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Insights into Editorial: The other Quad: On virtual meet of Foreign Ministers of India, US, Israel and UAE

 

 

Context:

West Asia occupies an important position in international relations due to its geographical location and proximity to continents and countries South Asia, China, Central Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The virtual meet of the Foreign Ministers of India, the U.S., Israel and the UAE is a strong manifestation of the changes in West Asian geopolitics.

If Israel and the UAE did not even have formal diplomatic relations a year ago, their growing economic and strategic cooperation is opening up opportunities for other powers, including India.

Indian External Affairs, now in Israel, joined the quadrilateral conference after meeting his Israeli counterpart, where they had agreed to launch talks for a free trade agreement.

The four-nation meeting also points to India’s strategic desire to adopt a regional foreign policy strategy towards West Asia, transcending its bilateralism.

 

Brief about Abraham Accord:

  1. The Israel–UAE normalization agreement is officially called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement.
  2. It was initially agreed to in a joint statement by the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on August 13, 2020.
  3. The UAE thus became the third Arab country, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, to agree to formally normalize its relationship with Israel as well as the first Persian Gulf country to do so.
  4. Concurrently, Israel agreed to suspend plans for annexing parts of the West Bank.
  5. Full diplomatic ties established between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain which had a positive impact on the entire region.
  6. The deal buys UAE a lot of goodwill in the US, where its image has been tarnished by its involvement in the Yemen war.
  7. The agreement normalized what had long been informal but robust foreign relations between the two countries.
  8. The West Asia region is strategically significant due to its enormous energy resources, trade route links to different parts of the world.
  9. It is the world’s largest oil-producing region accounting for 34% of world production, 45% of crude oil exports and 48% of oil proven reserves.

 

India’s policy towards with West Asia:

  1. Over the years, India has built vibrant bilateral ties with all the countries in the grouping.
  2. It is a member of the Quad with the U.S., Australia and Japan, which have common concerns and shared interests on East Asia. Israel is one of India’s top defence suppliers.
  3. The UAE is vital for India’s energy security. The Gulf country, which hosts millions of Indian workers, has also shown interest to mediate between India and Pakistan.
  4. In the past, there were three pillars to India’s West Asia policythe Sunni Gulf monarchies, Israel and Iran.
  5. Now that the gulf between the Sunni kingdoms and Israel is being narrowed, especially after the Abraham Accords, the normalisation agreements signed between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain under the tutelage of the Trump administration, India faces fewer challenges to a regionalist approach.

 

India, Israel shares similar challenges from radicalism, terrorism:

  1. India and Israel share similar challenges to their societies from radicalism and terrorism apart from many other emerging developments on the geopolitical landscape
  2. India and Israel, two countries share values of democracy and pluralism. We also share some of our guiding civilizational philosophies: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in India, or the world is one family, and Tikun Olam in Israel, or heal the world.
  3. We also share similar challenges to our society from radicalism and terrorism, apart from many other emerging developments on the geopolitical landscape.
  4. India has been facing major threats emanating from across the border from Pakistan and Israel is also surrounded by hostile neighbours.
  5. India and Israel have a Joint Working Group on Counter-terrorism and the two countries also share real-time intelligence to deal with the menace.

 

Post Abraham Accords, signs of stability in West Asia:

  1. Reports have indicated a new quad post the Abraham accords being inked last year.
  2. In August 2020, Israel, the UAE and the US signed Abraham Accords. The accord helped Israel and the UAE normalise their ties.
  3. India had welcomed the agreement, saying it “has always supported peace and stability in West Asia which is our extended neighbourhood.”
  4. India and Israel elevated bilateral relations to a strategic partnership during the historic visit of PM Narendra Modi to Israel in July 2017.
  5. Since then, the relationship between the two countries has focused on expanding knowledge-based partnership, including collaboration in innovation and research.
  6. According to Indian spokespersons, India already has substantial ties with all of them.
  7. The grouping has no strategic value. Basically, they are exploring those areas they can work together, which mostly would be in the area of technology.
  8. While the more well-known ‘Quad’ had been formed with an eye on China, the four countries that met shared no similar strategic challenge in the region.

 

Way Ahead for India with West Asia:

India should also be mindful of the challenges in the region. The U.S. is clearly seeking to lessen its footprint here as part of its pivot to East Asia to tackle China’s rise, which is redrawing West Asia’s traditional equations.

India should be careful not to get sucked into the many conflicts of West Asia that could intensify amid growing regional rivalries.

While the Abraham Accords made it easier for India to find common ground with the Israelis and the Emiratis, the contradiction between this emerging bloc and Iran remains as intense as ever.

India, which sees itself aligned with the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific, faces deepening insecurities in continental Asia after the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

And it will have to work closely with countries such as Iran to deal with the challenges emanating from a post-American Afghanistan.

 

Conclusion:

The challenge before New Delhi is to retain a healthy relationship with Iran even as it seeks to build a stronger regional partnership with the U.S.-Israel-UAE bloc.

India should leverage its economy for a bigger opening in this region. Importantly, India can use its good offices to ensure that any future deal on a regional security framework gives adequate space to Iran.

There is a need to talk about of the strategic significance of such a India, the U.S., Israel and the UAE grouping, there are areas where it can deepen its engagement — trade, energy ties, fighting climate change and enhancing maritime security.