Observer Research Foundation, in association with the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, hosted UAE Foreign Minister Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash for a special discussion on “Strategic Relations between India and the UAE and Crisis in the Middle East” in New Delhi on 22 March.
The programme, ‘In Conversation’, conducted by ORF Chairman Sunjoy Joshi and Head, Strategic Affairs, ORF, Prof. Harsh Pant, discussed with Dr. Gargash, the Cabinet Minister and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, the bilateral relationship between the UAE and India first and then the crisis in West Asia.
Dr Gargash, explaining the evolution of his country’s ties with India, said the UAE is keen to give “strategic direction” to its strengthening relationship with India. He said thanks to the strong political will of the leadership in New Delhi and Abu Dhabi, the bilateral relationship is building quite well.
Now it is time that the building relationship is given a strategic direction so that both the countries can utilise the full potential, he said.
He said the UAE is keen to be a part of the development taking place in India which is emerging as a global power.
Dr. Gargash said as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said during his visit to Abu Dhabi, UAE is “willing to put more and more investment” in India, especially in the infrastructure sector. He said there are lots of opportunities for this.
Saying security and stability is very important for his country in these “difficult, fluid times”, Dr Gargash said UAE and India would increase its cooperation to take on the fight against terrorism.
“We are more keen on addressing the threat of terrorism,” he said, noting that “we cannot afford instability in the region”.
He stressed the need to fight the militant minority who have hijacked the Islam religion for political purposes. He accused Qatar of helping these fundamentalist forces with finance, logistics, media institutions to popularise Jihadist activities.
Dr Gargash said Qatar, through such activities, are trying to destabilise the other countries in the region, like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, etc.
Dr Gargash said ‘hegemonistic” Iran is also trying to expand its influence in the region, further destabilising the region. “We have a problem with the foreign policy of Iran,” he said, noting that that country is “spending billions of dollars” in Syria. “Iran’s belligerent behaviour” is a big problem for the stability and security of the region, he said, pointing out that the solution for Syria is not military but political.
Saying Syria and Yemen are cases of failures of diplomacy, he said the biggest test for Russia now is how to convert the gains (in Syria) to political solution.
Dr Gargash said UAE was against the nuclear deal when President Obama proposed it and even now, he thinks that Iran’s nuclear halt is “only temporary”. He said it would only increase nuclear proliferation in the region.
“You cannot allow somebody to guy a gun when he is threatening people,” Dr Gargash said.
He also said Iran’s ballistic missile programme is a “major concern” in West Asia.
Dr. Gargash also felt that as the divide in the world is getting sharper between the east and the west, the two-nation theory for the solution of the Palestine issue is unlikely to succeed. He said after three-four years, the debate will shift to one-nation solution.
“The next 3-4 years…if the two-state solution will no longer be attainable, (then) the discussion will be about one-state solution and about democratic rights. I know that discussion is currently taking place but that is marginalised. If we wait for few more years, that (discussion) will be in the centre stage,” he said.
Dr. Gargash said the Israeli occupation also gave an opportunity for Iran and Turkey to “whip up emotions”. He also expressed apprehension on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) i.e., the nuclear deal between Iran on one side and China, the US, the UK, France, Germany and the European Union, on the other hand.
Dr. Gargash is a member of the Federal Cabinet of the United Arab Emirates and has been serving as the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs since 2008. Between 2006 and 2016, Dr. Gargash had also served as the Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs.