How strategic convergence between US, UAE, Saudi Arabia and India can help Delhi

Source– The post is based on the article “How strategic convergence between US, UAE, Saudi Arabia and India can help Delhi” published in “The Indian Express” on 10th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance– Changing dynamics in the middle east

News- The recent meeting in Riyadh between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the national security advisers of the US, UAE, and India underlines the growing strategic convergence between Delhi and Washington in the Gulf.

What is the new foreign approach of India towards the Middle east?

It is a major departure from the traditional approaches to the Middle East. India followed the principles of the Nehruvian foreign policy. It proposed that Delhi must either oppose Washington or keep its distance from it in the Middle East.

The approach was broken with the formation of a four-nation grouping called I2U2 that brought the US, India, Israel, and the UAE together.

Modi’s foreign policy rejected the notion that Delhi can’t be visibly friendly to Israel. He also transformed India’s uneasy relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, into solid strategic partnerships.

Delhi is interested in a new quadrilateral with the US, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

The US is not the only Western power that India is beginning to work with in the Gulf. France has emerged as an important partner in the Gulf and the Western Indian Ocean. India now has a trilateral dialogue with Abu Dhabi and Paris.

What are some facts about Pakistan’s role in Middle East affairs?

As India withdrew from its historic geopolitical role in the Middle East, Pakistan became the lynchpin of the Anglo-American strategy in the Gulf.

Pakistan was a key part of the Baghdad Pact created in 1955 along with Britain, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey to counter the Communist threat to the region.

After Iraq pulled out in 1958, the pact became the Central Treaty Organisation and moved to Ankara. The regional members of CENTO formed a forum on Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) in 1964.

CENTO was dissolved in 1979, and the RCD morphed into Economic Cooperation Organisation in 1985.

Pakistan’s continuing strategic decline makes it less relevant to the changing geopolitics of the Gulf. Pakistan in the 1950s was widely viewed as a moderate Muslim nation with significant prospects for economic growth.

Now, it is facing the challenges of violent religious extremism and a weak economy.

Pakistan has drifted too close to China. Islamabad is tempted to align with China and Russia in the region. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rush to Moscow when Russian President Vladimir Putin was about to invade Ukraine.

How has the US changed its approach to the Middle east?

The US is discarding its pro-Pakistan bias in thinking about the relationship between the Subcontinent and the Gulf.

The US will not abandon the Middle East. But it is recalibrating its regional strategy. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has highlighted several elements of the new US approach. One was about building new partnerships, including with Delhi.

The other was about the integration of the Arabian Peninsula into India and the world. It will focus on I2U2 and new regional coalitions.

What is the current geopolitical dynamics of the Middle east?

Beijing is now the second most important power in the world. Its diplomatic and political influence in the region will continue to rise. Yet, Beijing is nowhere near displacing Washington as the principal external actor in the Gulf.

The Anglo-Saxon powers have no desire to cede the Gulf to Beijing.

There are rising powers in the Arabian Peninsula, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Gulf kingdoms have accumulated massive financial capital and are undergoing ambitious economic transformation.

They have also begun to diversify their strategic partnerships, develop nationalism rather than religion as the political foundation for their states. They are  promoting religious tolerance at home, and initiating social reform.

What are the options for Indian strategic establishment in the Middle east?

Emerging Arabia opens enormous new possibilities for India’s economic growth. It enhances the scope of Delhi’s productive involvement in promoting connectivity and security within Arabia and between it and the regions  including Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean.

The engagement should also help India overcome the forces of violent religious extremism within the Subcontinent.

India should go for modernisation of Delhi’s strategic discourse on the Gulf and a conscious effort to change the outdated popular narratives on the Arabian Peninsula.

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