India and West-Asia

India’s policy towards West Asia seems to follow no definite approach despite the civilizational links, economic relations (dependence on crude oil supply) and presence of thousands of Indian emigrants in the region. India prefers to have relations bilaterally rather than on a regional basis .

India’s West Asia policy has seen a focus of change from actors who constituted the core of its West Asia policy during much of Cold War to others,a change more of players than playbook. Initially Egypt (due to NAM connection),Palestine (India’s support for separate state Palestine) and Iraq were central to India’s policy.However with time Iran ,Saudi Arabia and Israel have become the key pillars of India’s West Asia policy.


Areas of Cooperation


  • 70 per cent of India’s imported energy needs come from West Asia and this dependence will

only increase as the Indian economy continues to grow at 8 per cent or more.


Indian Diaspora

  • 11 million Indians working in West Asia. Therefore, stability in the region is high on India’s core


  • India is the largest recipient of foreign remittances from West Asia.


Counter Terrorism and Radicalization

  • This has been another major area of cooperation. Considering the geographical proximity of West Asia , close cooperation with West Asia is important to prevent spread of terror outfits like Islamic State and  associated radical ideology into India.


Gate way to Central Asia :

  • West Asia is gate way to land locked and energy rich Central Asian region


Defence Cooperation

  • India has been deepening defence cooperation with countries like United Arab Emirates, Oman.
  • India and Oman conduct regular bilateral exercises between their forces and Oman also

provides refuelling facility to Indian ships and aircraft.

  • India recently has secured access to key strategic Port of Duqm in Oman in Arabian Sea for military use and logistical support. It will further expand India’s footprint in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).
  • This will strengthen India’s maritime strategy to counter Chinese influence and activities in the region.
  • India and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to deepen their defence cooperation in a range of areas including military-to-military exchanges, training of personnel and defence production.



Political Instability

  • The security situation in West Asia has been continuously deteriorating ever since the onset of the Arab Spring in December 2010.
  • The internal security situation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen has gone from bad to worse. The

regional powers continue to fight proxy wars on sectarian lines, pumping huge amount of money and weapons to bolster their favoured groups.

  • The involvement of extra-regional players such as the USA and Russia in the internal conflicts in

West Asia (Syria )has further aggravated the situation.



  • Terrorism has emerged as the biggest security threat in the region. The rise of the Islamic State and other terror groups has created threat to the Indian diaspora residing in West Asia.
  • Also radicalization of Indian youth and they joining Islamic State  has been another major problem


SaudiIranIsrael rivalry:

  • The rivalry has been destabilizing West Asia and influencing West Asian geopolitics.The recent withdrawal of US from JCPOA can be seen through the prism of this rivalry.
  • It will be a difficult task for India to continue to balance its relations with all three countries without antagonizing any of them


India– Israel close ties

  • India’s deepening defence and strategic relations with Israel has not gone down well with
  • Iran,which has started to play its China and Pakistan card to extract more from India.


India-Iran relations span millennia marked by meaningful interactions. The two countries shared a border till 1947 and share several common features in their language, culture and traditions. India and Iran established diplomatic links on March 15, 1950.

In   1953, Iran was ruled under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. During much of the Cold War period, relations between the India and the Iran suffered due to different political interests ,primarily due to non- aligned tactic of India towards the US ,which enjoyed close ties with the Iran. Also India was leaning more towards USSR ,especially after the conclusion of Treaty Of Peace and Friendship in 1971

After Cold War , relations have been improving. Iran and India closely cooperated in supporting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan against the Taliban in the 1990s.

Iran has emerged as India’s most viable transit option for trade with Central Asia and Russia. India, Russia and Iran signed an agreement in 2000 for sending Indian Cargo to Russia via Iran through a ‘North-South Corridor’.

But in 2006, India voted against Iran over its clandestine nuclear programme at International Atomic Energy Agency .Due to US pressure India slashed Oil imports by 40 percent and backed off from pipeline project   bringing gas via Pakistan.

This was a huge setback to India-Iran relations. However , relations were back on track in 2008 when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came  to India, and India promised an independent  policy towards Iran and not yield to US pressure.

India has worked hard to maintain its ties with Iran when there were international sanctions on Iran from all sides. Bilateral trade with Iran suffered due to banking and insurance censures.

Prime Minister   Modi’s historic visit to Iran in 2016   led to enhanced focus on increasing connectivity,trade,investment and enegy partnership. India, Afghanistan and Iran signed a trilateral trade treaty for developing the port project and beyond.

In 2015, India liberalized its visa policy for Iran and struck it off the prior referral category (PRC) of countries. Iran can be the key supporter of India in the wake of the growing influence of terror groups such as the Islamic State.

In April 2016, India’s Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas visited Iran. India and Iran sealed the terms to develop the gas project Farzad B in the Persian Gulf. Farzad-B field was discovered by Indian explorers in 2012.

India lined up USD 20 billion as investment in oil & gas, petrochemical and fertilizer projects in Iran. In May 2016, PM Modi visited to Iran, where the historic Chabahar port agreement was signed which

is a contract for the development and operation of the port for 10 years of 2 terminals and 5 berths. There was a MoU on provision of services by Indian Railways, including financing $1.6 billion, for Chabahar-Zahedan railway line.

India will invest in setting up industries from aluminum to urea plants in Chabahar.


Areas of Cooperation


  • India-Iran commercial ties have traditionally been dominated by Indian import of Iranian crude oil.
  • Iran has been one of the top source of crude oil for India. India can decrease the dependence on Saudi for oil and Iran oil is comparatively cheap
  • Indian firms are willing to invest upto $20 billion in Iran’s energy sector and setup petrochemical and fertilizer plants in Chabahar Special Economic Zone.
  • Iran has the world’s second-largest reserves of natural gas, yet it is not a major exporter.The proposed Iran-Oman-India undersea gas pipeline can help India move towards clean energy



  • Infrastructure projects like Chahbahar Port, International North South Transport Corridor will help India to bypass the overland route through Pakistan  and help in better trade relations with West and Central Asia.
    • Chabahar Port

o  lies in the Persian Gulf in Iran and will help India in expanding its maritime commerce in the region

o  will allow India to bypass Pakistan to transport goods to Afghanistan and Central Asia using a sea-land route


  • International North South Corridor

o A ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia

o aims to provide the shortest multi-model transportation route linking the Indian

Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via Iran and St Petersburg.

o  The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan.



  • India and Iran both face the threat of terrorism by outfits like Al-Qaeda amd Islamic State.Hence counter terrorism



  • Irans Proximity to China

o  Iran is a part of China’s ambitious Belt And Road initiative.This might come in conflict with India’s interests in Iran ,considering  the fact that India has been vociferously opposing China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

  • USA Sanctions on Iran

o  With USA pulling out of   Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and imposing sanctions on Iran , it will be difficult for India to continue importing Oil and Natural gas from Iran and also to operationalise the Chabahar Port  in a full fledged manner.

  • Trustworthiness of Iran as a reliable partner

o  Iran despite displaying warmth towards India, has been a cantankerous partner,often acting against the interests of India.Some such instances are

▪   On the issue of Kashmir, Iran has been a vocal supporter of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir.

▪     India’s ONGC Videsh Limited played a crucial role in discovering the potential of Farzad B gas fields in Iran in 2008 .Despite 10 years of discovery ,Iran has not given the rights to develop the gas field to ONGC Videsh Limited.Rather it has signed an initial pact with  Russia’s Gazprom for the purpose.

Way Forward:

  • Maintain India’s strategic autonomy: It’s high time that India strategically aligns with both countries on an autonomous and need based approach. For this, India has to take bold steps. As a leading power it cannot buckle under pressure of any country.
  • Alternate payment mode: Short term course can be developing alternate mode of payment to Iran and promoting flexibility in investment mode.
  • Carrying out high level talks with US about the security and strategic concerns of India vis-àvis China.
  • The near-term developments in its neighbourhood are a priority for Tehran even as India tries to find a balance with his stated preference to develop closer ties with both the U.S. and Israel.
  • India and Iran are looking to swiftly conclude a preferential trade agreement and a bilateral investment treaty.
  • Newly relaxed visa norms announced by Iran in addition to India’s proposal for Indian businesses to invest in rupees in Iran are all moves in the right direction.
  • Nonetheless, they may be insufficient to cement commercial ties if USA sanctions do return
  • India should give its full support for the effective implementation of the JCPOA. Only successful implementation of the JCPOA over a period of time can create the political space for additional negotiations.
  • Both the nations can take leverage of their historical and civilizational relations to steer ties so much. The visit proved to be a much-needed reality check to the India-Iran partnership


Chahbahar Port

Chahbahar, which is located 72 kilometres west of Pakistan’s Gwadar port, holds immense strategic and economic significance for India. Chahbahar port is a seaport located in southeastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman. It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port and consists of two ports Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti and ten berths. The US recognised the importance of Chahbahar and exempted Indian firms involved in the port from sanctions

Recently, Iran has decided to proceed with the Chahbahar rail line construction on its own, citing delays from the Indian side in beginning and funding the project. The development of the port, and the link overland through Iran to the Afghan border, was supposed to be India’s answer to Pakistan’s denial of the trading route through Wagah to Khyber Pass into Afghanistan and beyond, to Central Asia.


Significance of the port for India:

Geo-strategic Importance:

  • Chahbahar Port is of particular significance to India because of its location as it is the only oceanic port of Iran that can be accessed from the western coast of India bypassing Pakistan.
  • In short, it is an unobtrusive gateway to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Pakistan denies overland transit facility to India through its soil and India’s commerce with Afghanistan and Central Asia gets hampered.
  • Herein lays the elevated strategic importance of Chahbahar port for India as it can open new frontiers of engagement with the region bringing in shared prosperity.
  • Chahbahar port can be used by India to launch humanitarian operations in Afghanistan and also in Horn of Africa regions.
  • The Zaranj-Delaram highway constructed by India can be an access point to four major cities in Afghanistan namely Kabul, Heart, Kandahar, and Mazar-e-sharif which can be accessed via the Garland highway in Afghanistan.
  • Keeping this geostrategic significance India s transport minister has termed the port as ‘a gateway to golden opportunities’.

Geo-Political Importance:

  • Chabahar’s geopolitical significance rises considerably as it is also a gateway to INSTC (International North-south Transport Corridor).
  • It will boost India’s presence in the region and hence this strategic project has been pursued by India in the right earnest.
  • Chahbahar port will also act as a check for increasing Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea as China is heavily involved in the construction of the Gwadar, a deep sea port in the Balochistan area of Pakistan. The location of Chahbahar and Gwadar ports in close vicinity of each other underlines the intense competition between India and China in the region with Pakistan siding with the Chinese. India’s spirited efforts in development of Chahbahar port underscores the point that on the strategic chessboard of geopolitical competition India is not to be left far behind.
  • The chances of an extension of ties to Indian Iran military cooperation is also possible and will be highly beneficial to counter Chinese navy in the Indian ocean too.


Geo-Economic Importance:

  • Costs of imports of products like iron ore, oil, sugar, and rice to India will be significantly lowered. A study commissioned by the Ministry of Commerce has found that cost of imports via Chahbahar port along with INSTC is 30% cheaper than those via Mediterranean-Suez route.
  • Economic ties between India and Afghanistan which were in limbo due to political uncertainty will significantly improve once Chahbahar is completely operationalized. India will link Chahbahar port to Zaranj-Delaram highway in Afghanistan and is keen on developing a rail link there with the cooperation of Iran.
  • India will also be developing various industries (aluminum and urea plants) in the Chahbahar Economic Zone.


Reasons for Iran dropping India:

  • Despite several site visits by IRCON engineers and preparations by Iranian railways, India never began the work, worrying that it could attract sanctions by the USA.
  • India has already zeroed out its oil imports from Iran due to USA sanctions.
  • The USA had provided a sanctions waiver for the Chahbahar port and the rail line but it was difficult to find equipment suppliers and partners due to worries of being targeted by the USA.
  • The ‘Comprehensive Plan for Cooperation between Iran and China’ which is a 25-year and USD 400 billion strategic partnership deal is another reason.
  • Both nations are close to finalising the deal, which will include Chinese involvement in Chabahar’s duty-free zone, an oil refinery nearby and possibly a larger role in Chahbahar port as well.
  • The cooperation will extend from investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and upgrading energy and transport facilities, to refurbishing ports, refineries and other installations and will commit Iranian oil and gas supplies to China during that period.
  • Iran proposed a tie-up between the Chinese-run Pakistani port at Gwadar and Chahbahar in 2019 and offered interests to China in the Bandar-e-Jask port 350 km away from Chahbahar, as well as in the Chahbahar duty-free zone.

Way forward

  • It will be important to operationalise the port quickly and smoothen the route to Afghanistan.
  • Keeping timelines and delivery of New Delhi’s commitments will be key to the port becoming a

regional hub for transit trade, steel and petrochemicals.

  • It will be necessary to encourage Afghan companies to use the route more.
  • Given all the competing interests over Chahbahar, it will require sustained and nuanced diplomacy to stay ahead in this game.
  • As an emerging power, India cannot remain confined to South Asia and a peaceful extended neighbourhood (Iran-Afghanistan) is not only good for trade and energy security but also plays a vital role in India’s aspirations of becoming a superpower.



India and United Arab Emirates (UAE) enjoy strong bonds of friendship based on age-old cultural, religious and economic ties between the two nations


Bilateral Relations:

Around 3 million Indians are living harmoniously in the UAE. As India seeks to enhance economic engagement and deepen security cooperation with the Gulf, it finds a willing partner in the UAE. As UAE ‘Look[s] East’ to find partners for its economic growth and with security concerns emanating from turmoil in West Asia and growing threat from terrorism, it finds a natural partner in India.


UAE has a special place due to its business-friendly atmosphere, willingness to invest in the Indian economy and its important role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.


Establishing an Enduring Link:

  • The UAE occupies a key place in India’s West Asia policy.
  • The high-level visit from both sides has given a new impetus to this partnership.
  • In 2017 the two sides signed the agreement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).


Reasons for UAE’s tilt towards India:

  • Geopolitical conditions as Iran is threatening continuously to close the Strait of Hormuz in case there is a conflict with Saudi Arabia or US. This will adversely affect UAE as well.
  • UAE saw Pakistan as a partner and incorporated a deep economic and security relationship with it. But in the present day, Pakistan does not seem to be of much help to UAE. Already facing internal issues, Pakistan failed to come to the aid of Saudi Arabia in its war against Iran-backed rebels in Yemen and has been unable to curb jihadists operating from its land across West Asia.
  • India is an important destination for oil and energy purchase as the US is on the way of becoming hydrocarbon independent. UAE’s massive sovereign wealth funds can act as a great resource in the development of infrastructure in India.
  • There has been a rising convergence between India and UAE on the terror issue and both the countries talked of the need to combat terror groups without any discrimination given the fact that five UAE diplomats were killed in an attack in Kandahar in Afghanistan.
  • Countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen are suffering from violent conflicts. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has not produced expected results.


Economic Relations:

  • Trade and commerce forms the backbone of the bilateral relations.
  • UAE has been one of India’s leading sources of FDIs.
  • UAE is India’s third largest trade partner after China and the United States.
  • The UAE accounts for 8 percent of India’s oil imports and was fifth largest supplier of crude oil to India.


Security and Defence Cooperation:

  • Another significant pillar of India-UAE ties is reflected in their growing cooperation in security and defense sector.
  • With the spread of radicalism in Gulf and South Asia, India looks to enhance security cooperation with UAE to counter terrorist threats and combat radicalization.
  • ‘Desert Eagle II’, a ten day air combat exercise, was held between the air forces of India and UAE.


Recent Agreements signed

ONGC Videsh, Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOC) and a unit of Bharat Petro Resources Ltd (BPCL) paid $600 million for a 10% stake in the UAE’s offshore oil and gas field Zakum.

This is the first Indian Investment in upstream oil sector of UAE, transforming the traditional buyerseller relationship to a long-term investor relationship. Prime Minister Narednra Modi laid the foundation stone for the BAPS Swaminarayan temple in Abu Dhabi.

Both sides signed a MoU that aims to institutionalise the collaborative administration of contractual employment of Indian workers in the Gulf country.

Under the MoU, both the sides will work for ending the existing malpractices, combat trafficking and organise collaborative programmes for education and awareness of contractual workers. A MoU for technical cooperation in railways was also signed. This aims at cooperation in infrastructure sector especially railways. It will facilitate development of joint projects, knowledge sharing, joint research and technology transfer. A MoU between Bombay Stock Exchange and Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange was also signed.

It aims at enhancing cooperation between both the countries in financial services industry. It would facilitate investment in financial markets by investors from both the countries. A MoU to establish multi-modal logistics park and hub in Jammu & Kashmir comprising warehouses and specialised storage solutions



  • As far as investments are concerned, slow implementation from Indian side is a major obstacle.
  • The bilateral trade has come down significantly in the past years.
  • It has been noticed that workers from other nationalities including Filipinos and Bangladeshis are replacing Indian workers.


Way Forward:

  • India needs to ensure the execution of the investment projects with required expertise.
  • Potential areas to enhance bilateral trade include defense trade, food and agricultural products as well as automobiles.
  • Medical tourism can be an important area where India can attract Emiratis.
  • Indian companies with expertise in renewable energy sector can invest in UAE.
  • In defense sector, there is a need to further enhance cooperation through joint training programmes.



  • India-UAE relations has become a pivot of India’s Extended Neighborhood and Look West Policy in the region.
  • Shared economic visions and geopolitical outlooks have spurred the two sides to seek to expand cooperation across multiple domains, notably in investment, technology and the knowledge economy, and defense and security.
  • The recent signing of The Abraham Accords have created a fresh opportunity for even greater India-UAE coordination and cooperation.
  • During his recent visit to the UAE, Dr. S. Jaishankar stated that the Accords would enhance the Emirates’ position as a logistics hub for Asian economies, including that of India— another promising sign that the India-UAE is poised to climb to new heights.


UAE’s Golden Visa:

  • Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt recently received his Golden visa from the UAE government.

What is it?

  • In 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) implemented a new system for long-term residence visas, thereby enabling foreigners to live, work and study in the UAE without the need of a national sponsor and with 100 per cent ownership of their business.

So, what does the Golden Visa offer?

  • The Golden Visa system essentially offers long-term residency (5 and 10 years) to people belonging to the following groups:
  • investors, entrepreneurs, individuals with outstanding talents the likes of researchers, medical professionals and those within the scientific and knowledge fields, and remarkable students.

Eligibility requirements (Have a brief overview; need not mug up):

For investors:

  • A deposit of at least AED (United Arab Emirates Dirham) 10 million worth of public investment, either in the form of an investment fund or a company.
  • 60% of the total investment must not be in the form of real estate.
  • The invested amount must not be loaned, or in case of assets, investors must assume full ownership.
  • The investor must be able to retain the investment for a minimum of three years.
  • May be extended to include business partners, providing that each partner contributes AED 10 million.
  • Can also include the holder’s spouse and children, as well as one executive director and one advisor.


For individuals with specialized talents:

  • The category includes doctors, researchers, scientists, investors and artists. These individuals may be granted a 10-year visa following accreditations granted by their respective departments and fields. The visa also extends to their spouses and children.


Eligibility for a 5-year visa:

  • The investor must invest in a property of a gross value of not less than AED 5 million.
  • The amount invested in real estate must not be on a loan basis.
  • The property must be retained for at least three years.


Outstanding students:

  • Outstanding students with a minimum grade of 95% in public and private secondary schools.
  • University students within and outside the country having a distinction GPA of at least 3.75 upon graduation.


Reasons Behind the Move:

  • The UAE’s economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and low oil prices, prompting many expatriates to leave.
  • The move intends to bring them back now and keep the “talented people and great minds” in

the Gulf country and help in nation-building.

  • It will attract talented professionals from various fields of expertise and further encourage innovation, creativity and applied research, adding to the appeal of a career in the UAE for the world’s brightest minds.


Significance for India:

  • It would attract more Indian professionals and businessmen to the Gulf nation and strengthen the India-UAE Relations.
  • It will also facilitate the return of Indians who want to resume work after the relaxation of Covid-19-related restrictions, for which India had requested the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in early November 2020.

India-UAE Relations

India and Saudi Arabia have traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations. The number of high-level visits by political leaders from both countries manifests the strategic importance accorded by both countries to one another


Recent Developments

  • There is a substantive shift happening in India’s approach to the Middle East policy.
  • India has pushed an aggressive strategy of partnering with key regional powers like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel in a bid to attract investments and forge deeper security partnerships.
  • India and Saudi Arabia are moving from a purely buyer-seller relationship towards a closer strategic partnership that will include Saudi investments in downstream oil and gas projects.
  • India is showing signs of overcoming its reluctance to forge security partnerships with the Gulf states whose security apparatuses had long been closely associated with Pakistan.
  • During Prince Salman’s visit to New Delhi earlier this year, Saudi Arabia promised to share more intelligence to boost counterterrorism cooperation with India.
  • Saudi Arabia took a positive approach towards abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Saudi Arabia has signalled that it understands Indian concerns and sensitivities on the Kashmir issue.
  • Formation of the India-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council that will be led by the leaderships of both the countries to “help India address its expectations and aspirations.”


Current Scenario

  • There is strong political will in both India and Saudi Arabia to take relations to new heights.
  • The current scenario is unlike the Cold War period when India-Saudi Arabia ties were mainly determined by the Pakistani factor.
  • For decades, this prevented both New Delhi and Riyadh from discovering the strategic importance of engaging one another.
  • Lately, there have been indications that Saudi Arabia is less interested in meddling in India’s internal affairs.
  • Alongside the growing politico-economic ties, cooperation in the security realm is significantly progressing.
  • While India continues to face cross-border terrorism, Saudi Arabia remains vulnerable to frequent missile and drone attacks on its civilian dwellings as well as on its major oil fields.
  • An agreement to constitute a “Comprehensive Security Dialogue” at the national security adviser (NSA) level and a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism is timely


Why Saudi Arabia is important for India

Saudi Arabia is an important and reliable source of India’s energy requirements. India imports around 18% of its crude oil from Saudi Arabia, making it the 2nd-largest source of crude oil for the country. It is also now India’s fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade at $27.48 billion in 2017-18  Saudi investment of around $100 billion is in the pipeline in areas ranging from energy, refining, petrochemicals and infrastructure to agriculture, minerals and mining.

Saudi Aramco is participating in a major refinery and petrochemical project on India’s west coast. Defence, security, trade, culture, education and people-to-people contacts are the important areas of bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia

During his visit to New Delhi in February 2019, the Crown Prince had committed to invest over $100 billion in sectors of priority in India.

Demand from China is also receding in the wake of a slowdown. Besides, competition in the oil market is expected to tighten with a sanctions-free Iran entering the global economic mainstream without any bars. In this context, India is a vital market for Saudi Arabia. There is believed to be friction between Islamabad and Riyadh over the former warming up to Tehran and their growing energy cooperation.


Why India is important for Saudi Arabia

  • Pragmatism is dictating Saudi posture as the very future of the kingdom’s economic model is at stake.
  • Economic reform programs are underway in Saudi Arabia, for which it needs India’s economic as well as technological assistance.
  • Saudi Arabia appears to have limited experience in countering threats from groups like Houthi militias
  • This is an area where India’s expertise in fighting such threats could be imparted to the Saudi side, by enhancing joint military training programs.


Challenges for India

  • The politics of the Middle East are complex and multidimensional.
  • The Saudi Arabia-Turkey rivalry is one of the dimensions.
  • Another dimension is the Saudi Arabia-Iran rivalry.
  • India has close relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, India is yet to work out a way to balance its ties with Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the United States on the other.


Way Forward

  • Uplifting cooperation in the maritime security domain from the current status would be in the interest of both countries.
  • Holding joint naval exercises is important for maritime security cooperation as well as to safeguard international trade via sea routes.
  • Space is an important domain where bilateral engagements could be strengthened.
  • India could explore the possibility to engage with the newly established Saudi Space Agency.
  • The potential areas for next stage of bilateral cooperation could be greater bilateral synergy in Indian infrastructure, agriculture, start-ups, skilling and IT.
  • Shifting some labour-intensive establishments from Saudi Arabia to India would serve the respective national priorities by reducing the kingdom’s expatriate population and boosting ‘Make in India’.


MoUs signed between India and Saudi Arabia:

  • An MoU was also signed to roll out RuPay card in the Kingdom making Saudi Arabia the third country in the Persian Gulf after the UAE and Bahrain to introduce India’s digital payment system.
  • The two sides also vowed to further enhance defence industries collaboration and security cooperation. The first naval exercise between the two nations will take place by end of this year or early next year.
  • The two countries also decided to move ahead on the ambitious west coast refinery project in Raigarh in Maharastra which will involve investments from Saudi oil giant Aramco, UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and Indian public sector oil firms.
  • An MoU for a joint venture between Indian Oil Middle East and with Saudi company Al Jeri for downstream cooperation and setting up of fuel retail business in the Gulf country was also signed, expanding energy ties between the two countries.
  • Pragmatism is dictating Saudi posturing as the very future of the Saudi economic model is at stake. It needs new partners like India.
  • It is not without significance that within a week of India’s move, one of the biggest ever foreign investments in the country was announced by New Delhi.


Saudi Arabia with India in recent times:

  • India is the source of the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia with a 2.6 million strong diaspora.
  • Unlike in the past, New Delhi is no longer diffident about leveraging its diaspora in its bilateral engagements.
  • Modi pointedly referred to the “hard work and commitment” of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia in strengthening the bilateral relationship between the two nations.
  • Nearly two lakh Haj pilgrims and over three hundred thousand Umrah pilgrims from India visit Saudi Arabia every year and acceptance of Rupay card will allow them to transact at a cheaper rate.
  • The World Bank’s recently published “Ease of Doing Business” rankings included both India and Saudi Arabia in its ten “most improved economies”.
  • India and Saudi Arabia ranked 63rd and 62nd respectively. A joint collaborative effort of both economies will transform the Southwest Asia sub-region.
  • India’s sustained outreach to Saudi Arabia has paid rich dividends on the political front with Riyadh taking a positive approach on the Kashmir question since the Modi government’s decision to revoke Article 370 on August 5.
  • Unlike Turkey and Malaysia, it has cautioned Pakistan against escalating the crisis.
  • Despite Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan making a personal visit to Riyadh and traditionally close Saudi-Pakistan ties, Saudi Arabia has signalled that it understood Indian concerns and sensitivities on the issue.

Israel is one of the 3 poles of West Asian region. The other two being Saudi Arabia and Iran



  • 1948

o Israel was founded

o India had voted against formation of Israel by partitioning  Palestine  at UN

o Reasons

▪   Partition was based on religious lines. Israel was to become a country of Jews.

India was fresh from its wounds of the partition in 1947 on religious lines.

▪     India had a considerably higher population of Muslims. So leaders did not want to hurt the sentiments of this section of the population.

  • 1950

o India recognized the existence of Israel.

o But no diplomatic ties were established between India and Israel till 1991 ( End of Cold War)

  • 1953

o A Consulate of Israel was opened in Bombay

o But at crucial times Israel helped India

▪   Wars of 1962 (China) & 1965 (Pakistan)

  • Israel provided mortars and small arms.

▪   1971 Bangladesh Liberation War

  • Crucial weapons and Israeli instructors played an important role in the victory


  • 1992

o A shift from  estrangement to engagement

o Formal establishment of diplomatic ties

o Reasons for shift in policy

▪   On Kashmir , West Asian countries backed Pakistan

▪   Arab countries like Jordan and Egypt established formal ties with Israel

▪   Disintegration of USSR and India’s need to diversify its defence needs

  • 2017

o  Narendra Modi became the first ever  Indian Prime Minister to visit  Israel. PM Modi did not visit Palestine during the trip, breaking from convention

o Shows “dehyphenation” of India’s relations with Palestine and Israel i.e

▪   India’s relations with Israel and Palestine are

  • independent of each other
  • totally separate, and should be weighed on their own merits.

o India-Israel ties elevated to strategic partnership


  • 2018 UNGA Resolution

o India voted against the  recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel

o Why?

▪   Jerusalem is a holy site with religious significance  for Islam and Judaism.

▪     Declaring it as capital of Israel , would deny  the Muslim community of access to Jerusalem


  • 2021 UNHRC Resolution

o In the backdrop of latest conflict between Israel and Palestine ,a resolution was adopted

UNHRC to set up a  permanent commission to probe human rights violations in

Gaza, West Bank and Palestine.

o India abstained from voting


Dimensions of India – Israel Partnership

1. Defence

▪     One of the strongest pillars of the bilateral relationship. Nearly 41 % of Israel defence exports are to India,

▪   Israel has been a source of advanced military technology to India.

▪   India buys more than a $1 billion of equipment every year and that over 40% of Israel’s

arms exports in 2012-16 were to India.

▪   SIPRI Report for 2013-17: Israel accounted for 11% of India’s arms imports in 2013-17.

▪     Israel has been cooperating with India groups  in  the  areas  of  border  management, internal security and public safety, police modernization and capacity building for combating crime, crime prevention and cyber crime

▪   Joint Venture in defence production as a part of Make In India

▪   Some Defence equipments

i. IAI Searcher unmanned aerial vehicles

ii. Barak 1 surface-to-air (SAM) missiles

iii.   Phalcon airborne warning and control systems (AWACS)

2. Strategic

▪     India – Israel share concern about rising terrorism across the West Asian region , considering the fact that both have been victims of terror attacks

▪     On Kashmir issue ( broadly Pakistan ) , Israel has stood by India , either by providing crucial intelligence inputs or weapons during wars

3. Agriculture and Water Conservation

▪     To tackle problems of Indian agriculture like erratic rainfall , poor agricultural productivity, poor water use efficiency.

▪   Cooperation in water conservation, waste-water treatment and its reuse for

agriculture, desalination, water utility reforms, and the cleaning of the Ganges and other rivers using advanced water technologies

▪   Israel’s expertise in drip irrigation will help India meet its target of doubling farmer’s income.

▪     India   has   benefited   from   Israeli   expertise   and   technologies   in   horticulture mechanization,   protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro-irrigation and post-harvest management.

4. Innovation and Entrepreneurship

▪   India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F) setup

▪     For affordable technological innovations in focus areas of mutual interest such as water, agriculture, energy and digital technologies.

▪   to encourage joint projects that convert “know-how” into “show-how”.

5. Para Diplomacy

▪   Indian states have been real agents driving the diversification and consolidation of the

India-Israel partnership

▪   Ex ) Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra

6. Trade

▪   From US$ 200 million in 1992 (comprising primarily trade in diamonds), bilateral

▪   merchandise trade stood at US$ 5.65 billion (excluding defense) in 2018-19, with the

balance of trade being in India’s favor by US$ 1.8 billion.

▪   Trade in diamonds constitutes close to 40% of bilateral trade. India is Israel’s third largest

trade partner in Asia and seventh largest globally. In recent years, the bilateral trade has diversified into several sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, IT and telecom, and homeland security.

7. Diaspora

▪     There are approximately 85,000 Jews of Indian-origin in Israel (with at least one Indian parent), who are all Israeli passport holders.

▪   The main waves of immigration into Israel from India took place in the fifties and sixties.

▪     The majority is from Maharashtra (Bene Israelis) and relatively smaller numbers from Kerala (Cochini Jews) and Kolkata (Baghdadi Jews). In recent years some Indian Jews from North Eastern states of India (Bnei Menashe) have been immigrating to Israel.

▪   While the older generation still maintains an Indian lifestyle and their cultural links with

India, the younger generation is increasingly assimilated into Israeli society.

8. Space Collaboration:

▪     In 2002, India and Israel signed a cooperative agreement promoting space collaboration. India has successfully launched TecSAR and RISAT-2 radar imaging satellites of Israel from PSLV of ISRO.


Areas of Concern

1. Bilateral Trade and investment still below potential

▪   Trade has stagnated around $5 billion

▪   Mainly confined to diamonds and defence.

▪   Free Trade Agreement talks has stagnated.

2. Emerging fissures in the West Asian region

▪     With Israel and Saudi Arabia coming close with an aim to  stop the rise of Iran, it will be tough for India to balance its relations with the three main  poles of the West Asian region

3. Human Rights  violation by Israel against Palestine has been difficult for India to turn a blind eye

4. Connectivity between two countries still poor

▪   Which has led to limited People to People ties

5. Israel’s close ties with China

▪   Has ensured that the strategic element prevalent earlier has reduced.

▪   China is attracted to Israel’s technology sector, and Israel welcomes China’s investments and potential as a research collaborator.


Concluding Statements

Former Israeli PM Netanyahu gave the relationship the form of an equation:

 IT X IT= I 2 T2 or Indian Talent X Israeli Technology=India Israel Ties (for) Tomorrow.

India and Israel are friends, a partnership made for the 21st century between two vibrant democracies and energetic peoples.

India’s support for the Palestinian cause is an integral part of the nation’s foreign policy. In 1974, India became the first Non-Arab State to recognize Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. India has played an active role in extending support for the Palestinian cause across various multilateral fora.

Evolution of the relations:

  • 1974: India became the first non-Arab state to recognize Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO).
  • 1988: India was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine.
  • 1996: India opened its Representative Office to the State of Palestine in Gaza.
  • 2003: It was shifted to Ramallah. Unlike in Israel, India does not have an embassy in Palestine.
  • October 2011: India voted in favour of Palestine for its acceptance as a full member of UNESCO.
  • November 29, 2012: India co-sponsored the resolution that made Palestine a ‘non- memberstate’ of United Nations General Assembly.
  • April 2015: India supported the Bandung Declaration on Palestine at Asian African Commemorative Conference
  • September 2015: India supported installation of Palestine flag at UN premises.


Indian and Palestine Relations

  • Indian and Palestine relations are old and time tested. India’s development assistance for Palestine has been consistent and has grown over the years.
  • India has always supported the cause of Palestine and since 1988 India has recognized Palestine. India is engaged in the nation building efforts of Palestine in several sectors like IT,Education, Rural development and capacity building. India is providing aid and financial assistance to Palestine. Recently at the UNGA resolution, India voted against US President Donald Trump decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


Indias focus to Link West:

After the Act East policy, the government is shifting the focus to Link West. West Asia has always been India’s extended neighborhood. But India has not paid much attention to West Asia considering the importance of this area in terms of political and economic affairs. Most of India’s energy requirements come from West Asia. 6 million Indian origin works in the gulf and the West Asia who send huge remittances to India. The new dimension to the relationship is in terms of security and counter terrorism where the countries are facing the problem of terrorism. There are many areas of convergence between India and West Asia.


Bilateral Visits:

  • There have been regular high level bilateral visits between India and Palestine.
  • Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi paid a historic first-ever visit to Palestine on February 10, 2018.
  • Former President Shri Pranab Mukherjee paid a historic first-ever visit to Palestine in October 2015.
  • The first ever Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) between India and Palestine was held in Ramallah in November 2016.
  • The first ever Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) between India and Palestine was held in Ramallah in May, 2015.
  • The second round of FOC was held in New Delhi in April 2017.


IBSA Cooperation:

  • India, Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) Fund has also financed five projects in Palestine, namely Indoor Multipurpose Sports Complex in Ramallah, Phase I and Phase II of Setting Up of Cardiothoracic Unit of Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s Al Quds hospital in Gaza, Atta Habib Medical Center in Gaza and Rehabilitation Centre for People with Mental Disabilities in Nablus.


Bilateral Trade:

  • Trade between India and Palestine is conducted through Israel and therefore, comprehensive trade statistics are not available.
  • Limited data suggests that India-Palestine annual bilateral trade is worth about US$ 40 million
  • Indian exports include marble, granite and other stones, Basmati Rice, raw material for making vaccines, coffee, cashew nuts, sugar, sweet biscuits, sacks and bags for the packing of goods, etc.
  • Palestinian exports are mainly virgin olive oil and its fractions, dates, etc.
  • In terms of sectors automotive spare parts, medical tourism, agro-products, textiles, fabrics, readymade garments, household appliances, stationery products, leather and leather products, agrochemicals, plastic products, pharmaceuticals and engineering goods could be the target sectors for Indian manufacturers and exporters.


Culture & People to People relations:

  • Indian arts and culture, especially Indian movies are very popular in Palestine.
  • Several cultural activities, including film shows and photo exhibitions have been organized by the Representative Office of India in various Palestinian cities in addition to screening of documentaries prepared by Public Diplomacy division, MEA in local TV channels, schools and youth clubs.
  • The first Indian restaurant in Ramallah was opened in January 2018.
  • India-Palestine Youth Exchange Programme was started in 2017.


The Palestine-India Techno Park:

  • The park will be located next to the Birzeit University Academic Campus.
  • The Representative of India to Palestine, Sunil Kumar, released third tranche of funding, worth $3 million, for the construction of a Palestine-India Techno Park.
  • In total, India has made a commitment of investing over $12 million, part of India’s broader framework of capacity building in Palestine. The Indian government pays $3 million on a half- yearly basis.
  • The Techno Park is meant to create a national business environment and culture “that will enable knowledge-based and creative enterprises as well as technology clusters to successfully operate locally, regionally and globally”.
  • Its objectives include establishing an environment that is accessible to industry, supporting the process of commercialization and industrialization, supporting entrepreneurship and bridging the knowledge gap between the private sector and academia.
  • India’s investment towards the park is part of India’s support to the Palestinian cause.
  • Once completed, the Technopark will serve as an IT hub in Palestine with complete IT facilities offering a one-stop solution to all IT-related service requirements, providing state of-the-art technology, hosting IT companies and foreign companies benefitting local business, Universities and other institutions.


IsraelPalestine Issue:

  • Israel-Palestine relations are not just a serious issue but a very complicated issue. India has always talked about peaceful solution. India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.
  • In West Asia the political and strategic scenario is changing very quickly. India wants to dehyphenate its relationship with Israel and Palestine and see them as mutually independent and exclusive. These are two standalone relationships and they should not be hyphenated together. It shows the maturity on part of the Israel also as it has recognized this aspect of Indian diplomacy and is confident of their relationship with India.
  • This allows India to maintain the image of its historical moral support for Palestinian selfdetermination, and at the same time to engage in military, economic, and other strategic relations with Israel


Indias Position on Palestine:

  • India’s position on Palestine is independent and consistent. It is shaped by our views and interests, and not determined by any third country.
  • Along with political support, India has been contributing material and technical assistance to the Palestinian people.
  • In 2016 India pledged a USD 1.25 million to the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees
  • India has always been a leading partner in educational support and capacity building process
  • The recent visit of India’s President to Palestine manifests India’s support to Palestine cause is still intact.
  • The critics view is that Indian policy is certainly affected by US in recent times.


How has India’s policy on Israel and Palestine evolved over time?

  • India’s policy on the longest running conflict in the world has gone from being unequivocally pro-Palestine for the first four decades, to a tense balancing act with its three- decade-old friendly ties with Israel. In recent years, India’s position has also been perceived as pro-Israel.

1. Post 1948:

  • In 1948, India was the only non-Arab-state among 13 countries that voted against the UN partition plan of Palestine in the General Assembly that led to the creation of Israel.
  • In 1975, India became the first non-Arab country to recognise the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, and invited it to open an office in Delhi, which was accorded diplomatic status five years later.
  • In 1988, when the PLO declared an independent state of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem, India granted recognition immediately.

2. Post 1992:

  • The balancing began with India’s decision to normalise ties with Israel in 1992, which came against the backdrop of the break-up of the Soviet Union, and massive shifts in the geopolitics of West Asia on account of the first Gulf War in 1990.
  • The opening of an Indian embassy in Tel Aviv in January 1992 marked an end to the earlier stand.

3. Until 2017:

  • India’s position was that it supported “the Palestinian cause and called for a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel”- this was a two- state solution.
  • Then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated this position in November 2013. So did then President Pranab Mukherjee, in October 2015.

4. Post 2017:

India dropped the references to East Jerusalem and the borders in 2017 when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Delhi. In 2018, when Mr. Modi visited Ramallah, he reaffirmed the same position, with no direct reference to the borders or Jerusalem.

A resolution titled “Ensuring respect for international human rights law and humanitarian law in Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem and in Israel” recently came up at the Human Rights Council [HRC] against the backdrop of the latest round of conflict between Israel and Gaza strip, the coastal part of the Palestinian territories.

However, India abstained from voting. Now, in response to this, Palestine has observed that such abstention suppresses human rights of “all people”.

The resolution was adopted with the vote of 24 members. Nine voted against, and 14, including India, abstained. The passing of the resolution led to the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate violation of international law by Israel.


What does this indicate?

The trend is clear – India’s decisions are based on a mature understanding and evaluation of the Israel- Palestine issues and New Delhi is following the same approach now as Israel and Palestine exchange rocket fire. India has refused to pick a side and called for de-escalation and dialogue.


Historical Background: Israel –  Palestine

  • The conflict has been ongoing for more than a 100 years between Jews and Arabs over a piece of land between Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea.
  • It was between 1882 to 1948, when the Jews from around the world gathered in Palestine. This movement came to be known as Aliyahs.
  • Then in 1917, Ottoman Empire fell after World War 1 and the UK got control o ver Palestine.
  • The land was inhabited by a Jewish minority and Arab majority.
  • The Balfour Declaration was issued after Britain gained control with the aim of establishing a home for the Jews in Palestine. However during that period the Arabs were in majority in Palestine.
  • Jews favoured the idea while the Palestinians rejected it. Almost 6 million Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust which also ignited further demand of a separate Jewish state.
  • Jews claimed Palestine to be their natural home while the Arabs too did not leave the land and claimed it.
  • The international community supported the Jews.
  • In 1947, the UN voted for Palestine to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city.
  • That plan was accepted by Jewish leaders but rejected by the Arab side and never implemented.


The creation of Israel and the ‘Catastrophe’:

  • It was in the year 1948 that Britain lifted its control over the area and Jews declared the creation of Israel. Although Palestinians object ed, Jews did not back out which led to an armed conflict.
  • The neighboring Arabs also invaded and were thrashed by the Israeli troops. This made thousands of Palestinians flee their homes. This was called Al-Nakba, or the “Catastrophe”.
  • Israel had gained maximum control over the territory after this came to an end.
  • Jordan then went on a war with Israel and seized control over a part of the land which was called the West Bank, and Egypt occupied Gaza.
  • Jerusalem was divided between Israel in the West, and Jordan in the East. However, no formal peace agreement was signed, each side continued to blame each other for the tension and the region saw more wars.
  • Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank, various areas of Syrian Golan Heights, Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula in the year 1967.


Present scenario:

  • Israel still occupies the West Bank, and although it pulled out of Gaza the UN still regards that piece of land as part of occupied territory.
  • Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its capital, while the Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
  • The US is one of only a handful of countries to recognise Israel’s claim to the whole of the city.


What’s happening now?

  • Tensions are often high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.
  • Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian militant group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Israel and Egypt tightly control Gaza’s borders to stop weapons getting to Hamas.
  • Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank say they’re suffering because of Israeli actions and restrictions. Israel say it is only acting to protect itself from Palestinian violence.
  • Things have escalated since the start of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in mid – April 2021, with nightly clashes between police and Palestinians.
  • The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger.


Gaza Strip?

The Gaza Strip is an entirely artificial creation that emerged in 1948 when roughly three- fourths of Palestine’s Arab population was displaced, in some cases expelled, during the course of Israel’s creation. And most of the refugees, they were sort of scattered across the region in neighboring countries like Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

  • Some went to the West Bank, which came under Jordanian rule after 1948. And a very large number went to the Gaza Strip, which is this tiny little coastal strip between Egypt and what is now Israel. Today, the population of Gaza, about 70% of Gaza’s population are refugees.


Who controls it?

Hamas forcibly took control over the Gaza Strip in 2007. Shortly thereafter, the Israelis imposed a complete closure on Gaza’s borders. They declared Gaza to be an enemy entity. Of course, Gaza is not a state.

  • Hamas, of course, is viewed by Israel and by much of the international community as a terrorist organization, including the United States, for their history of attacks on civilians and so forth.

On June 24, the UN Secretary General António Guterres told a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a “watershed moment”.

  • The Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank have alarmed the Palestinians, many Israelis and the international community. Such annexation would be “a most serious violation of international law”.

What needs to be done now?

He called upon the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans and asked the Middle East Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the UN) to resume its mandated mediatory role.

What’s the issue?

The UN Secretary General’s alarm has been sounded in the context of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reported plan to annex on July 1 around 30% of the Occupied West Bank.

This will include annexation of all the existing (post-1967) settlements in addition to areas surrounding them and access roads.

What is Annexation in the international law? Why Israel’s move is illegal?

Under international law, annexation is forcible acquisition of territory by one state at the expense of another state.

Such an act even if sanctified by Israeli law is illegal under international law and would violate the universally acknowledged principle of the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force”.

  • This is the accepted position of all international legal bodies including the International Court of Justice.
  • Even, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) has described the annexation of occupied territory as a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions.
  • It is also contrary to the fundamental rule affirmed many times by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly that acquisition of territory war or by force is inadmissible.

Where is West Bank?

It is a landlocked territory near the Mediterranean coast of Western Asia, bordered by Jordan to the east and by the Green Line separating it and Israel on the south, west and north. The West Bank also contains a significant section of the western Dead Sea shore.



What are the disputed settlements here?  Who lives there?

1. The West Bank was captured by Jordan after the 1948 Arab -Israeli War.

2. Israel snatched it back during the Six Day War of 1967, and has occupied it ever since.

3. It has built some 130 formal settlements in the West Bank, and a similar number of

smaller, informal settlements have mushroomed over the last 20 -25 years.

4. Over 4 lakh Israeli settlers — many of them religious Zionists who claim a Biblical birthright over this land — now live here, along with some 26 lakh Palestinians.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states.

  • Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states.
  • It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.
  • The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony“.
  • The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.
  • Permanent Secretariat is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • Like NAM again, the OIC is a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with squabbles among member states.
  • The body has usually been supportive of Pakistan and often sided with Islamabad in its disputes with India.


Significance of OIC for India:

  • OIC’s growing economic and energy interdependence with India has become important in recent times.
  • That India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, of course, is the immediate explanation of the surprising invite for Swaraj to address the OIC.


India invited as ‘guest of honour’ to OIC meet

In a major diplomatic victory for India and a setback for Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates has invited foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to attend the foreign ministers’ meet of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) States, set to take place in Abu Dhabi, the first such invite in five decades.

Finance Minister Sushma Swaraj will be the “guest of honour” at the inaugural plenary 46th meeting of OIC foreign ministers.

The move is seen as a major blow to Pakistan that has consistently opposed India’s entry into the grouping despite having the third-largest Muslim population in the world.

India is not a member of the OIC, but was invited to the Abu Dhabi meeting as the guest of honour.


Indian views in OIC meeting:

India see this invitation as a milestone in our comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE. We also see this invitation as a welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world.

Ms. Swaraj said the fight against terrorism and extremism does not amount to a clash of cultures and instead described it as a fight between ideas.

She presented India’s pluralism and diversity as a source of strength and said Indian Muslims are a “microcosm” of India’s larger diverse culture.

Besides, India has worked overtime to increase its stakes in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

While secular Central Asian states which are also OIC members are seeking deeper ties with India, Delhi despite pressure from the USA, has continued to engage in a concrete fashion with Iran, another OIC state.

In the Gulf region and wider West Asia all other five states, Jordan and Iraq besides UAE have strategic partnership with India that helped Delhi’s entry as a guest in OIC.


OIC Countries: Economic and Energy Independence with India:

The present situations created a new framework for India’s engagement with the Muslim world and the Middle East.

Equally important has been the region’s growing economic and energy interdependence with India, which is emerging as the world’s third-largest economy and one of the biggest hydrocarbon importers and labour exporters.

As the region’s geopolitics enters a turbulent period, the potential for India as a military partner is also coming into view.

That India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, of course, is the immediate explanation of the surprising invite for Swaraj to address the OIC.

India’s observer status at the OIC does not appear to be around the corner.

Swaraj’s participation in the Abu Dhabi ministerial, therefore, must be viewed as a diplomatic opening for a sustained and long-term political engagement of the Islamic world as a collective.



India has been consistently criticised by the OIC for its alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, often seen at the behest of Pakistan.

Pakistan on its part had objected stating that any country wishing to get observer status should not be involved in any dispute with an OIC member state the reference being to the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir.

With India moving to recraft and consolidate its ties with major Muslim countries in recent years, countries such as the UAE and Turkey besides Saudi Arabia have responded to New Delhi’s overtures.

Elaborating on India’s vast Muslim community, Foreign Minister highlighted about Muslim in India speak Tamil and Telugu, Malayalam and Marathi, Bangla and Bhojpuri or any of the numerous languages of India.

They have diverse culinary tastes, myriad choices of traditional attire, and they maintain strong cultural and linguistic heritage of the regions they loved and have lived for generations.


What is GCC?

  • The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Established in 1981, the GCC promotes economic, security, cultural and social cooperation between the six states and holds a summit every year to discuss cooperation and regional affairs.
  • All current member states are monarchies, including three constitutional monarchies (Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain), two absolute monarchies(Saudi Arabia and Oman), and one federal monarchy (the United Arab Emirates).



The GCC comprises six main branches that carry out various tasks, from the preparation of meetings to the implementation of policies. They are- Supreme Council, Ministerial Council, Secretariat-General, Consultative Commission, Commission for the Settlement of Disputes and the Secretary-General.


Role of GCC today:

Whether the GCC still has a relevant function and role in the region is questionable. Though it was created for the purpose of solidifying union ranks, the blockade imposed on Qatar by its neighbours has largely annulled these principles.

The Gulf states have in the past differed in their views on several issues that have unfolded in the region over the past two decades. The role of the GCC has also been diminishing ever since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, with the six states illustrating various approaches to the war and its consequences. This has been enhanced during the wave of protests that swept the Middle East in 2011, known as the Arab Spring. Saudi Arabia has gained a dominant role within the GCC today.


What is Persian Gulf region and why is it so significant?

The lands around the Persian Gulf are shared by eight countries- Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

  • These countries are major producers of crude oil and natural gas, and thereby contribute critically to the global economy and to their own prosperity.
  • The area has approximately two-thirds of the world’s estimated proven oil reserves and one- third of the world’s estimated proven natural gas reserves.
  • This factor has added to their geopolitical significance.
  • A considerable amount of sea trade passes through the gulf, leading to heavy traffic in the region.


Given its significance, the framework for stability and security in the region should have the following:

1. conditions of peace and stability in individual littoral states;

2. freedom to all states of the Gulf littoral to exploit their hydrocarbon and other natural resources and export them;

3. freedom of commercial shipping in international waters of the Persian Gulf;

4. freedom of access to, and outlet from, Gulf waters through the Strait of Hormuz;

5. prevention of conflict that may impinge on the freedom of trade and shipping

6. prevention of emergence of conditions that may impinge on any of these considerations.


Why this is important for India too?

  • The Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence.
  • India is dependent on the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states for 42 per cent of its overall oil imports; three of the top five oil suppliers to India are Gulf states.
  • Indians make up the Gulf states’ largest expatriate community, with an estimated 7.6 million Indian nationals living and working in the region; especially in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • The GCC is India’s largest regional-bloc trading partner, which accounted for $104 billion of trade in 2017–18, nearly a 7 per cent increase from $97 billion the previous year. This is higher than both India–ASEAN trade ($81 billion) and India–EU trade ($102 billion) in 2017-18.


Irritants in GCC

Qatar is a major point of contention. On 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with the tiny emirate.

Egypt, not part of the GCC, also joined the Saudi-led blockade. Saudi Arabia justified the move by claiming that Qatar was supporting extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and Iranian-sponsored militias in the region.


Now the gulf is widening between GCC Countries:

Oman continues to keep ties open with Qatar and Iran. The blockade made Qatar more independent in foreign policy decisions.

The cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi created ripples. The blockade last year triggered tensions among the GCC countries.

Qatar also strengthened its alliance with Turkey, which stepped in as provider of security for Doha.

And Turkey checkmated any plans that Saudis and Emiratis might have had to use force to bring the

Qatari emir down on his knees.

Saudi Arabia is upset that Oman and Kuwait did not join the embargo. Kuwait is in fact trying to mediate. Qatar stepped up assistance for Hamas in Gaza strip. It accelerated a plan to allow Turkey to set up military camp in the country.

Qatar also resisted calls to cut ties with Iran.


Level of US influence in the Middle East:

The disarray within the GCC undoubtedly calls attention to the decline of US influence in the Middle East region.

At the end of the day, the Gulf states have not paid heed to repeated US entreaties for GCC unity. Ideally, GCC should have provided today for the US strategy a strong platform for launching the regime change project against Iran.

On the contrary, GCC is split down the middle, with Qatar, Oman and Kuwait getting along just fine with Tehran.


Indias priorities in the Gulf: Energy security and Trade & Investment:

  • Securing long term energy supply is of primary importance for India in the region.
  • India is currently the fourth largest energy consuming country in the world and it may go up to third position in next couple of decades.
  • India’s annual GDP growth at the rate of eight per cent would require further industrial growth which would demand more energy supply for the country.
  • The growing energy necessity has undoubtedly dictated India’s initiative of building up a ‘strategic energy partnership’ with the region to secure long-term energy supply for the country.
  • The Gulf countries look at India as a fast growing economy which holds the potential to compete with the major world economies.
  • Realising the trade potential of the Gulf countries, India has entered into a negotiation with the GCC to finalise a Free Trade Agreement.
  • The Gulf countries have huge potential for investing in different sectors in India as FDI for mutual benefit.


Once upon a time, it talked about a common Gulf currency and robust connectivity projects.  Now, after the GCC Summit, it merely issued a customary statement. If the GCC disintegrates due to these contradictions, Saudi Arabia will be the big loser, because it will be a reflection on its regional leadership. After the summit, the GCC issued a customary statement, emphasising regional stability and economic challenges. The decision of Qatar to quit OPEC and the absence of Emir at the GCC points to increasingly confident Qatar.  Intra-Gulf quarrels dampened hopes for the integration of the region.

While addressing the summit in Riyadh, the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad hit the nail on the head when he said, “The most dangerous obstacle we face is the struggle within the GCC.”