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Indian Express Editorial Analysis


1. An Arabian Valentine

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Bilateral Relations This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of India’s evolving relationship with the Gulf region.
  • In the closing stages of his second term as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi embarked on a significant journey to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, culminating in two landmark events: the inauguration of the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) temple in Abu Dhabi and the release of eight Indian ex-naval personnel detained on espionage charges in Doha.
  • These events underscore a pivotal moment in Modi’s diplomatic efforts and signify a notable transformation in India’s relations with the Gulf region over the past decade.
  • This article delves into the factors driving this transformation, encompassing diplomatic, political, religious, economic, and security dimensions.
Diplomatic Engagement:
  • Under Modi’s leadership, India has substantially increased its diplomatic engagements with the Middle East, a region historically not prioritized in Indian foreign policy.
  • In stark contrast to the limited visits by his predecessors, Modi has visited the Middle East fifteen times since assuming office in 2014, enhancing India’s diplomatic footprint in the region.
  • Notably, his visits to the UAE and Qatar mark significant milestones, reflecting a proactive approach to nurturing relationships with Gulf leaders.
Personal Diplomacy:
  • Modi’s recognition of the importance of personal relationships with Gulf leaders has been instrumental in advancing bilateral ties.
  • By fostering direct connections with Gulf monarchs, Modi has leveraged mutual trust and political give-and-take to elevate India’s standing in the region.
  • This emphasis on personal diplomacy underscores a strategic shift in India’s approach towards Gulf countries.
Political Engagement:
  • India’s engagement with the Gulf has transcended symbolic gestures of support for Arab causes to encompass a more substantive political dialogue.
  • The establishment of strategic alliances such as the I2U2 group and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor signals a departure from India’s previous focus on declaratory positions to a more proactive engagement in regional geopolitics.
Religious Lens:
  • India’s past tendency to view the Gulf through a religious lens, exacerbated by Pakistan’s outreach seeking Islamic solidarity, hindered diplomatic progress.
  • However, Modi’s administration has demonstrated a pragmatic approach, discarding the Pakistan-centric obsession and focusing on fostering goodwill and cooperation with Gulf nations.
Religious Tolerance and Social Reform:
  • The construction of the Swaminarayan temple in Abu Dhabi reflects a broader trend of growing religious tolerance and social reform in the Gulf, which has the potential to counter religious extremism emanating from the region and foster harmony across diverse communities.
Economic Partnership:
  • The economic dimension of India’s relationship with the Gulf has evolved from a transactional to a strategic partnership, driven by the Gulf’s emergence as a major center of global capitalism.
  • Modi’s emphasis on leveraging Gulf cooperation for India’s economic modernization aligns with the Gulf’s diversification efforts beyond oil and presents vast opportunities for collaboration in various sectors.
Security Collaboration:
  • Collaboration between India and Gulf nations in counter-terrorism has expanded significantly, albeit with untapped potential in the defense domain.
  • As Gulf countries seek to diversify their defense partnerships, India’s role as a regional security provider becomes increasingly significant, necessitating deeper military cooperation and joint development initiatives.
  • Modi’s recent engagements in the Gulf epitomize the culmination of a decade-long transformation in India’s relations with the region.
  • By prioritizing diplomatic, political, economic, and security dimensions, India has forged a comprehensive partnership with Gulf countries, characterized by mutual respect, cooperation, and shared strategic interests.
  • As India looks towards deeper engagement in the region, opportunities abound for further collaboration to promote prosperity and stability in the Western Indian Ocean and beyond.
Why is the Gulf Region Crucial for India?
  • India has had positive connections with nations like Iran for generations, and one of its closest regional friends is the smaller, gas-rich country of Qatar.
  • India enjoys cordial ties with the majority of Gulf nations.
  • Trade and the production of gas and oil are the two main drivers of the connection.
  • Fourteen percent of India’s total imports of natural gas come from Qatar.
  • The enormous number of Indians employed in the Gulf nations and the remittances they send home are two further factors.
  • Remittances from the United Arab Emirates to India in the fiscal year 2020–21 totalled USD15.40 billion, or 18% of all inward remittances to India, according to a research study released by the Reserve Bank of India.
PYQ: Which of the following is not a member of ‘Gulf Cooperation Council’? (2016)   (a) Iran (c) Oman (b) Saudi Arabia (d) Kuwait   Ans: (a)
Practice Question:  Discuss the factors contributing to the transformation of India’s relations with the Gulf region in the last decade. (150 words/10 m)

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