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India-Syria Bilateral Relations

A.        Political:

India and Syria enjoy friendly political relations based on historic and civilizational ties, experience of imperialism and of being colonized, a secular, nationalist and developmental orientation and similar perceptions on many international and regional issues and membership of NAM. India's traditional support for just Arab causes notably the Palestinian cause and for the return of the occupied Golan Heights to Syria is appreciated by Syrians. Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore, Nehru and Indira Gandhi are remembered with great respect. The relationship at the political level has always been good. Details of exchange of visits at HOS/HOG/EAM/MOS(EA) levels are given in the following chart :

Bilateral Visits at HOS/HOG/EAM/MOS (EA) Leve

From Syria to India

Sl.NoDignitaryDate / Period
01.President Dr. Bashar Al-AssadJune 2008
02.President Hafez Al Assad1978 & 1983
03.President Shukri Al Quwatli1957
04.Vice President, Mr. Zuhier Masharqa1991
05.Deputy PM Dr. Khalid RaadJuly 2000
06.Deputy PM & Foreign Minister Mr. Farouk Al-SharaAugust 2002
07.Deputy PM Dr. Abdullah DardariJanuary 2008
08.Foreign Minister Mr. Farouk Al-Shara1988
09.Foreign Minister Mr. Walid Al-MouallemAugust 2007
10.Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Farukh TahaApril 2006
11.Deputy Foreign Minister Dr.  Fayssal MekdadJuly-August 2011
12.Political and Media Adviser to President Bashar Al Assad, Dr. Bouthaina ShaabanMarch 2013
13.Mr. Walid Al-Mouallem, Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of Foreign Affairs and ExpatriatesJanuary 11-14, 2016

From India to Syria

Sl.NoDignitaryDate / Period
01.President  H.E. Prathibha Singh PatilNovember 2010
02.Prime Minister Shri A.B. VajpayeeNovember 2003
03.Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi1988
04.Prime Minister Pt. J.L. Nehru1957 & 1960
05.External Affairs Minister Shri A.B. Vajpayee1979
06.External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee1995
07.External Affairs Minister Shri Jaswant SinghJan/Feb 2001
08.External Affairs Minister Shri Yashwant SinhaAugust 2003
09.Minister of Commerce & Industry Shri Anand SharmaJune 2010
10.Minister of State for External Affairs1992
11.Minister of State for External Affairs Shri E. AhamedSeptember 2005
12.Minister of State for External Affairs Shri E. AhamedMarch 2008
13.Minister of State for External Affairs Shri M.J. AkbarAugust 2016

Hon’able Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee visited Syria in November 2003. 9 agreements in diverse fields were signed during the visit. Establishment of Centre for Biotechnology in Damascus with Indian technical assistance and a grant of US $ 1 million, and the announcement of a Line of Credit of US$25 million were the two most significant developments in the field of bilateral cooperation. President Bashar Al-Assad paid a state visit to India on 17-21 June 2008. He was accompanied by Mrs. Assad and several ministers including FM. Bilateral BIPPA and DTAA were signed during the visit and came into force in 2009.  A Work Plan on Cooperation in Agriculture was also signed during the visit. India's offers to set up an IT Center of Excellence and to carry out a feasibility study on utilisation of phosphate resources of Syria were accepted by Syria.

President HE Prathibha Singh Patil paid a state visit to Syria from 26-29 November 2010.  She was accompanied by Union Minister of State for Power Shri Bharatsinh Solanki, two Members of Parliament, senior officials and a large business delegation. This was the first Presidential visit from India to Syria and was a highly successful one. During the visit, an offer of credit line of $100 million was made by India to Syria. A contribution of 2 million Syrian Pounds was made to a Syrian NGO- AAMAL and over 1 million Syrian Pounds to Missionaries of Charity, Aleppo. The number of training slots offered to Syria under the ITEC Programme was increased from 45 to 90. Two MOU’s for cooperation in the field of Media and a Cultural Exchange Programme were signed during the visit. The India-Syria Joint Business Council was launched. Syria reiterated its support for India’s permanent membership of UNSC.

B.        Bilateral Relations during the current unrest:

Syria has deeply appreciated the support received from India and others members of BRICS at the UNSC.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the Syrian Prime Minister Wael Al Halki on the sidelines of the NAM Summit in Tehran in August 2012. During the meeting, PM Halki briefed PM Singh on the situation in Syria and PM Singh, on his part expressed concern over the continued violence in Syria and conveyed India’s support for a Syrian led political process to address the crisis. 

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Dr.  Fayssal Mekdad visited India in July-August, 2011 to thank India for its support to Syria during the ongoing unrest in the county. As part of the IBSA initiative, an IBSA delegation visited Syria in August 2011 and held meetings with President Assad and FM Mouallem. The delegation was briefed on the measures announced and initiated by the govt. to address the current unrest.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, Syria’s Presidential Media and Political Advisor visited India in March, 2013 and thanked India for its stand on the Syrian conflict.

Joint Secretary (West Asia and North Africa Division – Indian Ministry of External Affairs) Sandeep Kumar paid two visits to Damascus on December 2013 for talks on Syria-India bilateral relations and February 2015 for the Syria-India Foreign Office consultations.

The Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Walid Al Mouallem paid an official visit to India on January 11-14, 2016 during which he met the Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. The talks were about ways for boosting bilateral relation and other issues like the political solution for the crisis in Syria and combating terrorism.

Shri M.J. Akbar, Minister of State for External Affairs, visited Syria on 19-20 August, 2016. During the visit, he called on President, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and other dignitaries. The visit was to further India-Syria bilateral relations.   

C.        Economic & Commercial:

The First Meeting of the India Syria Joint Commission was held in New Delhi in January 2008.  The Second Session of the Joint Commission was held in Damascus in June 2010 under the co-chairmanship of the Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry and the Syrian Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade.

Bilateral cooperation projects that have been implemented or are being implemented in the last few years are:

i)          A US $ 25 million Line of Credit (LOC) was extended by India for the rehabilitation and modernization of the Hama Iron & Steel Plant. Apollo International won the contract for the project through an international tender earlier for the same project. The project is near completion. 

ii)         India has extended another Line of Credit (LOC) of US$ 100 million (first tranche of US$ 240 m credit) to part finance the extension of the Tishreen Power Plant.  Indian public sector company, BHEL has signed the contract in October 2009 for installing 2X200 MW power plants. BHEL has temporarily suspended work due to the ongoing crisis. The work is expected to be resumed in near future.

iii)        India-Syria Centre of Excellence in IT has been set up at Damascus with the assistance from Government of India. The Centre was inaugurated in December 2010 by the PM of Syria and was running successfully till courses were halted in 2012 due to the conditions prevailing in the country.

iv)        India assisted Syria in carrying out a feasibility study on augmentation of its phosphate production.  A consortium of Indian companies, comprising of PDIL, RITES and MECON has carried out the study. 

v)         India has extended US$ 1 million assistance for the setting up of Biotechnology Centre in Syria; the Centre was inaugurated during PM Vajpayee’s visit in 2003.

vi)        An MOU on Cooperation in Fertilizer sector was concluded in October 2010. The MOU will facilitate Indian involvement in the development of phosphatic fertilizer sector in Syria.

vii)       India has two significant investments in Syria in the oil sector. Firstly, an agreement signed in January 2004 between ONGC and IPR International for exploration of oil/natural gas in Block 24 near Deir-ez-Zour in northern Syria.  Secondly, investment by ONGC India and CNPC China to jointly acquire the 37% stake of PetroCanada in the Syrian Al Furat Petroleum Company. OVL is currently facing difficulties in its operations due to the sanctions imposed by US & EU on the Syrian oil sector.

viii)      Himalaya Herbals has a joint venture providing technical know-how and materials for manufacture and marketing of herbal drugs and cosmetics in Syria.

ix)        Mahindra & Mahindra has signed a 10 year contract with M/s Al Furat Tractor Company for supply of tractors with a provision for joint venture assembly in the future that could amount to over Euro 30 million.

Bilateral Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and the Bilateral Investment Promotion & Protection Agreement have been signed in June 2008 during the visit of President Bashar Al Assad to India and have come into force from 2009. An MOU for cooperation in agriculture and allied sectors has been signed. The MOU provides for a Work Plan and a Working Group. The Work Plan is in place and has been renewed up to November 2011.

Syria-India Joint Business Council (JBC) was inaugurated in November, 2010 during the visit of Presidential visit. The JBC is headed by Mr. V.R.S. Natarajan, CMD, BEML from the Indian side and Mr. Ali Mehran Khwanda of Khwanda Group from the Syrian side.

Bilateral Trade:                                                                                                                                           (Figures in US$ millions)




* includes onetime export of $ 316mn USD

Major commodities of Export to Syria

Textiles and yarn, petroleum products, transport equipment, machinery & instruments, drugs, pharmaceuticals & fine chemicals.

Major commodities of Import from Syria

Petroleum, crude & products and minerals, machinery except electric & electronic, leather, pearls, precious and semi-precious stones.

D.        Cultural Relations:

India features as an influence in Syrian Arab culture historically through the Silk Route and in particular through the adaptation of the Panchatantra into the Arabic ‘Kalila wa Dumna’. More recent influences have been Tagore and the eminent Syrian poet and Ambassador to India, Omar Abu Rishesh. The Cultural Exchange Programme, in effect since 1975, provides the framework for bilateral cooperation. A number of cultural delegations from India have visited Syria and vice versa, under the programme. The Executive Programme for Cultural Cooperation was last renewed in November 2010 for the year 2010-13. Literary exchanges between the Arab Writers Union of Syria and the Sahitya Akademi, through an MOU signed in 2003, has led to translations of works of Syrian and Indian writers and regular exchange of delegations between Sahitya Akademi and Arab Writers Union.

E.        Indian Community:

The size of the Indian community in Syria shrunk significantly due to the ongoing crisis. Number of Indians in Syria is about 100.

December 2016

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