India Qatar strategic ties: CASS-India
Qatar-India relations:Full of potentialities
India's engagement in West Asia-Gulf region has attained importance in the recent years owing to a variety of geo-economic, geo-strategic and geo-political factors.
Apart from its critical dependence on energy supplies, India's huge diaspora presence in the region and the critical economic and social capital value contributions have been immense to the West Asia-Gulf Region.
India's economic contributions of skilled and semi-skilled human resources have been of immense investment in these countries where human technical capital has been most scarce.
The West Asia-Gulf Region has been of critical strategic importance for the energy flows from the region and the critical jeopardy of the rising threats of nuclear and missile proliferation, maritime terrorism, piracy, failed states in East Africa.
The past decade has witnessed the impact of spiraling energy prices coupled with finite reserves, the critical vulnerability of the supply-demand factors, the rise of radical terrorism and the targeting of the hydrocarbon resources by radical groups for disruption of supplies; the clandestine maritime transit of weapons of mass destruction into the region and the escalation of nuclear and missile proliferation that has critical stakes of regional stability.
Qatar is located in a critical geography of the Gulf Region that abounds the Saudi peninsular and the Iranian state.
Given its immense energy resources and the geo-strategic location astride the sea-lanes of communication, Qatar has deftly handed its foreign policy and diplomacy; balancing Saudi and Iranian pressures.
It has managed the regional power rivalry. Its alliance with the United States hosting US forward presence and advocacy of various regional peace efforts have been vital constructs of its grand strategy.
Qatar has been coveting strategic engagement with a host of extra-regional powers to bolster its regional strategic predicament that has been 'between and betwixt' of Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The United States has been the single “hegemonic” power that has underwritten Gulf Security all these years.
US forward presence has been substantive and has under-girded Qatari security providing extended deterrence to the small states of the Gulf Cooperation Council especially to Qatar.
Qatar has been an important hub for the various global economic engagements of the World Trade Organization viz: the Doha Rounds.
In fact, Qatar had in recent years been hosting its flagship defence expositions viz: Doha International Defence Maritime Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) since 2008 and the present one to be hosted in March 2010 is the second in the series.
DIMDEX has brought the convergence of several extra-regional powers in defence expositions and summitry of the defence leadership of the participant countries. Major participant countries have been the United States, United Kingdom, France, India, Australia, Oman, Turkey and Pakistan etc.
In view of the gathering momentum of the Gulf crisis with Iran, Qatar's foreign policy, diplomacy and security strategy has been to seek optimal strategic assurances and support from several powers within the region and outside.
Recent Qatari diplomatic initiatives have seen the close engagement with Iran and also the engagement with the US. Besides these two main powers, Qatar had been engaging with China, France and India for various important inputs adding into its sinews, strategic strength and purpose.
The India-Qatari strategic engagement is based on the Qatari interests to engage India as a big market for its natural gas. Qatar's RasGas has entered into a 25-year agreement for the annual shipping 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas to terminals in Dahej in Gujarat and in Kochi.
Qatar rescued India by supplying 1.5 million tons of more LNG on a short-term contract basis to recommence the energy production in the Dabhol power plant in Maharashtra. This premier economic agreement is pivoted on the security arrangements that Qatar looks up to India provide for in terms of Joint training exercises, training of personnel and maritime cooperation.
The India-Qatar security cooperation was inaugurated by the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008 November.
The agreements with the Emirate of Qatar envisioned the issues of maritime security among others while the agreement on security and law enforcement covers issues like common threat perceptions and sharing of intelligence and cooperation to combat money laundering and transnational crime.
The defence and security agreements had committed India as the most substantial security provider to Qatar based on the reciprocity of Qatar's ability to meet India's energy needs of Liquefied Natural Gas thereby India being one of Qatar's largest trading partners.
The proximity of India's geo-strategic location enabling it to be a major security partner; the India-Qatar agreements envisage for New Delhi's commitment to protect Qatar's assets and interests from external threats. The scope of the agreement is just short of committing the stationing of Indian armed forces in the region.
The Indian security guarantee adds to the US commitment to Qatar. The Indian commitment includes a substantive naval security guarantee that would secure the offshore assets of Qatar and also provides for the joint venture in production of weapons and military equipment.
The maritime cooperation agreement provides India with a strategic naval base in the Gulf region. India has an autonomous role in maritime security in the region and the Gulf of Aden where the Combined Task Force 150 operates (CTF-150).
The India-Qatar maritime security initiative provides India and Qatar with a convergence of Indian naval power with Qatari naval forces to combat the variety of maritime asymmetric threats of terrorism, piracy and securing the offshore oil installations. It thus brings India into the Gulf Region with a secure access agreement.
Thus Qatar was the first country in the Middle East to sign such a pact with India in 2008. The Qatari interest in India could have stemmed from the ability of the Indian Navy to undertake the Operation Sukoon-a humanitarian maritime operation that was able to rescue over 1495 Indians, Sri Lankans and Nepalis from Lebanon at the height of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon Hezbollah War.
Also, Operation Sukoon saw the deployment of the INS Mumbai, Brahmaputra, Betwa and Shakti, that swung into action and rescued the stranded to the Southeast Lebanese port of Larnaca.
The India-Qatari strategic engagement has a number of issues for prospective consideration and serves as an exemplar model for similar agreements with the Gulf Cooperation States. The strategic convergence is based on the following factors.
Firstly, the high-stakes of the Gulf-Arabian peninsular rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran had diminished the strategic autonomy of the Gulf States like Qatar resulting in the quest for security guarantees from the extra-regional powers like the United States, United Kingdom, and France.
India's role and capacity in the Gulf security dynamics comes in the form of capacity-building based on cooperative and convergent security concerns vis-à-vis the competitive security dynamics that is played with the involvement of the western powers lead by the United States.
Qatar's choice of India as the third party stakeholder for security guarantees besides the US and the regional powers of Saudi Arabia and Iran provide an important dimension of the regional balancing process.
Secondly, India's capabilities and naval operational prowess is formidable with the advantage of its near proximity compared with China as also the United States.
India's economic contribution to the Qatari economy and the scientific-technical prowess enhances India's role as a capacity-builder of Qatar's civilian economy particularly in the hydrocarbon development sector, petro-chemical industries, the services sector etc.
Thirdly, India is better positioned to aid the defence industrialization of Qatar in the area of manufacture of military hardware and the training of the Qatari armed forces in various operational missions and also in develop capacities for coercive, humanitarian missions of the Qatari armed forces in encountering and tackling a variety of threats like maritime asymmetric threats and other non-traditional threats.
The defence and security agreements provide for a two-phase engagement in which India builds the capacity for Qatar and provides the training capacities that leads to operational versatility.
The second phase would be the interoperability that India would develop with Qatar that would result in Indian-Qatari maritime engagement and cooperative security.
Fourthly, India and Qatar would gain immensely from synergies in intelligence cooperation that could be in the areas of maritime security, counter-terrorism cooperation.
India could also add capacity to Qatari intelligence services and also engage in joint intelligence operations that would have implications in tracking and interdiction of the covert transfer of technologies and components of weapons of mass destruction.
Qatar being an important commercial hub like Dubai would be the target of covert transits of WMD technologies, components and subassemblies that would transit through its territory.
Qatari intelligence capacity needs to be fine tuned and enhanced for such contingencies, besides the sea-traffic in the region is known to be dense that tracking vessels that has potential cargo of WMD has to be maintained with vigil.
Fifthly, the Indian Navy could be a better strategic partner in a region of contested rivalries, with the substantial upgradation of ties between India and Saudi Arabia.
The existing ties with Qatar provide new vistas in cooperative and convergent maritime security in a region that has the perils of terrorism, piracy, and the covert transit of WMD.
Indian operational capability and robustness in VBSS (Visit, Board Search and Seize) operations and the capability to play an autonomous role outside the US-NATO CTF-150, 151 is yet another important asset that leverages in favor of Qatar.
Sixthly, India should proactively envision a robust participation of the GCC States lead by Qatar and Oman in its envisioned maritime security engagement viz Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
IONS would be the optimal leveraging platform that would build a cooperative benign framework of inter-regional maritime relations that not only enhances India's proaction in maritime security in the region, but for a better way offset prospective Chinese-Pakistani forays into the Gulf Region that should be anticipated in the coming years-given India's engagement in the region.
Seventhly, India should consolidate its present access in the Gulf of Aden with its forward basing of air and possible some modest forward presence of naval assets that is intended for anti-piracy operations as symbolic forward presence that stakes India's presence and also bolsters its operational capacity.
Such a forward presence would enhance the Indian-Qatari engagement and could serve the basis for India's benign naval exercises with Qatar, Oman and other Gulf Cooperation Council States.
In summation, the India-Qatari strategic rendezvous has come at a time that enhances India's energy security profile; stabilizes its profile in the Gulf-Arabian Peninsula region that is now rife with conflict.
India's non-intrusive role and the penchant for capacity-building has provided it with an enhanced profile in the Gulf Region that has been reinforced with its high-end skilled social capital of its Diaspora serves to cement an important strategic access and partnership in a region that would critically shape India and its strategic neighborhood.
(SOURCE: The article was published in the March 2010 issue of STRATEGIC AFFAIRS magazine, an outfit of CASS-India)
Last edited by ejazr; 07-02-11 at 04:49 PM.
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