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In an ‘innocent mistake’,Cameron said India blames Assad for chemical attack

India has raised the issue through diplomatic channels with British authorities.

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi | Published: September 3, 2013 1:58:41 am

British Prime Minister David Cameron made a “mistake” in his statement on Syria in the House of Commons last Thursday when he named India among the countries which had concluded that the “finger of blame” for the deadly chemical attack points to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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In doing so,he sparked off a diplomatic incident because Cameron,contrary to his claim,had not spoken to any leader in India on the issue. A surprised India,which has not taken a position on who is to blame for the attack,took serious note of the misrepresentation and raised it Monday through diplomatic channels with British authorities in London and Delhi.

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Reached for comment,British High Commission sources told The Indian Express that this was an “innocent mistake” which had crept in while drafting the statement. “These things happen at a clerical level. While we have been in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs on the Syria issue,they never said anything about who was behind the attack,” they added.

Speaking during an emergency session of the House of Commons to debate Syria,Cameron brought up India while attacking the opposition’s motion on the issue,arguing that it fell way short of condemning Assad and holding him responsible for the chemical attack.“I believe that the opposition motion is deficient in two vital respects. First,it refers to the deaths on 21 August but does not in any way refer to the fact that they were caused by chemical weapons. That fact is accepted by almost everyone across the world,and for the house to ignore it would send a very bad message to the world,” he said.

“Secondly,in no way does the opposition motion even begin to point the finger of blame at President Assad. That is at odds with what has been said by NATO,President Obama and every European and regional leader I have spoken to; by the governments of Australia,Canada,Turkey and India,to name but a few; and by the whole Arab League,” he went on to add.

According to government insiders,Cameron has not spoken to any Indian leader on the Syrian issue after the chemical attack. When asked,British High Commission sources clarified that while Cameron may not have spoken personally,the two governments had been in touch at the operational level between officials. However,New Delhi always favoured a UN-led effort in these conversations.

For the record,the Indian line so far has been quite watchful and this was put out by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid Saturday. “India is committed to the UN as the best and only way to of addressing conflict situations. When UN acts,we are willing to take decisions that are adverse to our friends as well. So,we would certainly support a UN-led process. It is difficult for us to say that we are willing to go beyond UN,” he said.

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