India’s Minister of State for External Affairs   Mobashar Jawed Akbar is visiting the Middle East from Aug. 17 to 23, including Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, and the trip is being interpreted by analysts here as a break away from an earlier policy to keep a distance.

“The visit is part of an effort to bring greater clarity in Indo-West Asian relations,” an official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

Akbar will be the first minister to visit Syria since the eruption of civil war in 2011.

“Having a large Muslim population here in India has so far kept officials away [from such visits], which could be interpreted as taking sides in a sectarian conflict in West Asia. However, Akbar’s visit signals a break from the stay-away policy,” says defense analyst Nitin Mehta.

“The visit is not strategic in nature but only an attempt to break away from the policy and understand first-hand what is happening on the ground,” adds Mehta.

Akbar is scheduled to visit Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem.

“India asked its minister to go ahead with the visit to Syria, as the US and Russia — once at loggerheads over Assad — are now jointly cooperating against the Islamic State,” dubbed IS, Mehta said.

“New Delhi has been avoiding to name IS in public statements, but now openly IS the biggest threat to peace in West Asia,” the MEA official said.

Source: Defence News