The chemical weapons window

India has so far been reticent to enter the Syria debate despite the debilitating economic impact of a possible US strike, especially on India's oil import bill. In many ways, Indian diplomacy has come to believe that there is little it can do in a fight where its opinion may count for little given that it's no longer a member of the UN Security Council.

In fact, this guarded stance is quite in line with India's general attitude towards such conflicts beyond its immediate geography. And in reality, this may, perhaps, be a more pragmatic line as unlike the past, India no longer wants to take normative positions that could negatively impact its relations with bigger powers. Simply put, why end up taking sides if it can be avoided?

But at the same time, it's important to make a distinction between taking moral positions for the sake of international grandstanding and those which are congruent to a country's national interest. And here is where the Russian proposal, which Damascus has agreed in-principle, to have Syria give up its chemical weapons provides India that opportunity.

How? India is among the founder signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention. It destroyed its stockpile and became one of three countries in the world to declare that it does not have chemical weapons. In fact, the US and Russia are yet to do away with their stocks. This is one area, where India's non-proliferation credentials are impeccable enough to take a stronger position in the interest of resolving the current crisis after the chemical attack in Syria.

In other words, India should go beyond just termig this proposal as a "positive development", which has even got the US interested, but also proactively push it further given its own commitment against chemical weapons. Until now, India was caught between this commitment and its larger principle against unilateral military intervention.

... contd.

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