Issue India is vigorously engaging with West Asia.
Importance of these visits Economic, cultural, security and stability.
Problems in West Asia Scourge of jihad, represented by the transnational al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Concerns of India in West Asia Energy Security and economic interest.
What India should do India’s abiding interests require that it should contribute actively to regional stability.
- India is vigorously engaging with West Asia (Western countries call this country Middle East). In just ten months, PM of India has visited the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar, and has hosted the Abu Dhabi crown prince in Delhi. It is unprecedented Indian engagement with the countries of the Gulf.
Importance of these visits
- These visits attached central importance to boosting energy and economic ties and both sides committed to upgrade the existing buyer-seller relations to long-term partnerships based on investments and joint ventures.
- (Buyer-seller relations Till now relation was somewhere based on oil only i.e. India considered this region as the source of its energy needs and West Asian nations considered India as the customer of its oil. Thus relation is called buyer-seller relation)
- The two sides also agreed to pursue cooperation in new frontier areas, such as space, telecommunications, renewable energy, food security, sustainable development, desert ecology, and advanced healthcare.
- All of West Asian countries emphasised the value of cultural ties that have shaped our ethos over several centuries, and committed themselves to enhancing people-to-people links through new platforms for interaction.
- The joint statement with Iran, titled ‘Civilisational Connect, Contemporary Context’, particularly focussed on sustaining historic cultural ties through interactions among scholars, authors, artists, filmmakers, the media, and sportspersons.
- Every Gulf country expressed anxiety about the threat from terrorism and pledged to work closely with India to combat it, not only through strong armed action but also by countering radicalisation through promotion of a moderate religious discourse espousing peace, tolerance, and inclusiveness.
- Most of the countries have spoken of India as their “strategic partner”, a status that represents a high degree of shared values.
- Tthe joint statement with the UAE speaks of “shared threats to peace, stability and security”, and agrees to a “shared endeavour” to address these concerns, which is founded on “common ideals and convergent interests”.
- The joint statement with Saudi Arabia talks of the two countries’ responsibility to promote peace, security and stability in the region.
- The Iran statement speaks of the strategic importance of regional connectivity linked with the development of Chabahar port.
- Enhancement of defence ties has been given central importance by all the countries. This includes frequent dialogue between senior officers, training, joint exercises by the three arms of the military of both countries, joint marine operations, and supply and joint development of arms and ammunition.
- Defence cooperation is complemented by the countries agreeing to intelligence-sharing, counter-terrorism operations, capacity-building and adoption of best practices and technologies by the security agencies on both sides. Cooperation in defence and intelligence affirms that India is seen as a worthy partner in these sensitive areas by countries that face serious domestic and external threats from extremists.
- Though the bulk of the joint statements are devoted to bilateral relations, every one of these documents contains a subtext that poses a challenge for India and imposes a new responsibility on it: how to shape an Indian role to promote security in the Gulf.
- The UAE statement speaks of the need for the two countries to establish a “close strategic partnership” for “these uncertain times”, and calls upon them to work together to promote peace, reconciliation, stability in the wider South Asia, Gulf and West Asia region.
- Saudi Arabia joint statement notes “the close interlinkage of the stability and security of the Gulf region and the Indian subcontinent and the need for maintaining a secure and peaceful environment for the development of the countries of the region”.
- The joint statement with Iran speaks at length about the threat from terrorism for the peace, security, stability and development of the region. It specifically refers to the peace and stability of the region being served by “a strong, united, and prosperous and independent Afghanistan” and their agreement to strengthen trilateral consultations and coordination.
- (This is because India and Iran both have shared interest in Afghanistan. Taliban are against Iran because it is a shia Nation where as Taliban follows wahabism which is strictly anti Shia. On the other hand Pakistan uses Taliban in Kashmir and causes instability. Thus a strong, united, and prosperous and independent Afghanistan will be beneficial to both.)
Problems in West Asia
- There are two wars going on there i.e. Syria and Yemen.
- There is the scourge of jihad, represented by the transnational al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
- The two Islamic giants, Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia), are locked in a competition in which each country sees the other as threatening its nationhood, regime, political order, and doctrinal standing in Islam.
- Saudi Arabia believes that Iran supports terror, interferes in the domestic politics of the neighbouring Arab states, and is a destabilising force that has regional hegemonic aspirations.
- Iran denies these allegations, arguing that the Saudi monarchy faces serious domestic economic and political challenges and being unable to handle these challenges, Saudi Arabia is trying to divert attention of its people by making false allegation Iran.
- With the deep doctrinal and political divide between them, the proxy wars in Syria and Yemen, and the attendant proliferation of jihad, the stage is set for their differences to escalate into direct conflict.
Concerns of India in West Asia
- India’s energy security and its economic interests are linked with regional security, as is the welfare of its eight million-strong community living in West Asia.
What India should do
- India’s abiding interests require that it should contribute actively to regional stability by promoting engagement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and by working with regional and extra-regional partners with a similar interest in regional security, to structure platforms for dialogue and confidence-building measures.