The last few days have witnessed rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, with threats of military action emanating from the US, Britain, and France, allegedly because the Syrian Army used chemical weapons in Douma, a town in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, that has just been liberated after a brutal occupation by Jihadi groups for more than five years.

Earlier, the Western media had been busy churning out stories about the alleged poisoning of Yulia Skripal, a Russian national, and her father, a former intelligence agent, in the British town of Salisbury a few weeks ago. Again, the usual suspects—the US, Britain, and France, joined by some other EU states—blamed Russia for the act, claiming that they had used Novichok, a military-grade nerve-agent.

The allegation was followed by large-scale expulsions of Russian diplomats by the US and its EU allies, which dutifully followed the instructions from Washington, without verifying whether the allegation was true.

As a matter of fact, so far no hard evidence has been furnished by Britain to prove that Russia was involved in the Skripal case. Britain has also violated international law by refusing Russia consular access to Yulia Skripal, who is now said to have recovered. There are scandalous reports that she and her father are likely to be given new identities and resettled in the US, so that what really happened in Salisbury may never be known. The British seem to have something to hide.

Likewise, the US and its allies have failed to offer any evidence for the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian Army in Douma. In fact, it has not even been conclusively established if a chemical attack indeed took place there. The UN body concerned with chemical weapons, the OPCW, has reached the site to conduct investigations.

It is also interesting that a few weeks ago the Chief of the Russian General Staff had stated publicly that the US and its allies will make exactly such an allegation, and use it as a pretext to launch a military attack on Damascus. He warned the US that if it attacked Damascus, Russia will respond robustly, taking out the platforms used in the attack.

Two features of the developments outlined above need to be noted : the demonisation of Russia; and the haste to attack Assad, on fabricated grounds. They reflect the manner in which the Western countries have used deceit and lies, and violated all norms of international law, to achieve their objectives of browbeating Russia and effecting regime change in Damascus.

Both these objectives are also linked, because Russia is the only major obstacle in the West’s game plan to overthrow Assad. The US, UK, and France—all with a sordid record of imperialism and colonialism—have descended on Russia and Syria like a pack of wolves.

They cannot stomach the fact that there is another military superpower that can challenge them. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, they have been accustomed to doing whatever they like, irrespective of international law or human rights, whose custodians they claim to be.

The list of their misdeeds is long: Yugoslavia (1999); Afghanistan (2001-present); Iraq (2003); Libya (2011); Syria (2011-present); Ukraine (2014-present); and Yemen (2015-present). They have killed millions of innocent civilians in these mindless wars, destroyed entire societies, and made tens of millions homeless. They have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity on a ghastly scale.

And they have done so with impunity. Their leaders who were responsible for committing these crimes roam free; there is nobody to hold them accountable. And so these countries commit more such crimes without paying any price.

Except that for the first time since 1991, there is one power—Russia—that is capable of making them think twice before they act recklessly. It remains to be seen what they do next in Syria. It is likely that they will avoid an all-out war with Russia that could escalate to the nuclear level, and settle for some cruise missile strikes [ like last year, informing the Russians in advance to avoid casualties ], which would allow them to save face.

It is also not clear what principle of international law gives these self-styled custodians of international morality the authority to attack Syria even if it were involved in a chemical attack in Douma [ which is highly unlikely because there was no motive for Syria to do so; its army had already defeated Jaish al-Islam, the Saudi-financed group which was negotiating the terms of its surrender ].

Only the UN Security Council has the authority to punish an errant state; the US and its cronies cannot take the law into their own hands which, in any case, are drenched in the blood of millions of innocent civilians.

We also do not see the same concern for human lives on the part of these countries when Israel mercilessly kills unarmed Palestinian civilians agitating for getting their land back, or preventing Israel from grabbing more land to build illegal settlements. And that despite several categorical UN Security Council resolutions on the subject, the enforcement of which is repeatedly vetoed by the US.

India is currently enjoying an extended honeymoon with the US, France, and Israel, all of which are deeply involved in the current imbroglio in Syria. Nothing wrong with that, except that India would do well to take a stand on Syria based strictly on facts [ clearly established beyond all doubt by the relevant UN agency ], and on the principles of respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states as enshrined in the UN Charter.

Some media reports suggest that the UK would like to condemn Russia’s role in the Skripal case in the forthcoming Commonwealth Summit in London. India should distance itself from any such project. Britain, and its allies, the US and France, represent the old, decaying, and imperialist order, which is moving towards the wrong side of history.

This is the time for India to uphold internationally accepted norms of behaviour and principles There are reports that Russian President Putin spoke on the phone to PM Modi on 12th April. This is perhaps a good opportunity for India to reduce the trust deficit with Russia, which seems to have crept into our bilateral relations in the last few years. The law of the jungle should not be allowed to prevail.

[ Niraj Srivastava is a former Ambassador of India who has served in several Indian missions around the world, including in Syria and the United States]