In a significant outreach, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will visit Syria from July 12 to 13, the Ministry of External Affairs said in an announcement. The visit comes five months after India launched Operation Dost to send relief materials and assistance to Syria and Turkey after both the countries were hit by a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 6.

“During the visit, MoS Muraleedharan is likely to meet the Syrian leadership in the capital Damascus for wide-ranging discussions. He will also interact with a group of Syrian students who have studied or are proceeding to study in India under Govt of India’s scholarship scheme,” the official statement declared.

Operation Dost

External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar launched Operation Dost on February 8, hours after the earthquake jolted the region. Syria had been dealing with civil discord and ISIS terrorism for more than a decade. The internal troubles had just about subsided when the natural calamity took place. Mr Jaishankar had at the time, said that India would support Syria as Delhi’s policy is of friendship towards all. 
“Every day we see ups and down in the geopolitical situation but India has stable relations with countries. As per our policy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – India stands forever for humanity,” Mr Jaishankar had said while launching Operation Dost. Within 72 hours , India transported nearly six tonnes of medicines and other emergency medical equipment to Syria as part of the relief initiative. India and Syria have increased diplomatic exchanges over the last one year and Foreign Minister Faysal Mekdad of Damascus visited Delhi in November 2022.
Mr Muraleedharan’s visit is the first from the Indian side in seven years and comes after Syria rejoined the Arab League in May this year which marked reconciliation between the war-torn country and Saudi Arabia.

Syria’s return to League

Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad attended the Arab League summit in Jeddah on May 18. The return of Syria into the Arab League is viewed as a vindication of the position that President Assad had taken in the war against terrorism in the early part of the war in 2011-’12. The extremist forces that emerged in the battlefield of Syria also affected the Indian diaspora in the region as security of Indian nurses and professionals was a major concern.
The former Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar visited Syria in 2016 to secure the support of Damascus to find Indians who were abducted by ISIS in Iraq. India was one of the countries that did not cut diplomatic relations with Syria during the war. The Indian embassy remained operational at the peak of the civil war that ravaged large parts of Syria, the External Affairs Ministry said. 
“A large number of students, businessmen and patients travel to India. We have contributed immensely to capacity building amongst Syrian youth over the years through scholarship schemes and training courses under the flagship ITEC programme,” the MEA said on Tuesday.


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