RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- INDIA & WEST ASIA – NEW FRONTIERS
India and Saudi Arabia inked over a dozen agreements in several key sectors including oil and gas, defence and civil aviation to bolster their ties as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held extensive talks with the Kingdom’s top leadership during which a Strategic Partnership Council was established to coordinate on important issues. Saudi Arabia has, for some time now, been looking for new friends in the East. The disappointing response of the United States after half of the kingdom’s oil production was knocked out by drone attacks last month, or when the West cornered Riyadh on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, has only driven it to look east. India is also achieving its strategic goals alongside trade with Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the bilateral ties between India and the UAE too have reached new heights. Having prospered for several decades, it has more recently advanced into a sterling partnership spanning multiple dimensions, with both countries firmly committed to expanding collaboration in new sectors. Not just Saudi and the UAE, the whole of West Asia is looking to engage with India and explore new frontiers.
Over the past several years, India has tried to reshape its engagement with the Middle East, a region that houses millions of Indians and is vital for its economic, energy, and strategic interests. The recent meetings with almost the major countries in the western Asia Israel, Iran, Gulf countries and India show that India is maintaining good relations with these countries.
Think west policy:
- It is the India’s policy outreach towards the Gulf. It suggests a new push towards more concrete strategic policies for West Asia.
- The interplay among these (Gulf) nations actually offers India with new avenues of cooperation other than traditional focus on energy and labour. ‘Act East’ would be matched with ‘Think West.’
- Close high level interaction has started now between India and West Asian countries.
- With the advent of the new millennium, there has been an extraordinary turnaround in the relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council (G.C.C.) countries and India.
- Collectively, the G.C.C. countries have become India’s preeminent oil and gas supplier and leading trade partner.
- Indians are the largest expatriate group in each of the countries with population of 9.5B . 3,050,000 Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia constituting the largest number of Indian passport holders abroad, followed by 2,800,000 in the U.A.E.
- There was no Indian government role in sending them to the region.
- No major power has the kind of people-to-people socio-cultural compatibility and socio-economic interdependence with countries of the Gulf region, in particular with G.C.C .countries that India has.
- India is very proud of being the world’s largest democracy but India believes strongly that it is not the business of foreign countries to impose forms of government on other countries; in fact, India believes that monarchies in G.C.C. countries are a factor of stability, fully in keeping with the customs, ethos and traditions of the Arabian Peninsula.
- The deadly terrorist attacks in November 2008 in Mumbai was a watershed — the G.C.C. countries finally recognized the potential dangers to the region of Pakistani-sponsored terrorism against India.
- Both view each other as investment destinations.
- However, since then in particular Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have provided excellent and expanding anti-terrorism
- Already excellent relations with the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have developed even further since Narendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister in May 2014.
- Now the level is reached where joint strategic council is formed.
- Saudi Arabia is modernizing their economy beyond oil and is looking for new partners.
- Now, we have the best trade relation with UAE and investment is going without any push from top.
- There is a strong and growing multifaceted strategic partnership between India and these countries, as sketched out in the many agreements they have forged in a wide variety of fields, ranging from energy, trade, and investment to counterterrorism and defense cooperation.
- India’s relations with Iraq and Iran are on the upswing as well
- Iraq’s economic relationship with India has been among Iraq’s top three global economic partnerships in recent years and is growing rapidly. It is now the second largest oil supplier to India.
- The Indo-Iranian economic relationship is also poised for a dramatic upsurge. On May 24, 2016, Prime Minister Modi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed a historic deal to develop the strategic port of Chabahar
- Sanctions which has been put by US on Iran has certainly impacted our relationship.
- It is telling, and in some ways remarkable, that the positive momentum in the development of India’s relations with its West Asian counterparts has been sustained despite the political turmoil and violence that has convulsed the region.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visits to the A.E., Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Qatar took place at a time when the wars in Syria and Yemen were at their peak and in which these countries were deeply involved, the leaders consciously did not allow this to adversely affect their bilateral relations.
- Qatar is an important source of natural gas to us nut it has its own problems with neighbours of GCC.
- Iraq Is the largest petrolem products importer for us.
- It is noteworthy that India’s relationships with the G.C.C. countries, Iran and Israel started growing simultaneously from the early 1990s and really took off, also simultaneously, in the new millennium.
- India’s flourishing relationship with Israel has not damaged its relations with other West Asian countries; on the contrary, the scale and scope of these relationships have been expanding.
- India has defence, agriculture ,science and technological relations with Israel at the same time it supports Palestinian cause as well. There is dehyphenation of the approach with Israel and Palestine which is welcomed by the countries.
- Jordan supplies us rock phosphate and is also a link for Palestine.
- Finally, there has not been a single Islamic State-related terrorist attack in India, as, tragically, there have been in much of the Arab and Muslim world, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and even in Europe.
Today, India is building infrastructure in Iran while also sharing intelligence with Saudi Arabia. And while the UAE is cooperating with India on maritime security, Israel is selling arms to India, supports Palestinian cause. So the same approach needs to continue and India needs to maintain good relations with these countries.
India’s equities in West Asia remain very high and have grown so as India’s engagements have grown which is very vital for Indian foreign policies, priorities and that why we are seeing such investment that Indian diplomacy is making with the region and that has paid rich dividends for Indian foreign policy.
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