The US attack on Syria
Donald Trump has done what his predecessors refrained from doing: launching as many as 59 deadly Tomahawk missiles on Syria to destroy an airfield in retaliation of an alleged use of chemical weapons by the government of President Bashar al Assad, the permanent bête noire of all US administrations. It was a unilateral decision taken by Trump, without so much as an approval of the US Congress, not to speak of the United Nations which few US presidents had treated with respect whenever the world body refused to obey Washington’s diktat. Trump has chosen to make the US the self-appointed international policeman. This rash act by Trump has further antagonized Russia, China and Iran. A spokesperson of Vladimir Putin has said that the missile attack “will inflict major damage on US-Russia ties.”
India, getting into a tighter and tighter embrace with the US, has chosen to keep an eloquent silence on the missile attack on Syria. The unwillingness to condemn the attack is likely to antagonize the Arab world whose friendship India has assiduously cultivated, deepened and depended on. Russia, a traditional all-weather friend of India, has slowly been gravitating towards the China-Pakistan axis. An indication that India is unwilling to criticize US action even on an issue as serious as this and assert its own independent position will further alienate Russia and create doubts India. The US is an unreliable friend, if it is a friend at all. During the Kargil war of 1998, the US refused to sell India vital spare parts for its navy.
The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) has already committed India to provide the US the use of her seaports and airports in ‘conflict situations’. If Trump chooses to widen the area of conflict with Syria to overthrow Assad and impose a puppet regime in Damascus and seeks use of Indian facilities for this purpose, India will have to agree. This is not a conjecture but quite within the realm of possibility. In the Nehru and Indira years, India commanded the respect of the world by pursuing an independent foreign policy – the policy of non-alignment. All that has become old hat now. India is now openly in the US camp and cannot oppose or criticize US missile attack on a sovereign country But it is uncertain whether the US would help India if she has to defend herself against a foreign aggression mounted across the border. It’s a heads-you-win-tails-I-lose friendship.