Event ReportsPublished on Nov 22, 2007
An International conference on "Emerging Security Concerns in West Asia" was organised by ORF at its Rouse Avenue campus on November 21-22, 2007 in partnership with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation of Germany.
India can provide a model to West Asia

An International conference on “Emerging Security Concerns in West Asia” was organised by ORF at its Rouse Avenue campus on November 21-22, 2007 in partnership with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation of Germany. The conference took place in the backdrop of the 44-nation meeting on bringing peace to the West Asia sponsored by the US at Annapolis on November 27-28, 2007. Several foreign scholars and experts like Prof. Faisal O. Al-Rfouh, former Minister of Culture in Jordan, Prof. Norman Paech, MP of the German Bundestag, Dr. Michael Brie, vice-chairman, RLF, Dr. Siret Hursory (Turkey), Prof. Khaldoun H. Al-Naqeeb (Kuwait),   Mr. Mohammed Wahby (Egypt), Dr. Werner Ruf, Dr. Sabine Hofmann, Dr. Claudia Haydt, Dr. Erhard Crome (all Europe), Dr. Sadegh Zibakalam (Iran) and Dr. Sahar Al Majali (Jordan) participated in the conference besides domain experts from India. There was a vigorous and lively exchange among them and the large numbers of academics, diplomats, journalists and foreign affairs observers and commentators specialising in the area who participated in the conference.

The conference was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Vice President of India Shri Hamid Ansari who has himself had extensive experience of living and working in the region as an Indian diplomat. His profound and incisive inaugural speech analysed the current disturbing situation in the region, the basic causes and the responsibility of regional and external powers, and possibilities of what could be done by the principal regional actors and the international community to ameliorate the situation and move towards its resolution. He noted that “discussion on regional security in West Asia is not primarily centred on the Arab core” and that “the state-centric security concerns in West Asia … relate principally to the moves on the chess board of the United States, Israel and Iran in relation both to each other and to other actors in the region.” The Vice President’s detailed and substantive presentation was widely appreciated and received extensive coverage in the media.

The sessions of the conference examined the various perspectives of the emerging security situation in West Asia, the important role of ideology, political developments in the region and their impact on stability and security, the role of external and regional powers and their implications for regional security, and possible policy responses. The situation resulting from the Iraq war, the effect of Palestinian divisions between Fatah and Hamas on the prospects of movement towards a settlement, the Shia Sunni divide, the rise of extremist and non state actors, the role of Iran and the threats against it, US policy in the region and the politics of oil were all exhaustively discussed.

While the complexities of the situation, and the difficulties these created for progress were recognised, there was general concern that the conflict was expanding and more and more people were getting involved. There was agreement that there should be no more military threats directed at one or other countries or groups in this situation and, if possible, a certain amount of demilitarisation was needed with the military playing a progressively lesser role. There should also be no more redrawing of borders. There was wide agreement on the need for wider participation during discussion of the problems which should not be just left to external powers like the US and some European countries. There was need for more active participation by the regional countries as well as some others like China and India. There was also scope for issue based cooperation between the EU and India in tackling some of the problems of the region. Participants were also anticipating the success of Annapolis Conference.

The valedictory session heard an impressive address by Shri Chinmaya Gharekhan, India’s Special Envoy for West Asia and the Middle East Peace Process. He analysed the various elements regarding which coordinated progress is essential for genuine movement towards a resolution of the Arab Israeli problem, the core issue for peace and stability in the region. He informed the conference that, in the light of its consistent interest and important potential role on the issue, India had been invited to send a delegation to the Annapolis conference. "India is perhaps a unique country with a fully functioning democracy, a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual pluralist society. India thus could provide a model to the societies in West Asia. Indeed this possible role of a model has been emphasized to me by leaders in responsible positions in my conversations with them. It is in this spirit that India will participate in the Annapolis conference," said Amb. Gharekhan.

Shri M. K. Rasgotra, President of the ORF Centre for International Affairs, hosted a dinner in honour of the participants and invitees, which included several foreign Ambassadors based in Delhi, many of whom had participated actively in the conference. Shri Eijaz Ahmad, the Minister of State for External Affairs, whose responsibilities include the West Asia region, was the Chief Guest at the dinner and made an important speech on the policy and approach of the Government of India towards the region. The Minister also released a book on the last conference jointly organised by ORF and Rosa in 2006 on “The Rise of China”.


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