From partnerships formed in and around the Non-Aligned Movement to critical components such as energy security and diaspora, much has changed in India-West Asia relations
India’s economy has grown rapidly since, and its success stories in areas such as the technology and services sectors are increasingly noticed as models with the potential of being replicated.A big part of the fuel, literally, that has powered India’s growth to being the fifth-largest economy in the world (by size of GDP) came from West Asia, with states such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Iraq being the main providers over the years. The relatively small distance across the Arabian Sea kept transportation costs low, access relatively easier, and beyond the transactional nature of such trade, helped in building economic bridges between the sub-continent and the West Asian geography. The above-mentioned steady growth over the years has gained further momentum over the past decade, led by leader-to-leader ties and systemic shifts in global economics and geopolitics alike. The idea of an ‘Asian Century’, or more simply put, a movement of the global economic core away from the West and towards the East led by economies such as China and India is a story that traditional Western allies in West Asia today find more palatable. This is further pushed through by a voracious appetite for energy in these countries, a fundamental requirement by the likes of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iran, amongst others, to fund their economic designs by selling these energy commodities (such as oil and natural gas), and finally shifts in the West, such as rapid growth of ‘green energy’ in Europe and the coming of the US as a major energy exporter and producer.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE in July was his fifth to the Emirates, an unprecedented leadership-level outreach that has borne fruit for both economies.Newer mechanisms, such as the Abraham Accords— a series of joint normalisation agreements between Israel, the UAE, and the US—and the more recent détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China, have added further layers of stability, making it easier for partners such as India to further economic and trade aims. For example, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE in July was his fifth to the Emirates, an unprecedented leadership-level outreach that has borne fruit for both economies. With Israel, New Delhi has forged new partnerships in defence and technologies using newer diplomatic constructs such as the I2U2— a grouping of India, Israel, the UAE, and the US. On the other side of the Strait of Hormuz, with Iran, New Delhi continues its historic ties with projects such as the development of the Chabahar Port acting as a fulcrum for this long-standing association and building economic roadmaps connecting challenging states such as Afghanistan and bridging distances with those in Central Asia. From an Indian perspective, a diverse geopolitical and geoeconomic footprint is vital for its progress. Both India and partners in West Asia are not only looking to cooperate on the above-mentioned metrics but are also looking to cooperate in designing a geopolitical shift—a shift in thinking towards multipolarity and infusion of concepts such as “strategic autonomy”, which are terms we often hear in New Delhi today that are also catching up in West Asian political and diplomatic lexicon. In these new designs, the ‘natural’ partnerships being envisaged are between regions such as West Asia and India, to aid each other’s growth, and by association, help build each other as strong poles of power in a fast-evolving global order.
From an Indian perspective, a diverse geopolitical and geoeconomic footprint is vital for its progress.The coming decades will be critical for these regions, and association amongst them. Their aspirational, young populations will be in prime position to lead the world in economy, trade, science, education, healthcare, and, most importantly, technology. Keeping aside global narratives of conflict, India and its partnerships in West Asia are better situated than most for common growth and prosperity, helping each other address global issues such as climate change, and addressing challenges that increasingly require regional or localised solutions instead of ones made from globalist or internationalist narratives.
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Kabir Taneja is a Fellow with Strategic Studies programme. His research focuses on Indias relations with West Asia specifically looking at the domestic political dynamics ...Read More +