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Relevance: Emergence of a new geo-political order in West Asia is providing an opportunity for India to increase its role in the region.
Synopsis: Turkish president’s excessive ambitions, alienation of Israel and moderate Arabs, growing conflict with Greece and alignment with Pakistan presents India with opportunity to widen outreach to west of the Subcontinent.
Emerging geo-political situation in West Asia
The reshaping of West Asia’s geo-political situation is marked by an alienation of Turkey and is driven by the following events:
Turkey and Pakistan’s cooperation
- Turkish president is making assertive claims for the leadership of the Islamic world. Also,
- Erdogan’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to overthrow the current political order in the region, has deeply angered the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Thus, fighting the Brotherhood and balancing Turkey have become existential challenges for them.
- Hostility towards India: Efforts since the end of the Cold War at normalising relations between Delhi and Ankara have also broken down, thanks to Erdogan’s hostility towards India.
- Erdogan has been supporting Pakistan’s case on Kashmir after India changed the territorial status quo of the state in August 2019.
- At Pakistan’s behest, Erdogan is also blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Pakistan’s alignment with Turkey is growing resulting in its alienation from its traditionally strong supporters in the Arab Gulf — the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Greece and UAE closer now
The discovery of new hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean, the renewed territorial disputes between Turkey and Greece, and the Turkish quest for regional dominance has drawn Greece and the UAE closer.
Increased coop b/w India & Greece
Greece is looking towards India to enhance bilateral security cooperation. India’s external affairs minister was in Athens at the end of June and the two sides have begun defence exchanges.
French counter to Turkey
Greece’s European partners like France, which have a big stake in the Mediterranean as well as the Arab Gulf, have taken an active interest in countering Turkey’s regional ambitions.
Amidst the reshaping of geo-political order in West Asia, India’s relations with the UAE and Israel have gained a political depth and strategic character under present Indian government. This trilateral relationship can be the launchpad for a wider regional coalition.
So, can this growing convergence of interest between India, UAE and Israel be formalized under an official coalition i.e. an Indo-Abrahamic accord?
Areas of cooperation
There are many areas like defence, aerospace and digital innovation where the three countries can pool their resources and coordinate development policies.
Coordination with Saudi Arabia will certainly remain a high priority for the three nations.
Meanwhile, others like Greece are eager for greater cooperation with the coalition.
Why Egypt’s support is critical?
For India to play a greater role in West Asia and to formalize the emerging trilateral partnership will require Egypt’s support. India’s engagement with West Asia in the 1950s was centered on a close partnership with Egypt.
- The Nasser & Nehru relationship: The legendary special relationship between Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser was instrumental in promoting Afro-Asian unity and founding the Non-Aligned Movement. Nehru and Nasser visualised a strategic partnership and sought to build a joint fighter aircraft and develop a jet engine.
Present Indian government can rebuild the strategic partnership jointly with el-Sisi who is calling for the construction of a “New Republic” in Egypt.
The opportunities for India to the west of the Subcontinent are as significant as those that have recently emerged in the east. Much in the manner that the “Indo-Pacific” has transformed the way India thinks about the east, the notion of a “Greater Middle East” can provide a huge boost to India’s engagement with the extended neighborhood to the west.
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