I2U2 And The Middle Power Great Game

Source: This post is based on the articles

I2U2 And The Middle Power Great Game” published in The Times of India on 16th Jul 22.

I2U2 summit was made possible by India’s nimble diplomatic moves, can provide a foothold for a greater role in West Asia” published in The Indian Express on 16th Jul 22.

Syllabus: GS2 – International Organisations and groupings

Relevance: The new QUAD

Context: In October 2021, Indian and Israeli foreign ministers sat together and created the ‘West Asia Quad’ with Anthony Blinken and Abdullah bin Zayed on a screen.

Nine months later, Joe Biden is sitting with Yair Lapid (former foreign minister), now prime minister of Israel, with the Indian PM and Mohammed bin Zayed in technological proximity, to start of the first summit of the same Quad, renamed as ‘I2U2’.

What are some opportunity areas for I2U2?

Connectivity: The I2U2’s emphasis on connectivity, transportation and a ‘food corridor’ should enable movement of critical supply chains seamlessly across South Asia, Gulf and Middle East all the way to the Mediterranean and southern Europe.

One simple example is the Etihad Rail project that promises to link all of the Gulf with its partners by 2030. That could open up more than one market for India.

Standards and benchmarks: The new Quad will not only work to “reduce trade barriers, but also harmonise standards and benchmarks” for production and trade. That’s important for Indian agri exports, which suffer at the hands of phytosanitary issues.

The setting of rules and benchmarks is a big component of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) signed just a couple of months ago. From technology to food and finance, these new plurilateral arrangements are bringing middle powers together to the new rules-making table.

Regional integration: India is hoping to make the most of the opportunities created by the Abraham Accords.

Strategic quotient: The region brings together the world’s biggest stakeholders, and, for the first time in decades, the Middle East is not the source of the latest global problem.

What are some factors that lead to the formation of I2U2?

A grouping like the I2U2 has been made possible by several developments:

In recent years, Delhi has responded to the new diplomatic and strategic dynamic in the region — by giving a political imprimatur to the relationship with Israel and engaging more deeply with the Gulf monarchies

The foreign office also seems to have shed its earlier wariness about the US’s role in West Asia. Washington, in turn, seems both comfortable with and keen for India playing a more proactive role.

The Abraham Accords of 2020, under which the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco now have formal ties with Israel too altered the diplomatic calculus in West Asia.

  • That Delhi is already a player in this ongoing realignment is a prospect for cautious optimism about India’s place at the diplomatic table in the region.
Way forward

It’s time for India to throw off its own “hesitations of history” and step out of the closet for a larger role in the region. In the more medium term, India might want to consider bringing Iran into the QUAD. Perhaps even Russia.

It is important to take into account the immense capital accumulation in the West Asian region, and how it has been deployed in infrastructure projects and corridors as far as Africa.

Despite the presence of the Indian diaspora, and the country’s energy needs, Delhi currently has a negligible presence in these projects.

It must gradually address this deficit, and the I2U2 could help in that regard.

The I2U2 is a validation of New Delhi’s nimble foreign policy in West Asia as well as a pointer to the as yet untapped potential in the region.

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