences, it says “internal mechanisms” of change cannot be looked at based on the “merits” of the case.

China agrees with India on most points, but is not appreciative of the country “explicitly following” what it calls the Arab League position, officials said. South Africa and Brazil have positions more aligned with that of the West on Syria, where anti-government activists accuse the present regime of killing thousands of protesters over the past year. While the US has listed Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism, the European Union and the Arab League have imposed sanctions on the Assad regime. Both Russia and China feel that the West is keen on bringing about a regime change in Syria.

First Published: Mar 25, 2012 00:50 IST