India’s Middle East Policy Gathers Momentum

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by sorcerer, Mar 8, 2015.

  1. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    India’s Middle East Policy Gathers Momentum
    New Delhi’s active diplomacy with the region is now being bolstered by growing recognition of threats such as ISIS.

    Much of India’s foreign policy, even today, is based on the fundamentals laid down by the country’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. India’s place in the world and the policies that have shaped its global personality as a nation are based on Nehru’s ideals, which were sacrosanct until the Indo-China war of 1962 offered a perspective based on realism, rather than idealism.

    Nehru was genuinely fond of driving India’s foreign policy, just like Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi have been. However, Nehru’s play in extending India’s hand of friendship and cooperation in the Middle East and Persian Gulf (more commonly known in India as West Asia) was a masterstroke, the benefits of which India reaps in the region even today.

    India’s influence post-independence in the region started with the rapport that Nehru ended up building with the former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. By 1953, eminent Indian diplomat V. K. Krishna Menon had already started to market the idea of a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at the United Nations. Nehru, Gamel, and others from Asia and Europe later championed the NAM, at the time a revolution, but now an idea well past its expiry date.

    Nehru made Cairo a single-point policy in West Asia, though which New Delhi over the years developed exposure to the various intricacies of the region. Even though trade between Egypt and India never flourished to the levels that both Nasser and Nehru had hoped for, the Nehru-Nasser dynamic did lay much of the groundwork for India’s policy of strategically backing Arab states. Even after Nasser died in 1970, India supported his successor President Anwar Sadat’s regime as it partnered with Hafez al-Assad’s Syria and took on the Israelis in the October War (Yom Kippur War).

    Continuing the trend, India also maintained good relations with Hafez al-Assad’s Ba’athist regime in Damascus. These ties were retained when his son, Bashar al-Assad, took over the presidency of Syria in 2000. India has maintained a sly preference for the Assad regime even during the current Syrian Civil War, echoing the Russian line of supporting only an amicable solution via talks. In addition to taking part in the Geneva II talks, New Delhi sent a business delegation to Syria last May to bolster trade ties.

    India’s traditional rules of engagement with West Asia have only expanded in the decades following Nehru. This has been mostly positive for India, barring some instances that may be called blunders, such as India’s stance on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the first Gulf War, when it became the only country to shift its High Commission from Kuwait to Basra in Iraq after Saddam invaded.

    Fast-forward to the new millennia, and India’s political relationship with West Asian and Persian Gulf states is more streamlined, clear and concise. While much of the diplomatic attention has focused on the 7 million Indians working in the region, and the remittances they send back home, as well as on the oil trade, bilateral relations are also becoming more serious on the security front.

    India already has two main working security understandings in the region, namely with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. While details of India’s strategic understanding with Riyadh remain largely unknown, New Delhi signed an expansive defense agreement with Doha in 2008, thought to be a “one of a kind,” not signed with any other country since. Under the agreement, New Delhi has committed to protect Qatar’s assets and interests from external threats.
    :india:
    The proactive policy towards West Asia has continued under the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has giving Indian foreign policy in general a much needed boost.

    The timing is good, as West Asia is now becoming more important for India, particularly in terms of security. The ongoing crisis surrounding the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has driven recent Indian engagement. National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited Doha last month to hold talks with the Qatari leadership.

    India has leveraged its special understanding with Qatar in Iraq and reportedly even in Afghanistan. New Delhi had sought help of the influential Qatari state to locate 39 missing construction workers who have been taken hostage by ISIS. Meanwhile, a recent report also credited Doha for playing the role of mediator in the release of Indian citizen Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was abducted by the Taliban eight months ago in Afghanistan’s Herat province where he had been helping to educate refugee children.

    Qatar, a small Gulf country renowned for its wealth and for punching politically above its weight in the region, has become a formidable ally for India. Doha has some control over crucial entities in the region, including those fighting ISIS, such as the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front. Qatar is now reportedly moving to dismantle Nusra’s relations with al-Qaeda (although denied by Nusra’s second in command, Abu Mariya), which may give Doha more ground influence in the fragile realpolitik taking place in Iraq and Syria. This offers context on the role Doha can play in India’s worries relating to the launch of al-Qaeda in South Asia (AQSA) in September last year, as announced by the terror organization’s chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

    India is now looking to form more bilateral security arrangements with its friends in the region. After Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has become the latest country to enter into negotiations with New Delhi on a memorandum of understanding that will cover defense cooperation between the two countries. Delhi and Manama have always shared close ties, with some even suggesting that Bahrain is India’s closest ally in the region. Other states such as the UAE are also strengthening ties with India; the fact that Dubai deported Indian mujahideen leaders to India in 2013 showcased growing West Asian cooperation on security issues with India.

    With organizations such as ISIS able to influence people across borders and continents using online propaganda, West Asia will remain a diplomatic focus for India.

    Kabir Taneja is a journalist covering Indian foreign affairs and energy sector for The Sunday Guardian, The New York Times (India Ink), Tehelka, The Indian Republic and others. He is also a Scholar at The Takshashila Institution.

    India’s Middle East Policy Gathers Momentum | The Diplomat

    @Ray, @roma, @pmaitra, @Free Karma, @sgarg, @Bangalorean, @ladder, @LETHALFORCE, @SREEKAR, @cobra commando, @Otm Shank2 and al others
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
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  3. pmaitra

    pmaitra Moderator Moderator

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    Insightful article.

    I think they should have touched up on India maintaining links with the Saddam Hussein loyalists, many of whom are now part of ISIS, which was useful in securing the release of Indians kidnapped in Iraq.
     
  4. Free Karma

    Free Karma Senior Member Senior Member

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  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    This article gives a peep into the slow and steady progress India is making to cement ties to a new level in the Middle East - a phenomenon, mostly left unsaid in the media for common knowledge.

    It is a good step in the right direction and the countries mentioned in the ME are countries that have very autocratic Sultans ruling and have very little chance the country being in turmoil and hence foretells a stable and reliable relationship.

    That apart, Qatar being gas rich, is a boon for India.

    By aligning with Muslim nations, it will also blunt the Pakistani rhetoric and machinations.
     
  6. Otm Shank2

    Otm Shank2 Regular Member

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    Its good to see India making progress finally in Foreign policy.

    I hope to see it go further and a few Indian military bases in IOR countries like Qatar in the coming years
     
    Dharmateja likes this.
  7. SREEKAR

    SREEKAR Senior Member Senior Member

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    I agree with Sir.Ray as he said "By aligning with Muslim nations, it will also blunt the Pakistani rhetoric and machinations." . I think its correct time to develop relations with muslim countries in middle East . Ofcourse
    we have look east policy , but we should never forget them. I think indian navy has berthing facility at Qatar port.. am i right???
     
  8. Compersion

    Compersion Senior Member Senior Member

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    who and what are the demographics of saudi arabi and emirates areas (e.g. UAE) of its non-nationals:

    for example

    Demographics of Saudi Arabia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    the high and increased defense expenditure of saudi arabi is fascinating (and reasons why)

    who and what will use all that equipment and why.

    iran also is keeping its eye on the pakis and saudis. -> iran and saudi is separated by sea but not the pakis. also there is bahrain
     
  9. sorcerer

    sorcerer Senior Member Senior Member

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    India’s Central Asia Policy Makes Comeback in Kyrgyzstan
    After years of floundering, India’s Connect Central Asia policy is finally making progress

    On March 25, 2014, members of the Indian and Kyrgyz armed forces completed a two-week joint military exercise in Kyrgyzstan. Involving special forces from each country, including Kyrgstan’s “Scorpions” units, the Kanzhar 2015 exercise focused on the neutralization of armed militant organizations in mountainous areas. While the joint exercise was relatively small, consisting of approximately 100 soldiers, the presence of Indian combat forces on the ground in Central Asia marks an important comeback for India’s hitherto floundering Connect Central Asia policy. Indeed, New Delhi’s poor maneuvering during the latter part of the Manmohan Singh government had left India isolated in Central Asia, a region critical for India’s energy, trade and security needs.

    Officially announced by New Delhi in June 2012, India’s Connect Central Asia policy was the formalization of New Delhi’s revamped efforts to offset the grave strategic setback India first suffered in December 2010 with its loss of Tajikistan’s Ayni airbase to Russia.

    The Ayni airbase had been the key to New Delhi’s plan for expanding India’s strategic footprint in Central Asia. Originally used by the Soviets during the 1980s, the airbase had been abandoned since the 1988-89 withdrawal Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

    New Delhi contributed technical assistance and $70 million to renovate the airbase between 2003 and 2010. India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO), directed by the Army Corps of Engineers, extended the main runway to 3,200 meters to accommodate all types of aircraft, built a control tower with state-of-the-art navigational technology, and constructed three hangars capable of housing squadrons of MiG-29 bombers used by the Indian Air Force. Nonetheless, there are no reports of Indian combat aircraft having ever been stationed at the base. Although the BRO began the Ayni renovations in 2004, New Delhi never developed any meaningful leverage with the Tajik government. In December 2010, Tajikistan announced that Russia would be the only country to use the Ayni airbase. Moscow and Dushanbe then began negotiating the terms of their future military cooperation and Russia’s support for Tajik President Emomali Rahmon’s November 2013 re-election bid. India was effectively closed out of Ayni and the embarrassing reversal ushered in a period during which India had virtually no significant defense cooperation in Central Asia.

    To bolster its weak position in Central Asia in the wake of its setback in Tajikistan, India convened the first meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek in June 2012. In his keynote address, India’s Minister of External Affairs unveiled New Delhi’s Connect Central Asia Policy. Among its declared objectives for “deep engagement” with the Central Asian republics, New Delhi enumerated the need for strengthened strategic and security cooperation and long-term partnerships in energy development. However, New Delhi continued to struggle to realize these goals.

    The ongoing difficulty for India’s Connect Central Asia policy was most poignantly exemplified when Beijing thwarted New Delhi’s attempt to develop a foothold in Central Asian energy by acquiring ConcoPhillips’ 8.4 percent share in Kazakhstan’s massive Kashagan oil field. Although Kazakhstan previously gave indications that it would approve the $5 billion sale of ConocoPhillips’s share to OVL, the international division of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), the Kazakhstani government blocked the transaction and bought ConocoPhillip’s 8.4 percent stake in July 2013. Kazakhstan then turned around in September 2013 and sold an 8.33 percent stake in Kashagan to the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for an equivalent $5 billion along with CNPC’s agreement to provide $3 billion to cover half the cost of Kashagan’s phase two development.

    As discussed recently in The Diplomat, India’s Connect Central Asia policy may soon experience a significant breakthrough in the energy sector with the start of construction on the long stalled Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline. The joint military exercise Indian forces conducted with their counterparts in Kyrgyzstan similarly signals a turnaround for India’s objective to develop strengthened strategic and security cooperation.

    The changing fortunes of India’s strategic cooperation in Central Asia is undoubtedly connected to a rising anxiety over Russian hard power as well as a concurrent apprehension over the growing predominance of Chinese economic soft power among the nations of the region. However, it is also the product of India’s more muscular assertion of its national interests in international affairs under Narendra Modi’s government and, in particular, Modi’s deepening strategic partnership with the United States. Five months prior to the Indian-Kyrgyz joint exercises, Kyrgyzstan participated for the first time in the Kazakhstan-NATO joint military exercise known as Steppe Eagle.

    Featuring Kazakhstan’s NATO-trained air mobile brigade KAZBRIG, the yearly Steppe Eagle exercises serve to widen the scope of NATO interoperability across the Kazakhstani armed forces and is therefore perhaps the most significant of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programs conducted in Central Asia. Despite the fact Kyrgyzstan has received a $1 billion military aid package from Moscow, Bishkek chose to participate in Steppe Eagle 2014, which ran from September 16 to October 25, 2014. That followed the 2013 training of almost 900 members of Kyrgyz special forces units by the United States. Among those units trained by the U.S. were Kyrgyzstan’s “Scorpions” special forces that participated in the March 2015 joint exercises with India.

    India’s decision under Narendra Modi to modify its policy orientation of strategic autonomy and develop closer cooperation with the United States, as well as strong U.S. allies like Japan, enhances New Delhi’s value as a security partner. Should India continue to pursue this new policy direction, the India-Kyrgyzstan joint exercise may be an augur of a greater Indian role in the strategic architecture of Central Asia.

    Micha’el Tanchum is a Fellow in the Middle East and Asia Units, Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace, Hebrew University. Dr. Tanchum also teaches in the Departments of Middle Eastern History and East Asian Studies as well as the Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University.

    India’s Central Asia Policy Makes Comeback in Kyrgyzstan | The Diplomat
    ====
    Errrrr... Seems like a lot of work to do here!
     
  10. Otm Shank2

    Otm Shank2 Regular Member

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    Saudi Arabia Uses India to Balance Pakistan



    By TOM WRIGHT
    More evidence is emerging that Saudi Arabia is deepening its cooperation with India in cracking down on terrorism suspects, an important trend that has implications for Pakistan’s bilateral relationship with Riyadh.
    Pakistan is Saudi Arabia’s traditional ally in South Asia. Both are Islamic countries with majority Sunni populations. Saudi money has fueled the construction of hard-line religious schools in Pakistan that have helped foster Islamist militancy.
    But Saudi Arabia also has been moving closer to India, Pakistan’s nemesis in the region.
    Advertisement
    The latest sign came this week as Indian authorities confirmed Saudi Arabia had extradited Fasih Mehmood, an alleged member of Indian Mujahideen, a local militant outfit.
    India earlier this year had sought an international arrest warrant for Mr. Mehmood, who is from Bihar and is wanted in connection with an attack in 2010 on a tourist bus in New Delhi and a stadium in Bangalore.
    Earlier in October, Saudi Arabia extradited A. Rayees, another alleged Indian militant.
    India’s Home Ministry said both men, who are in Indian custody, were not contactable. Mr. Mehmood’s family have denied he is guilty of any crime.
    The two extraditions have built on a trend begun in June, when Saudi Arabia extradited Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, an alleged Indian member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based group blamed for the 2008 militant attacks on Mumbai that killed over 160 people.
    India and Saudi Arabia signed an extradition treaty in 2010, one of a series of recent steps aimed at strengthening ties. That came after a landmark visit to India by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud in 2006, the first in decades.
    There are many theories for why Saudi is cooperating more closely with India.
    Some observers view Saudi policy as driven by worries about the inability of Pakistan to control its militant proxies. Those anxieties have heightened in recent years as militants have increasingly attacked Pakistani government and military targets.
    “There’s a genuine concern in the Saudi establishment that things may get out of hand,” said Naresh Chandra, chairman of India’s National Security Advisory Board.
    Talat Masood, a retired Pakistan army general, says Saudi Arabia, once itself a source of funds for Pakistan-based militant groups, now views its closer relationship with India as a way of forcing Pakistan to moderate its support for these groups.
    “The Saudi relationship is no longer a monopoly of Pakistan,” Mr. Masood said.
    Saudi Arabia also may be using the extraditions to cement its trading links with India, other analysts say.
    Saudi is now the largest supplier of oil to India at a time when New Delhi, under U.S. pressure, is cutting back its imports from Iran. Almost two million Indians are working in Saudi.
    For Riyadh, its ties with India offer another way to help balance the influence of Iran, a Shiite power that has historically rivaled Saudi for influence in the Middle East and South Asia.
    The U.S., concerned about the growing reach of Lashkar-e-Taiba after the Mumbai attacks, likely put pressure on Saudi to follow through with the recent extraditions, believes Ashok Mehta, a retired Indian army general.
    “These extraditions wouldn’t have taken place without some pressure from the Americans,” he said.
    A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi declined to comment.
    The extradition of Mr. Ansari, the Indian militant sent home in June, was significant as he was allegedly travelling in Saudi Arabia on a Pakistani passport after escaping India. Authorities in India claim he was a senior member of Lashkar-e-Taiba and played an important role in the Mumbai attacks.
    Mr. Ansari, who remains in Indian custody, was not contactable. Local media reports say he’s currently in custody in Gujarat.
    Others say that, while important, the arrests don’t mean Saudi has ended its support for Pakistan. Stephen Tankel of the Carnegie Endowment for International Piece, noted in this July piece that Riyadh has not begun to extradite alleged Pakistani militants sought by New Delhi, only Indians.
    Mr. Chandra concurs. He pointed out that Mr. Mehmood, the alleged militant extradited this week, is accused of small scale attacks carried out in India. Getting Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to extradite Pakistani militants suspected of attacks on India will be the real test of deep-seated change, he added.
    blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/10/23/saudi-arabia-uses-india-to-balance-pakistan/

    old article but is this still being furthered?
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015

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