War-torn Syria has seen a growing interest in India. The Syrian regime has recently invited India to participate in reconstruction efforts for the country by offering special incentives and tax exemptions.
Previously more than 30 private Indian companies presented proposals to participate in the Damascus International Trade Fair which will be held between Sep. 6-15, 2018, with 62 other participating states.
The head of the Indian delegation will be the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, who also is participating in a meeting of the Joint Business Council at the same time as the fair.
Syria’s Ambassador in India, Riyad Kamal Abbas, announced that India will have the biggest wing at the fair, with tax exemptions to Indian companies who want to participate in the fair.
India is one of the few countries that has maintained warm relations with the Syrian regime, and has been supportive of President Assad and his measures, despite the international sanctions on him.
The Syrian ambassador to India said: “Instead of Western companies, we will give opportunities, that will arise during the reconstruction, to friendly countries, such as India. Many Indian companies have announced their desire to work inside Syria. Last year, we started to issue special visas. There are about 400 Indian citizens working in Syria.”
According to a news report published by the PTI news agency, Syria has also asked the Indian government to restore Syrian airlines. Before the civil war broke out, Syrian airlines had been doing direct flights from New Delhi to Damascus three times per week.
According to a source in the Indian Foreign Affairs Ministry, instructions have been issued to officials to invite the largest possible number of Indian companies to take part in the Damascus International Trade Fair. Among the Indian participants are huge companies such as ONGC and BHEL, who will be representing the Indian giants of construction and engineering.
In the midst of the current Syrian criss, New Delhi maintained diplomatic communications with Damascus by keeping its embassy open under the leadership of the Indian charge d’affaires in the country. India has vowed to offer aid to Syria worth 4 billion dollars, which Damascus has not yet obtained.
Anchal Fawhra, expert in Middle East affairs, said: “India can play a positive and constructive role in Syria after the war. In 2016, Russia referred to India in relation to the reconstruction program in Syria. The Indian Foreign Ministry oversaw the matter, in order not to spark the ire of the United States, as a step like this could be fully in support of Russia. However the time has come because India is taking advantage of its good relations with Syria and not just to obtain contracts and projects, but to help and benefit the Syrian people as well.”
The Apollo International Company has recently agreed a project for a steel factory in Hama province and owned by the state worth 25 million dollars. In the coming days, the iron smelting factory will reach full production, with up to 300,000 metric tons of steel bars annually, compared to 70,000 before.
Some other projects are looking for a similar fate. For example, the ONGC Videsh company alongside a Chinese oil company obtained 37 percent of the Syrian al-Furat Petroleum Company, while the Indian company also won a bid to explore for oil and natural gas in Section 24 of Deir ez-Zor province, and the hope is that these investments can return to their pre-war state.
Securing investments remains the biggest source of worry for Indian companies operating in Syria, with security and safety issues and a lack of certainty posing as a great deterrent and huge obstacle on the path.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.