NEW DELHI: The fast paced developments in West Asia with Russian President Vladimir Putin still in the drivers seat has the United States and the Nato countries agonising over the role of China. From the day the Russian military moved into Syria to fight the Islamic State, the unstated fear of China’s ‘boots on the ground’ support became part of the international media’s discourse. Many experts insisted that this was ‘imminent’ with articles and television reports even insisting that the Chinese military was “preparing” to move into Syria along with the Russians.

There was no indication at the time from Beijing supporting some of these alarmist claims.Exactly two months later---the Russians having moved into Syria on September 30---Chinese policy for the short term is fairly clear. Although the ‘watch out’ propaganda in the West has not entirely subsided.

1. Beijing is supportive of Syria and has voted in the United Nations in its favour. It is not in favour of US enforced regime change in Syria. And has been opposing this throughout.

2. It is worried about the Islamic State, more so as it has tried to stoke fires in China as well. And buys the Syrian argument of western powers creating and nurturing the IS. Last year IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had sent out a threat to China over the perceived oppression of the Muslim Uighur minority in the state of Xinjiang.

3. China is not against Russian intervention in Syria, although it has reserved the right to question military action as the solution. Chinese media carried fairly sympathetic reports based on interviews with the Syrian President Bashar al Assad recently who has praised President Putin and the Russians for realising the dangers inherent in the US and Nato’s support of the Islamic State.. Xinhua has been reporting the Russian intervention in a favourable light.

4. China remains officially in favour of a ‘hands off’ policy for the moment at least. It does not see military action as a solution, by Russia and most certainly the US. Experts put this down to the fact that Putin currently does not need any help and is in charge. China's foreign minister Wang Yi said at the UN Security Council session in New York: “The world cannot afford to stand by and look on with folded arms, but must also not arbitrarily interfere.”

5. Longer term, experts do not rule out a more proactive Chinese role, particularly if the US and Nato ratchet up a hostile response to the Russian military action.

6. And this proactive role will tip in support of Russia, no one has any doubt. Russia and China have been working for long to develop good and strong relations by ironing out issues through the medium of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.Putin has developed good relations with his Chinese counterparts as well, with this being reflected in common positions taken by both on issues concerning West Asia, more specifically Syria. Both countries have for instance vetoed UN resolutions seeking to bring Assad to the International Criminal Court.

7. Significantly Chinese netizens are supporting the Russian action full throttle.

Meanwhile, Putin has signed a decree imposing tough economic sanctions against Turkey following the downing of its Su-24 bomber by Turkey. China has opposed a possible tit for tat action by Russia, a ‘plane for a plane’ response even as it expressed strong sympathy for Russia. Reuters reported a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry as saying: “A Russian warplane has been shot down and a pilot killed – this is an unfortunate incident and we express sympathy.” It pointed out that retaliatory action would escalate the situation.

“The relevant parties should increase communication to avoid further escalating the situation. The international community should earnestly strengthen coordination and cooperation in the fight against terrorism to avoid this kind of incident from happening again,” added the ministry.

The economic sanctions is expected to hurt Turkey, more as Russians form the second largest number of tourists. In what will be a devastating move for Turkey, Russian Minister of Economic Development Aleksey Ulyukaev said the Turkish Stream project to deliver Russian natural gas to Turkey, and the construction of a nuclear power plant in the country could also be canceled.

The decree issued by the Kremlin is far reaching in its impact. For instance:

a) the import of certain products originating from Turkey will be temporarily banned or restricted.

b) A number of Turkish organizations operating in Russia will also be restricted.

c) Employers in Russia will be prohibited from hiring Turkish nationals for work starting January 1, 2016.

d) Charter flights between Russia and Turkey are now banned. Russian travel agencies have been advised to stop selling tours to Turkey, the Kremlin announced.

e) The government has also been tasked with enhancing security control at Russian ports in the Sea of Azov and Black Sea. The illegal presence and movement of Turkish vessels near to the sea ports must be prevented, the decree said.

f) Bringing Turkish products into Russia for personal use will not be restricted, the decree said.

g) The visa-free regime for Turkish nationals traveling to Russia will be suspended starting from 2016, the decree signed by the Russian leader says.It will not affect those who have residence permits, as well as Turkish diplomats working in Turkish embassies and consulates on the territory of Russia, and their families.

In a significant move that might have bearing on the play of geo-politics in the region, the US has now directed Turkey to close the borders and ensure there is no movement across. “The game has changed. Enough is enough. The border needs to be sealed,” a senior official in President Barack Obama’s administration told The Wall Street Journal, describing the tough message that Washington has sent to the Turkish government. “This is an international threat, and it’s coming out of Syria and it’s coming through Turkish territory.” In the US estimate at least 30000 Turkish troops will be required to close the border between Jarabulus on the Euphrates and the town of Kilis, further west in Turkey, according to WSJ. US intelligence agencies say that the stretch of frontier most commonly used by Islamic State is between Jarabulus, where the official border crossing has been closed, and the town of Cobanbey.