New Delhi: Bashar al Assad, the Syrian president, arrives in New Delhi today on a five-day trip that will not only be his first visit to India, but also be the first one by a Syrian head of State in more than two decades. In interactions with sections of the Indian media, Assad has said that India could play a ''direct'' role in the ongoing talks between Syria and Israel as well as Israel and Palestine.
In an interview with Indian national daily, The Hindu, Assad said he hoped India could play a ''direct role'' in the ongoing peace processes between Syria and Israel, as well as between the Palestinians and Israel. ''That will make the region more stable and affect India itself in the long-run and the world at large, especially Asia,'' he told The Hindu.
Reversing its pro-Palestinian tilt since the late 1990s, India has by now developed close defence, security and intelligence links with Israel. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. Since then Israel has gone on to become India's second-largest weapons supplier after Russia.
According to Assad, India could participate in multi-party talks along with the United States, the European Union and others in a bid to stabilise the Middle East.
During his visit Assad will be visiting the southern city of Bangalore to have a look at India's IT capital.
According to Indian government officials, a bilateral agreement on the avoidance of double taxation and a memorandum of understanding on co-operation in agriculture and associated sectors, would likely be signed during Assad's visit.
The Syrian president is also scheduled to hold talks with a range of Indian leaders, including prime minister Manmohan Singh, the UPA chairperson, Sonia Gandhi and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a the deputy chairman of India's Planning Commission.
Interestingly, Assad will also pay a visit to the Indian Space and Research Organisation.