India offers full paid scholarships to 400 Syrian students

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India offers full paid scholarships to 400 Syrian studentsIndia has offered full paid scholarships to 400 Syrian University students to study at various universities across the country as Syria is getting back to normalcy after seven years of counter-ISIS operations.

ET has learnt that most Syrian students for under-graduate and post-graduate courses have arrived in India as part of the initiative. This decision, first of its kind, was designed and conceived to develop closer bonds between India and Syria as the Assad government has successfully thwarted the ISIS.

The Indian government provided the flight tickets to the students as a goodwill gesture. India has been offering capacity building courses to students and professionals of developing countries for over five decades now.

"This was a special gesture which was extended due to Indo-Syrian political ties. India has stepped up its engagement with Damascus as the situation is returning to normalcy in most parts of Syria," a person familiar with the West Asian developments told ET.

Delhi, which supported the Assad government in its fight against ISIS, is seeking to relaunch its economic and soft power engagement with Syria. High-level political engagements are in the offing between Delhi and Damascus over the next few months.

India has extended its strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, which on its part, has supported India on the Kashmir issue on all international forums, including Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and believes India has the full right to take action it deems fit following any cross-border strike.

Nearly 100 Indian companies participated at an industrial fair that was hosted in Damascus last year. Apollo International had moderinsed a steel plant under an Indian government’s Line of Credit (LoC) facility of $25 million even under difficult circumstances, while Bhel is executing a project in Syria under another LoC. Damascus is also willing to offer phosphate blocks to India in the Syrian desert zone.

The European Union has estimated that Syria would require $245 bn to revive its war-torn economy. India, it has been learnt, is eyeing major reconstruction projects across housing, power, textile and food sectors in Syria.

India had made two significant investments in Syria in the oil sector in the pre-conflict days. First, ONGC and IPR International signed an agreement in January 2004 for exploration of oil/natural gas in Block 24 near Deir-ez-Zour in northern Syria.

Second, ONGC India and CNPC China invested to jointly acquire 37% stake of PetroCanada in the Syrian Al Furat Petroleum Company. The conflict and subsequent sanctions have slowed down ONGC’s operations in Syria. A team of ONGC-Videsh visited Syria to assess the feasibility of projects under consideration.

India has also set up centres for IT excellence and biotechnology in Syria.