India has a growing role in addressing terrorism in the world, Bashar-al-Assad, Syrian president told visiting Indian minister MJ Akbar, who opened India’s outreach to the troubled Arab country after years. With IS and related terror groups on the rise, India and Syria agreed to step up security and intelligence consultations.

As India stretches outwards towards West Asia, engaging Syria is essential to understanding the jihadist storms sweeping through the region. India has stayed away from the unfolding mess here, given the fact that the conflict here is a mesh of international jihad, sectarian warfare and regional power rivalry with a humanitarian crisis and US, Russian involvement.

But while India could afford to keep a distance from these regions, it can no longer ignore them, and sooner rather than later India will have to engage with the problems there.

Akbar told Assad India was interested in helping Syria with reconstruction – although it will be difficult for outsiders to get in there until the terror threat is eliminated, and that is still a long way off. MEA sources said, Assad invited India to play an active role in the reconstruction of the Syrian economy.

Reinforcing “faith equality” both agreed on secularism. Syria currently is at the heart of the most bitter sectarian conflict, which is tearing the region apart.

Security conversations with Syria is crucial for India which is also looking at getting intelligence on Indians joining IS or other terror groups. In addition, India would like some information on the 39 Indians who have apparently been in IS captivity for over a year but with no information of whether they are alive.

India’s sources of information in that region are few – actually limited to some old Palestinian informants. There is little credible on-the-ground assessment of the situation.

In the past couple fo days, India has engaged both Turkey and Syria and Lebanon.The Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was here last week to meet Sushma Swaraj.

According to MEA officials, the two countries worked out a roadmap for cooperation between the two countries, including “regular exchanges at the political and official level to discuss bilateral matters as well as important global and regional issues of mutual concern.”

Source: ET