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Business delegation from India visits Syria

The Syrians lauded India’s political stance on the crisis and said that ‘friendly’ countries would be asked to take part in the reconstruction process.

Kabir Taneja  New Delhi | 3rd May 2014

A worker stacks soap in a soap factory at the Kurdish city of Afrin, in Syria on Wednesday. REUTERS

delegation of businessmen mounted by ASSOCHAM, led by Delhi based Cosmos Group, met with the Syrian government in the capital Damascus as part of a rare exchange which looked at opportunities for investments in the Middle Eastern country which is in middle of a civil war. The delegation was facilitated by India's mission in Syria.

Industry topics such as agriculture, electrical power, textiles, infrastructure and health were reportedly discussed between the two sides. The Syrian government during the delegation's visit lauded India's political stance on the Syrian crisis, and said that the countries which were "friendly", such as many members of the BRICS, will be asked to actively take part in the country's reconstruction process. Such delegations to Syria have been far and few from the international community since the crisis started.

The Syrian government, for this delegation led by Prime Minister Dr Wael al-Halqi, gave specific emphasis on areas such as healthcare, asking Indian companies of possibilities to provide healthcare equipment along with rehabilitating damaged hospitals. The Syrians highlighted that they had lost more than 200 medics since the crisis began in March 2011. The Cosmos Group also said that it is ready to facilitate cancer medication to Syria at the earliest.

Media reports have continued to stream in of violence and destruction and both the current Syrian government and the various opposition groups, including many with affiliations with Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks, have killed thousands and displaced millions, creating adversarial conditions both humanitarian and economic. However, New Delhi has maintained that no military action should be sanctioned against Syria by the UNSC, and the conflict should be resolved via talks.

India's foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, represented New Delhi's stance at negotiations for a Syrian peace deal in Geneva in January. He said: "India has important stakes in the Syrian conflict," said Khurshid. "It shares deep historical and civilisational bonds with the wider West Asia and the Gulf region. We have substantial interests in the fields of trade and investment, diaspora, remittances, energy and security. Any spill over from the Syrian conflict has the potential of impacting negatively on our larger interests."

New Delhi is still maintaining a full diplomatic presence in Damascus.

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