2. What are India’s interests in the Middle-East? How have India’s relations taken shape with the Islamic World in the recent past? Discuss.
मध्य–पूर्व में भारत के क्या हित हैं? हाल के दिनों में इस्लामिक वर्ल्ड के साथ भारत के संबंधों ने कैसे आकार लिया है? चर्चा करें।
Demand of the question:
It expects candidates to write about the India’s interest in the Middle-East countries. It also expects to write about how India’s relations have taken shape with the Islamic world in the recent past.
India promotes it’s policy outreach towards the middle east with its ‘Think west policy’. It suggests a new push towards more concrete strategic policies for West Asia. The interplay among these Middle East nations offers India with new avenues of cooperation other than traditional focus on energy and labour. ‘Act East’ needs to be matched with ‘Think West’.
Close high level interaction has started now between India and Middle East countries. With the advent of the new millennium, there has been an extraordinary turnaround in the relationship between the Middle East countries and India:
- Collectively, the G.C.C. countries have become India’s preeminent oil and gas supplier and leading trade partner.
- Diaspora: Large Indian diaspora in West Asia and particularly in the Persian Gulf is present, Indians are the largest expatriate group in each of the countries with population of 9,500,000 where 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.
- No major power has the kind of people-to-people socio-cultural compatibility and socio-economic interdependence with countries of the Middle East region, in particular with G.C.C .countries that India has.
- 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.
- Indian investments in Chabahar port of Iran, and high dependence on Iran for oil imports.
- Being geo strategically important for India, and unstable Afghanistan can affect India’s security as well as its economy.
- Also India has gained access to strategically important port of Duqm of Oman.
- Also, most of the natural gas is imported from the Persian Gulf. However, this can be imported from other places.
- Opportunist China inroads in Central Asia and Eurasia through its Belt and Road Initiative. This continental encirclement of India poses threat to it.
- Presently, India’s foreign exchange reserves are relatively comfortable, at over $450 billion, and can easily cover 9-10 months’ imports at current prices. However, an increase in the price of oil would lead to an increase in the Current Account Deficit and erosion of this buffer
- Remittances: To India, largest global remittances of around $85 billion come annually and almost more than 50% comes from this region (contributing to around 2.6% of the Gross Domestic Product). Any turbulence in middle east will expatriate our nationals from this region leading to a big dent on our forex reserves.
- Strategic connectivity interests of India might get affected. This includes the port of Chabahar in Iran, linking India to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
- Last but not least, after Iran, India has perhaps the largest number of the world’s Shia population.
India’s relations with Middle east nations in recent past:
- There is a strong and growing multifaceted strategic partnership between India and Middle East 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 defence cooperation.
- India’s relations with Iran are on the upswing as well. e.g. International North south Transport corridor and Chabahar port development.
- 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.
- In order to boost maritime cooperation with the Persian Gulf countries India sent ICGS Vijit, a Vishwast class offshore patrol vessel, to a 4 nations friendly visit including Bahrain.
- Israel is one of India’s most important strategic partner and major source of its military hardware.
- The relations between India and Saudi Arabia improved over the years as the number of Indian pilgrims performing Hajj in Saudi Arabia has been increased to 200,000 every year. The Saudi prince expected that the Saudi investment in India may reach $100 billion in the next two years.
- When it comes to UAE, In the financial year 2018-19, India-UAE bilateral trade grew by over 20% to reach US$59.9 billion.
- The visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was also crucial for India, since the thaw between the West and Iran now gives New Delhi the opportunity to again pursue economic ties and explore certain projects that had been placed on the backburner. India is heavily dependent on Iran for energy, with the latter already India’s second largest supplier of crude oil.
- Also India conducts variety of armed forces exercises with Middle east countries. For instance, Al Nagah III is the third in the series of the bilateral joint exercise between India and Oman.
- India’s ties with Saudi Arabia are no longer limited by India’s tensions with Pakistan. This enabled the two countries to sign a defence pact during the crown prince’s visit.
- However, recent labour law amendment in Saudi Arabia have raised concerns over the loss of jobs for Indians, as it protects jobs for National workers.
- Also some of the middle east countries such as Turkey have raised concerns over rising communal tensions in India and also pointed out towards so called atrocities in the Kashmir valley over religious minorities.
In these unprecedented times following actions can be taken to improve relations between India and middle-east Asian countries so that mutually beneficial international relations can be culminated.
- Mediating Role: India has a very strong case to appeal for de-escalation between USA and Middle east nations as it had equity on both sides (with a trade of over $200 billion) and large Diaspora in Middle east and USa. Hence, India should play a proactive role in mediation for long-term gains. However, India talked to both sides but is avoiding playing the role of a mediator.
- Substitutes for Oil: India should be relooking at options for oil supply in the worst-case scenario of disruption in oil supplies.
- Investing in renewable energy sources such as Solar energy will be good option. e.g. International Solar alliance.
- Afghan Peace: India needs to increase its engagement with Afghanistan in order to contain the increasing role of Pakistan in Afghanistan. Which will be beneficial for India in two ways as it would keep aside Pakistan and it will help India to improve relations with Afghanisthan.
There is a strong and growing multifaceted partnership between India and Middle East 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 defence cooperation. Hence, Middle East offers real opportunities for India to grow and develop in mutually beneficial way.