India’s relations with the West Asian countries are historical since the independence of India. India has interests in economic, political, security and strategic fields with the West Asian nations.
In the post-colonial era both side work along the ideology of non-alignment. India’s ‘Look West Policy’ indicates India’s emerging economic and strategic relations with countries of West Asia in order to boost its energy security and a counterbalance to the strategic influence of other major powers in the region. During the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasised on a ‘Look West Policy like India’s famed “look East policy’ but he failed to get much more. The new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started to reinforcement of ‘Look West’ or ‘Link West’ policy since May 2014.
The Prime Minister Modi has transformed Indian Foreign policy, according to new world order and India’s emerging national interest in his one year of office. Despite the Hindutva government of India, the Prime Minister Modi keens to make friendly and deep relations with Arab countries. The Prime Minister Modi’s new Foreign Policy efforts are also able to break the conventional dichotomy of Arab-India relations and Israel-India relations. Both Arab countries and Israel want stronger and greater engagement with India. Neither Arab nations, nor Israel is forcing Delhi to select between them. I would like to explain my views through India’s recent two big initiatives in its West Asia strategy in August of this year. One is the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) visit to Saudi Arabia and another is Indian Prime Minister Modi’s trip to the United Arab Emirates.
The recent productive visit of PM Modi to the UAE show Delhi’s intention to get more close with West Asian countries. An Indian Prime Minister has visited the UAE over 34 years, the country that contains 2.6 million Indian workers and Delhi’s third largest economic partner with approximately 60bn bilateral trade. The Joint statement issued on the occasion “the start of new and strategic partnership” between two nations. The PM Modi’s visit covered multi issues, including trade, terrorism and outreach to Indian diaspora, especially the blue-collared Indian workers.
Firstly, Delhi proposed to the UAE’s investors for investing in the infrastructure projects and both countries planned to reach a target of USD 75 billion to support infrastructure investment in India with the help of the UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund. India and the UAE seemed serious on the issue of terrorism. The joint statement said the two countries “coordinate efforts to counter radicalization and misuse of religion by groups and countries by inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims”. Further, the statement says “on all states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they exist, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice”.
The second development in India’s Look West Policy is the recent defence ties between India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is not only significant for both countries, but for the whole conflict ridden Arab region. The Indian Air Force (IAF) made a visit to Saudi Arabia from August 1to 4 which will bring a new high in the Indo-Saudi defence relations. This visit of IAF is not new in the field of military and defence relations between New Delhi and Riyadh. The first major bilateral partnership between India and Saudi Arabia was the Delhi Declaration of 2006, which signed during King Abdullah’s visit to India. The relationship further extends by 2010 Riyadh Declaration, which was signed between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and King Abdullah. This declaration is considering as a cornerstone of the strategic relationship between India and Saudi Arabia and boosts a roadmap for a closer New Delhi-Riyadh partnership. The first serious attempts about cooperation on defence and military issues was the ‘first meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia joint committee’ in 2012 which was spearheaded by Saudi Chief of Armed Forces Operations, Major General Suleiman Sale al-Khalifa. The major outcomes of the meeting were promoting defence exchanges and increasing military-to-military contacts. The new boost in the defence cooperation came in early 2014 when Salman bin Abdulaziz al Abdulaziz al Saud, the contemporary crown prince, the deputy prime minister, and the defence minister of Saudi Arabia visited India. A memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Engagement was signed between India and Saudi Arabia. The MoU allowed military training, education and exchange of Defence-related information and many more related fields.
The joint naval exercise of the Indian Navy and the Royal Saudi Navy (RSN) that conducted in last year and the recent joint Air Force exercise of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) will build trust and confidence between both countries for further cooperation in the field of defence.
Why India and the West Asia important to each other:
The West Asian region is one of the most instable and conflicted region in the contemporary world. Multifaceted factors, including regional and international powers’ interest produced vast turmoil in the post-Arab Spring era in the region. A range of Islamic terrorist groups, Civil wars and external intervention made the West Asia most horrible region. The whole West Asia is now in big socio-political, economical turmoil and boundaries are regularly fragmenting and integrating. The Islamic State and other terror groups are rapidly getting more ground in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and beyond. The Islamic State became the biggest challenge for this region. The recent suicide bombing attack on a mosque inside a police compound in the Saudi Arabia’s southwest city Abha by ISIS poses a challenge to the Kingdom’s national security, which killed at least 15 people mostly belonging to the Saudi Arabia’s Special Forces. India too not far from these challenges, an ISIS document revealed in US found that the Islamic State is planning to attack India with the help of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.
The West Asia region is also in the process of re-settlement and re-alignment of regional politics due to the recent entry of Iran in the international arena through the historic nuclear deal. India’s growing relations with Iran may be a bridge in Saudi Arabia and Israel to Teheran. A trustful relation between regional powers only can bring peace and stability in the region. In the midst of these challenges, the West Asian nations and India should develop their relations in near future.