Will China as a ‘new-actor’ to ‘arm’ Syria against Israel imbalance the world polity?

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Chinese president Xi Jinping and Syrian president Bashar Hafez al-Assad .

By Haider Abbas

There have been reportedly ‘alarm-bells’ ringing in Israel as it is learnt, as per Israel Hayom on August 1,   that China is now to forward its military-aid to the war torn Syria, which has been at odds with Israel since the last seven decades. Syria has never accepted Israel as yet, and since, around a decade has been reeling under a civil-war, after US had brought doom to post-Saddam Iraq and post-Ghaddafi’s Libya. Syria could withstand the US onslaught only due to Russian and Iranian support, which has irked Saudi Arabia, US and Israel alike. There is no denying the fact that Israel has long been the extension of US interests in the whole Arabian Peninsula. The July visit of US President Joseph Biden, to Middle East, raised the same fear of US, Saudi Arabia and Israel coming together to contain Iran. Israel accuses Iran of nuclear ambitions and Saudi Arabia of expansionism.

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Syria has been the theatre of world powers and was to have been long dismembered had Russia not stepped into, towards which US had to cut a sorry-figure, Russia also made-merry when US had to retreat from its 20 years of disastrous war from Afghanistan, but what has added an altogether new dynamic, into this Syrian-quagmire, is the actor of China, which does not see ‘very-good’ into with Israel, has a conflict with US on probably every-front, is friendly with Russia in its confluence-of-interests against US, is a friend of Iran, which is the worst bête noir of US, apart from gearing to meet US if US is to support Taiwan against China.

The constant presence of Russia into the back of Syria worked as a bulwark for China, and it is in this background, it can well be understood that Russia made China invest in Syria to the tune of 135.7 billion USD, by 2019, as per China’s Ministry of Commerce, reported Global Times  on Jan 13, 2022, which is a ‘whopping-double’ the amount which China has reportedly invested into its premier project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor with Pakistan.  China has also already entered into a 25 years 400 billion USD ‘market-and-military’ agreement with Iran.

China’s presence has been there into building Syria’s infrastructure but now China is to provide military-aid, which Israel finds is to “fill current gaps in Syria’s military communications network” as Israel ‘has indications that Chinese experts in recent months visited Syrian military installations that were damaged heavily during the civil war’. Israel believes that China would now provide facilities to rebuild the Syrian army by “bringing thousands of workers to complete the work in the shortest time.” The big question is why is China bent to antagonize Israel? Perhaps, the answer lies into the way Israel humiliated China, during US President Donald Trump era, and had shown the door from investing into Israel’s largest desalination water plant, apart from investments into Israel IT and Ports industry. US nibbled Israel to thwart away from China and made the honeymoon of around 30 years came to an abrupt end, reported Sup China on May 20, 2022.

The war on Ukraine led by Russia is an altogether new dynamic added to the already crippled world, particularly in post-DOVIC-19 era, and it is nothing short of something unprecedented, that Russian President Vladimir Putin, visited Iran, almost immediately after Biden’s visit to Middle-East, as a quid pro quo to US, to signal that Russia would not see any unbalance in the world polity, as US and Israel want the shifting-of-war-theatre from Ukraine to Middle-East! Iran stood by Russia and called that if Russia was not to defend itself it was to have been attacked by NATO through Ukraine. What mattered here also was the presence of Turkish President Taiyyip Erdogan, to allay the US policies to resurrect the ‘Kurdish movement for statehood’ from inside Turkey as well as from Iran. Russia is clearly taking lead to blunt the US overtures in the Middle-East region, with of course, China in its togetherness.

The China entry into Syria is what India needs to look-at, ‘very closely’, as India, also has long standing disputes with China, and has accordingly, shifted its weight towards US, particularly after BECA, even at the cost of Russia, in what may be understood as a paradigm shift in India’s foreign policy.  No wonder Russia is averse to India moving towards US led QUAD, which China/Russia are extremely loathsome about, as QUAD is to be a conglomerate particularly against China and pro-Taiwan, which China is desperate to reclaim. China has already put its military on ‘alert’ as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is on her tour to Taiwan, which has made China and Russia accuse US of brazen provocation!

India needs utter caution, in this fast changing world scenario, as Taiwan may see some short-war with China, and if China is to strengthen Syria, it will not ‘go-well’ at all with Israel, which is the only friend which India can acclaim as it has been Israel, with its robust and ideological support to have come to the side of India, when India was facing a two-front war threat from China and Pakistan.

How this new Syrian ‘trigger-point’ find its outcome? As Israeli war-planes pound on Syrian installations as their sweet-will, but now with China to provide its communication-equipment for intelligence-gathering to Syria, is surely to make a ‘power-balance’ between the two states engaged in border-disputes since long. Israel has always wanted Syria to collapse but with China/Russia on Syrian side, it will prevent it from being destabilized as Syria has also been helpful to Russia too, by sending its troops to fight from the Russian side against Ukraine. Russia-China are therefore to stand by Syria which means ‘throwing’ a new challenge to US and Israel in the whole Middle-east region, with Iran as a bulwark behind Syria.

It is in this broader geo-political game that India will need to ‘balance its act’ as it had recently made an agreement in cyber-security with Israel (2020)  and any imbalance between Syria and Israel will have an impact on India, in its outreach to Israel as India is the same locked with China in border conflicts. How will China-US splurge over Taiwan is for the world to see? But if it also spills, between Syria-Israel, or between China-India, the world would stand on a very precarious situation, on a brink of an impending nuclear war and towards the ultimate collapse, as there is no one yet to anyhow contain, the already raging Russia-Ukraine war. 

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The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on politics.

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