Recently there has been a high number of visits with W. Asia by India after the London conference on 30th January on Afghanistan. I wanted this thread to highlight a few aspects on India-W. Asia affairs. This includes the mainly Muslim neighborhood of GCC, Iran and Turkey. This bloc is very important for India’s future growth and has four main strategic imperatives
(1) India’s Energy security – More than 80%of India’s oil and gas supplies are imported from W. Asia
(2) Trade ties, the GCC and Arab world alone accounts for about $US 100+B making in the single biggest trading bloc for India in the world. This is set to grow even further with huge investments coming in from the Gulf and Turkey in Indian infrastructure. As well as Indian investments in Iran. The GCC is also home to the largest expat community of about 4.5-5 million Indians that remit about $30B US annually. A Turkey-India and GCC-India FTA are close to finalization.
(3) Security in the Indian Ocean Region – Oman, Qatar, Yemen and Iran are important countries whose co-operation is needed to extend naval outreach and co-operate for security in the IOC region
(4) Counter-terrorism and diplomacy in Af-Pak. Most of these countries have strong influence in one way or another in Pakistan. Iran has considerable influence among the shias, Saudi Arabia and UAE among the business men and more conservative sunni elements and Turkey has general good will. Just as India has been using US to put pressure on Pakistan to reign in terror groups. India can share intelligence and evidence with countries to put pressure on Pakistan and ask for reciprocal arrangements. There are already shared counter-terror mechanisms and extradition treaties with some countries in the GCC such as Kuwait Saudi Arabia and UAE.
Also note that the UPAII administration has a dedicated Envoy to W. Asia C. Ghare khan as their point man.
Now take a list of the visits that have been completed till since January 30, when the London Conference concluded. Interestingly, Iran had boycotted this event.
Visit of Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs Shri S.M. Krishna to Kuwait (3-4 Feb)
Foreign Secretary’s visit to Iran (2-3 February 2010)
Visit of Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. Shashi Tharoor to Oman (5-7 February 2010)
State Visit of H.E. Mr. Abdullah Gul, President of the Republic of Turkey to India (7-11 Feb)
Moreover, we have a possible PM visit to Saudi Arabia on the cards that would be a significant game changer in GCC as well as diplomatic efforts with Pakistan. PM to visit Saudi Arabia
There is also an expected PM visit to Iran soon after. PM visit to Iran possible in March
This is on top of last years diplomatic meets which included
visit of Vice President Mr. M. Hamid Ansari to Kuwait
Visit of MOS Dr. Shashi Tharoor to Yemen
Visit of Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs to Bahrain and UAE from October 4-8, 2009
India is fortunate as compared to China to have geographical, historical, civilizational and religious ties to West Asia. How India engages with West Asia and uses its influence to counter any anti-Indian activities from China or Pakistan will decide if India will be able to leapfrog its growth trajectory over China.
India’s support to the Palestinians have always kept most Arab countries like Egypt, Iran and Syria favorable to India. With the end of the cold war, countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia are coming out of the anti-Soviet view of India and seeing it independently in a favourable light. The state visit of King Abdullah in 2006 (who stated India as his second home-a far reaching statement for the King) and the current state visit by the president of Turkey highlight this fact.
At present, the Mumbai attacks have generated unprecedented sympathy throughout the arab world, Iran and Turkey and India should use this good will to extract important counter-terrorism co-operation. Many countries are more than willing to help India and have signed extradition treaties as well as agreed to setup counter-terrorism co-operation mechanisms.
A broad based engagement on energy security and trade will allow mutual growth as the EU and American economies enter a slow growth stage. By actively engaging with the W. Asia, Indian influence throw good will and economic ties is set to grow. Moreover any anti-Indian propaganda by Pakistan can be effectively countered and further these countries can be used to put further pressure on GoP to reign in terror groups.
Finally, a logical addition would an increase in joint military exercises particularly naval with Indian Ocean countries which will be necessary to maintain and enhance Indian Navy’s role in the Indian Ocean region
Discuss here:India’s focus in West Asia is vital for Great Power status