- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Israel last month was labelled as de-hyphenating the traditional vector of Israel-Palestine in Indian strategic thinking in West Asia, without damaging relations with Arab states. The final say on this balancing, however, will be determined by Iran.
Seen from a new prism
- The relative quiet across Arab states during Mr. Modi’s visit and conversations with diplomats in the region reveal that India’s West Asia relations are no longer viewed through the prism of Israel-Palestine, but the changing security landscape in the region pertaining to Iran.
- A new political order in West Asia is in full force, led assertively by Saudi Arabia, and one that regards Iran as the existential threat.
- The assumption in some sections of the international community, that India’s ties with Israel naturally negate the South Asian power’s relationship with the Arab nations, specifically of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is misguided.
- India, in turn, looks to the region for its constantly expanding natural gas and crude oil thirst.
- Since the Iran nuclear deal, insecurities among Tehran’s rivals, supported increasingly by the Trump White House, have gone into overdrive.
- That the Iranian leadership is fully aware of these shifting dynamics was on show in the days leading up to Mr. Modi’s Israel visit.
- Twice in the space of 10 days, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei linked the plight of Muslims in Gaza, Yemen, and Bahrain, with, unexpectedly, those in Kashmir.
- The Iranians will have been aggrieved by the visit coupled with India’s unambiguous pro-Riyadh tilt.
- Despite this, ties between India and Iran will not cease any time soon, but run on an independent track.
- The rising economic stakes in Delhi and a new regional order will mean that India cannot maintain its traditionally equidistant, neutral position in West Asia for long.
- These pathways will be getting stress-tested soon once India desires a concrete regional strategy beyond tactical visits.