A ‘middle kingdom’ dawns on India’s west

Source: This post is based on the article “A ‘middle kingdom’ dawns on India’s west”, published in The Hindu on 25th May 2022.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 2, International Relations

News: In the recently concluded 32nd Arab League Summit held in Jeddah, all 22 Arab states participated after 12 years, and Syria was readmitted. The summit shows the changing geo-political environment in the Arab region.

The “Jeddah Declaration” of the summit was moderate. It although adopted a pro-Palestinian agenda but refrained from mentioning Israel by name.

It did not discuss any Iran-related issues and called for stopping foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries.

It also opposed all support for the formation of armed groups and militias.

How is Saudi Arabia’s rise causing the geo-political changes in the Arab world?

Saudi Arabia’s economic strength is a significant advantage in its quest for Arab supremacy. Its GDP grew by 8.7% in 2022, and its oil income reached a record $228 billion, giving it considerable influence over OPEC and OPEC+.

The rise of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the main arbiter of the Arab world’s agenda has been a key factor. He held triple summits in Riyadh with the Chinese President.

Saudi relations with Iran were normalised. It resulted in reduced in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq

By reconciling with Iran through Chinese mediation, but without a U.S. nod-and-wink, Riyadh has asserted its diplomatic autonomy.

Direct ties with Iran have also reduced the importance of Qatar, Iraq, Oman and Pakistan as intermediaries.

Saudi’s animosity with Israel has been replaced by ambiguity as it has still not joined the Abraham Accords but improved the relations with Israel.

In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has hosted peace talks among warring factions in Sudan.

What are the challenges in front of Saudi?

It still needs for a more mature and consistent foreign policy. For example, Jamal Khashoggi episode in 2018 got it into many issues.

Potential friction in its ties with the UAE and Qatar.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s likely anointment as the next Saudi king may disturb it’s internal stability.

What should be the course of action for India?

India should acknowledge this geopolitical shift, realign its strategy, and vigorously pursue its national interests.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be re-invited for the India visit, postponed last year.

Synergise the bilateral Strategic Partnership Council at various levels.

Indian should raise participation in various projects under the Kingdom’s ambitious “Vision 2030”.

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