[op-ed snap] Arc to West Asia: China’s signal for deepening ties with the region

Context:

  1. By hosting the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel, the two heavyweights in West Asia that do not have formal diplomatic relations, in consecutive weeks, Beijing has sent yet another signal on its growing appetite to deepen ties with the region

Deals with Saudi Arabia and Israel:

  1. During the visit of King Salman last week, China and Saudi Arabia announced an investment cooperation deal worth $65 billion that will boost partnerships in fields such as energy, finance and aerospace
  2. Days later, Chinese President Xi Jinping met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Beijing, where both leaders vowed to strengthen cooperation in the technology and agriculture sectors

China’s ties with West Asia:

  1. Over the years China has built strong economic ties with countries in West Asia, while staying clear of the region’s several crises and hostilities
  2. It is one of the top buyers of oil from Saudi Arabia and a key trading partner of Israel
  3. For Iran, Beijing remained a trusted ally even during the time of sanctions
  4. China was one of the few countries that continued to buy oil from Iran when most others, including India, either halted trade or implemented massive cuts in imports under American pressure
  5. China’s economic ties with West Asia assumed greater significance after Mr. Xi unveiled the One Belt, One Road initiative
  6. West Asia plays a major role in this Silk Road revival plan, which the Chinese believe will fortify their global standing

Recent developments:

  1. Of late, China has shown a greater interest in expanding its engagement with the region beyond the economic sphere
  2. It is one of the supporters of the Bashar al-Assad regime in civil war-stricken Syria
  3. In the UN Security Council, China, along with Russia, has consistently vetoed U.S.-backed resolutions on Syria, while at the same time offering to broker peace between rival factions
  4. China has also recognised Palestine as a state and offered support for the Palestinians
  5. During his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Xi said peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine would be good for both parties and the region
  6. The Chinese have also urged Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together to attain peace
  7. All this indicates that China is ready to end its strategic reluctance in dealing with West Asia and to adopt a gradualist proactive policy that suits its profile as a fast-rising global power

Risks for China:

  1. Unlike the U.S. and Russia, China has traditionally played a risk-free global role, staying focussed on economic development
  2. It lacks experience in navigating the political, religious, sectarian and tribal tensions in West Asia, both among states and within countries
  3. The three major pillars of China’s West Asia policy — Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel — are rival powers
  4. The challenge before Beijing, if it wants to enter the troubled political waters of West Asia, is to maintain a perfect balancing act

Note4Students:

The growth of China in West Asia, indirectly affects India, therefore, this op-ed is important for understanding the international dynamics.

India, Oman to hold counter-terror exercises

  1. The armies of India and Oman are scheduled to conduct their second bilateral exercise, Al Nagah-II 2017, in March with a focus on counter-terrorism
  2. The exercise would be held in the Dhauladhar Ranges at Bakloh in Himachal Pradesh from March 6 to 19
  3. Sixty troops from the two sides will participate
  4. Aim: To build and promote bilateral Army-to-Army relations and enhance interoperability while exchanging skills and experiences between the Indian Army and the Royal Army of Oman
  5. An added aim is to enhance knowledge of each other’s military procedures qualitatively, thus increasing the scope for interoperability and better responsiveness to a common threat
  6. Background: India and Oman already have extensive cooperation in the maritime domain
  7. The navies of the two countries have been holding the bilateral maritime exercises called ‘Naseem Al Bahr’ since 1993
  8. In addition, the Indian Navy has been cooperating with its UAE and Oman counterparts in training, operational interactions and exchange of “white shipping information” with the help of a joint cooperation committee
  9. India has, of late, been deepening its defence cooperation with the region
  10. The Chief of the Naval Staff is on a tour of Oman and the UAE to explore new avenues for naval cooperation

Note4students:

Very important for prelims. Also map the important locations in bold.

India-UAE condemn state-backed use of religion to sponsor terrorism

  1. News: In a veiled attack on Pakistan, India and the UAE have condemned efforts by states to use religion to sponsor and sustain terrorism against other countries
  2. The two sides agreed to coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and perpetrating acts of terrorism
  3. Also resolved to cooperate in countering terrorism by adopting a policy of “zero tolerance” towards the menace
  4. Zero tolerance: Reaffirmed their “strong condemnation of and resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere”

Note4students:

Just know what are the dimensions of our relations with West Asian countries. The one is here- terrorism.

India to fill strategic reserve facility at Mangaluru with oil from UAE

  1. India signed a deal with the UAE that allows UAE to fill half of an underground crude oil storage facility at Mangaluru that is part of India’s strategic reserve system
  2. Fact check: UAE is India’s fifth biggest oil supplier
  3. India is world’s third-biggest oil consumer
  4. Background: The two sides had discussed ways to advance their energy ties through specific projects, including long-term supply contracts and joint ventures in energy
  5. India has already filled the other half of the Mangaluru storage in Karnataka state with six million barrels of Iranian oil
  6. India has also filled a Vizag storage site in southern Andhra Pradesh with 7.55 million barrels of Iraqi oil and has invited bids from suppliers to fill an 18.3 million-barrel facility at Padur in Karnataka

Note4students: This is very important for prelims as well as mains- energy security.

Back2basics:

About strategic reserves:

  1. The Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve (ISPR) is an emergency fuel store of total 5 MMT (million metric tons) or 36.92 MMbbl of strategic crude oil enough to provide 10 days of consumption
  2. Why? Hedging against energy security risks as we import most of our oil needs
  3. These are maintained by the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited
  4. Strategic crude oil storages are at 3 underground locations in Mangalore, Visakhapatnam and Padur near Udupi
  5. These are located on the east and west coasts of India & are readily accessible to the refineries
  6. These strategic storages are in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and serve in response to external supply disruptions
  7. Expansion: India is planning to expand 4 more strategic crude oil facilities in second phase at Bikaner in Rajasthan, Rajkot in Gujarat, Padur in Udupi district of Karnataka and Chandikhole in Jajpur district of Odisha

India, UAE sign strategic partnership pact

  1. News: India sealed 14 agreements, including a comprehensive strategic partnership, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  2. The summit-level talks, however, fell short of clinching a major investment agreement for India,
  3. The Agreement on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership came four days after both sides held the first ever strategic dialogue
  4. The Crown Prince described the strategic agreement as a testimony to the age-old ties between the two sides
  5. Apart from this, agreements on defence industries, maritime transport, cybersecurity, shipping and transport were also signed

Note4students: Strategic partnership is important here. Know what is strategic partnership in b2b.

Back2basics:

  1. A strategic partnership is a long-term interaction between two countries based on political, economic, social and historical factors
  2. Such a partnership manifests itself in a variety of relationships
  3. India has signed “strategic partnerships” with more than 30 countries
  4. Not all strategic partnerships are equally important
  5. Some have a dominant political element, while others have a prominent economic dimension
  6. In some cases, the security dimension may be the most important

[op-ed snap] Bridging the Gulf

Context:

  1. India’s ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are set to get a major boost with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, visiting New Delhi as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade

Importance of chief guest at Republic Day:

  1. In recent years, Delhi has often used this ceremony to send out important signals on the foreign policy front by inviting its key partners

Strengthening ties with UAE:

  1. The Modi government has invested significant diplomatic capital towards strengthening its ties with the UAE
  2. With the conclusion of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement between India and the UAE this week, this relationship is poised for a dramatic leap
  3. Several agreements, including one on road and maritime transport, are expected to be signed during the visit
  4. The two sides will underscore their commitment to deal with terrorism
  5. The UAE endorsing India’s concerns on terrorism underscores the challenges facing the Gulf kingdoms at a time when the Islamic State is rising and sectarian divide in the region is widening
  6. They also hope to work closely in Afghanistan, where five UAE diplomats were killed earlier this month in a terror attack and where regional alignments are in flux

Trade and investment:

  1. Currently, India and the UAE have a $350 billion bilateral trade, which they plan to increase three times in the near future
  2. After China and the U.S., the UAE is India’s largest trading partner
  3. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, is seeking to identify investment opportunities in the Indian infrastructure sector

Gulf Cooperation Council:

  1. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is India’s second-largest trading partner, the largest single origin of imports into the country, and the second largest destination for exports from India
  2. The GCC countries supply 45 per cent of India’s petroleum, with the UAE being the sixth largest source of imports of crude oil
  3. The region remains a major destination for Indian investment
  4. India hopes that major GCC states such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Oman will participate in its planned infrastructure expansion
  5. Meanwhile, the Gulf states are interested in human resources from India in order to develop sectors as varied as information technology, construction, transportation and services

Indian Naval exercises:

  1. India’s trade and energy security is inextricably linked to the security of the Straits of Hormuz and Bab-el-Mandeb
  2. With this in mind, the Indian Navy regularly visits Gulf ports, and trains with states in the region
  3. It has undertaken a series of naval exercises with a number of Gulf States in recent years, thereby helping in expanding India’s reach in the region
  4. Indian warships have also been deployed in the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy patrols

Expatriate labour:

  1. India receives around 52% of its remittances from its Gulf expatriates, which have contributed significantly to India’s economic resurgence
  2. India is pursuing manpower and labour agreements with Gulf states to help Indian workers in the region
  3. It has also launched the eMigrate system for recruitment of Indian workers across the 17 Emigration Check Required countries

India is well positioned to emerge as a credible security and economic partner of the UAE and the larger Gulf region at a time when the West is looking inwards and China’s rise is getting hobbled by its aggressive rhetoric on territorial issues. India-UAE ties are an exemplar for the changing Indian approach towards the wider region.

Note4Students:

Keep track of developments in this area because a question in Mains on the issue is quite probable.

India hopes for $75-bn infra fund from UAE

  1. India and the UAE are expected to announce more than a dozen agreements as they spell out their strategic partnership
  2. It would also include an MoU on the proposed $75- billion UAE sovereign wealth fund investment in Indian infrastructure that has been hanging fire for 18 months
  3. The agreements will include MoUs on investment, strategic partnership on oil and energy, defence manufacturing and purchases

Note4students: The issues mentioned above are worth following as they develop.

[op-ed snap] Reclaiming the Gulf

Context:

  1. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will arrive in Delhi as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations this week
  2. He will only be the third leader in 70 years from the Middle East to grace the occasion
  3. Delhi had hosted only two other leaders — the president of Iran, Mohammed Khatami (2003), and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia (2006)

India’s engagement with the Middle East:

  1. No other region outside of the subcontinent is so critical for India’s security and prosperity than the Middle East
  2. Yet, the region never gets sustained high-level political attention in Delhi
  3. The visit of Sheikh Mohammed and the signing of a strategic partnership agreement will hopefully mark a big change in Delhi’s mindset
  4. It will help consolidate a more productive third phase in India’s engagement with the Middle East
  5. In the first phase, India’s emphasis was on anti-Western and anti-Israel solidarity with the Middle East
  6. It prevented India from coming to terms with the many other contradictions of the region — between republics and monarchies, conservative regimes and radical Islamists, Shia and Sunni, to name a few
  7. Despite expansive goodwill for India in the region, Delhi seemed to have little to offer beyond rhetorical support

Dismantlement of economic links:

  1. Delhi’s emphasis on self-reliance saw the dismantlement of the strong economic links that emerged between the undivided subcontinent and the Middle East through the 19th century
  2. The oil boom in the Gulf saw the dramatic expansion of India’s interdependence region — through labour exports and energy imports
  3. Delhi, however, was ill-equipped in building on this interdependence in the first phase
  4. As it emphasised non-alignment and opposed military alliances, independent India discarded the Raj legacy of providing security to many regimes in the Gulf and the greater Middle East

1990s:

  1. The second phase, which began at the turn of the 1990s, saw a more pragmatic Indian approach to the region
  2. Delhi normalised diplomatic relations with Israel without having to sacrifice its expansive interests in the rest of the Middle East
  3. Delhi began to move away from mercantilism to deepening trade and investment links with the region
  4. The second phase also saw the renewal of military exchanges and security cooperation with the countries of the region
  5. But the profound convulsions affecting the region seemed to prevent bolder Indian military partnerships in the Gulf

Note4Students:

Amidst the shifting external and internal balance of power in the Middle East, the region is eager to see India return to its traditional role as a major economic and security partner. Make note of future developments between India- Middle East relationship for a Mains answer.

UAE signals a ‘Look East’ policy

  1. Look East: The United Arab Emirates is likely to highlight its “Look East” policy with its participation in the Republic Day celebrations in India
  2. Active role: The presence of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade and participation of a marching contingent of the country’s military in the celebrations would indicate its willingness to play a more active regional role
  3. This presence forms part of a wider GCC effort to exercise regional influence in the vacuum left by the Arab Spring and to counter similar efforts by Iran, which Abu Dhabi regards as a threat
  4. The UAE will want its troops in the Republic Day parade to be viewed as the indicator of the UAE’s growing power in the Indian Ocean
  5. These troops embody the UAE and GCC’s new ‘Look East’ policy of engaging Asia as a counterbalance to the West
  6. Military modernisation: The UAE has been carrying out military modernisation in recent years and, according to SIPRI, was one of the five biggest arms importers in the world between 2011 and 2015
  7. Alongside Qatar, the UAE has spread out to several conflict zones in the world in a show of Arab assertion
  8. Strategic partnership with India: Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is likely to conclude the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations
  9. The partnership is a recognition of the unique role of India’s immigrant population in the UAE’s development story
  10. There has been continuous Indian presence in the UAE since at least the 18th century
  11. Today, Indians make up 30% of the country’s population — the single largest expatriate community in the UAE

Note4students: This is an important piece of news for mains.

UAE Army likely to march on Rajpath, NSG to make debut

  1. What: Soldiers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are likely to march down Rajpath during the Republic Day parade this year
  2. The chief guest will be Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
  3. The French Army created history last year by being the first foreign force to take part in an RD parade which showcases the military might and cultural diversity of the Indian republic
  4. French President Francois Hollande was the chief guest last year
  5. India and UAE: UAE is considered to be one of the closest allies of Pakistan
  6. But there has been increased engagement between India and UAE over the last two years
  7. The Crown Prince had earlier visited India in February last year following Mr. Modi’s visit in Aug 2015
  8. Commandos of the elite National Security Guard (NSG) will also make their debut showcasing their anti-terror, anti-hijacking and special operations capabilities

Note4students:

Locate UAE on a map and see the countries around it and also the water bodies.

Grateful for shift in India’s position, says Israel envoy

  1. Source: Israel’s Ambassador Daniel Carmon
  2. What: Israel is grateful for the “changes and the shifts” in the Indian position at U.N. bodies in the past two years
  3. He was referring to India’s decision to abstain from resolutions critical of Israel at the U.N., the United Nations Human Rights Council and UNESCO
  4. According to him, India says they are committed to the Palestinian cause, to the Arab cause, and they have good relations with Israel that they intend to pursue
  5. Israel appreciates this stand
  6. Context: The current controversy over the UNSC Resolution 2334 that has pitted the Obama administration against the Israeli govt over the issue of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
  7. Israel has responded sharply to the 14 countries that voted for the resolution and the U.S. that refused to veto it
  8. The Ambassador’s words are significant as they come in contrast to the Ministry of External Affair’s position that there has been no shift in support to Palestine
  9. Historically: Traditionally, India has stood unequivocally with the Palestinian cause, voting in favour of all resolutions critical of Israel
  10. However in July 2015, India abstained on a vote against Israel at the U.N. Human Rights Council, marking what seemed a major shift in policy
  11. It followed a phone call from Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to PM Modi
  12. India repeated the abstention in 2016, but explained that it was due to a reference to the International Criminal Court, which India doesn’t recognise
  13. In Aug 2016, India supported Israeli Ambassador Danny Dannon for the first time to become Chair of the U.N. Legal Committee, a vote opposed by all Arab countries
  14. And in Oct 2016, India changed its vote at the UNESCO in Paris to an abstention, on a resolution criticising Israel for encroachments at the Western Wall and near the Al-Aqsa Mosque
  15. Since it came to power in 2014, the Modi govt has consistently promised better ties with Israel, which it considers an ally on counter-terrorism and defence cooperation

Note4students:

This news is important for mains as it demonstrates how India and Israel are moving closer. You don’t need to remember all the votes at the UN, just remembering 1 or 2 will help in improving mains answers.

Israel President to visit India II

  1. Warm relations: Recently, in a dramatic turn, India changed its vote at UNESCO on a pro-Palestine resolution
  2. The resolution had questioned Israel’s claim and criticized it for excavations inside the walled city
  3. Although earlier India had voted in favor, in October it changed its vote to an abstention
  4. A visit to Palestine this week by Minister of State M.J. Akbar for the first ever Joint Commission meeting was also seen as a move to smooth ruffled feathers

Israel President to visit India I

  1. Event: Israel President Reuven Rivlin will visit India from November 15 to 20
  2. His visit is expected to pave the way for PM Modi to become the first Indian PM to visit Israel
  3. In January 2017, India and Israel will mark 25 years since they established full diplomatic relations
  4. The period till then will witness intense diplomatic exchanges between India and Israel

R-Day invite for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince

  1. Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is likely to be the chief guest of Republic Day in 2017
  2. The Ministry of External Affairs described him as a dear friend of India and announced invitation extended to him
  3. Background: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed paid a visit earlier in February to Delhi during which both India and the UAE sealed a number of agreements

Significance of el-Sisi’s visit

  1. Declaration of a robust defence and security partnership is likely to further energise the Joint Defence Cooperation which was set up in 2006 and has held six meetings so far
  2. Mr. el-Sisi’s latest visit to Delhi was part of his second personal engagement with India
  3. Background: His first visit to India was to participate in the India-Africa Forum Summit of October 2015 when the government had invited him for a bilateral visit
  4. His two visits, have been interpreted by experts as a sign of Egypt’s interest to re-invent its friendly ties with India which stretch back to the days of non-alignment and bonhomie between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Gamal Abdel Nasser

Egypt for ‘robust defence, security cooperation’ with India

  1. News: Calling for joint efforts to counter sizable challenge of extremism and terrorism, Egypt and India will build a robust defence and security cooperation
  2. Context: India visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
  3. Maritime transport agreement: Signed between two sides will be an important enabler for increased trade and commerce
  4. Upgrade: Economic and trade ties, increase mutual visits, intensify counter terror cooperation, and work on renewable energy
  5. PM Modi: Announced that both sides will intensify cultural exchanges and appreciated Egypt for its work as a non-permanent member in the UNSC
  6. Welcomed Egypt’s participation as a special invitee at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China

India, Qatar to share data on terror financing, hawala

  1. Need: To isolate the sponsors and supporters of terrorism & urgent action against all such entities which support terrorism and use it as an instrument of policy, must be taken
  2. Committee: To constitute an inter-ministerial high-level joint committee to regularly review all bilateral matters, as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest
  3. Hawala: An MoU was signed between the Finance Intelligence Unit-India (FIU) and Qatar Financial Information Unit to share intelligence on illegal movement of money
  4. Info: Also an agreement to exchange financial intelligence to combat terrorism financing and other economic offences

After West Asia, PM sets his sights on Israel

  1. Context: PM Modi is expected to visit Israel & Palestein in early 2017
  2. This will be a few months after the visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who is likely to come to Delhi in September 2016
  3. The visit will make Mr. Modi the first Indian Prime Minister to ever visit Israel
  4. This could come close to the 25th anniversary of establishment of full diplomatic ties on January 29

Gulf remittances fall 2.2%, offset by slide in oil imports

  1. Context: A report on remittances by CRISIL
  2. Remittances from the Gulf nations to India declined for the first time in six years
  3. Fall: By 2.2% in 2015-16
  4. Reason: Falling oil prices have had a sweeping impact on the oil producing economies of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)
  5. This has severely dented their oil revenues and spending by both governments and households
  6. Balance: But the slide had also resulted in a contraction of oil imports, which has offset the drop

Analysts grow more bullish on oil, OPEC poses no threat to rebalancing

  1. What? Analysts are growing increasingly confident that a near-two-year rout in oil has ended
  2. They have raised their price forecasts for a second month running
  3. Reason: Healthier demand and a drop in U.S. shale output to balance the market by 2017
  4. Also, the inability of OPEC and non-OPEC producers to agree to limit oil output is not expected to slow the rebalancing of global demand and supply

India, Saudi Arabia ink pacts

  1. Context: Signing of five pacts between India and Saudi Arabia after talks with King Salman on Modi’s Saudi visit
  2. Pacts: Between the Financial Intelligence Unit of India and its Saudi counterpart
  3. It relates to cooperation in the exchange of information on money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes
  4. On investment promotion
  5. On further strengthening cooperation in combating terrorism, both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system of the UN

India-UAE agreement for $75 billion investment in NIIF gets clearance

  1. News: Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for a MoU between India and the UAE
  2. Context: MoU was signed in February during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to UAE
  3. Objective: To mobilise up to $75 billion long-term investment in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)
  4. Will help establish a transparent and high-level framework and collaboration platform
  5. Under which countries intend to explore ways to facilitate and expand the participation of UAE’s investment institutions in appropriate infra projects in India

Learn about NIIF

  1. Objective: To maximize economic impact mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects, both greenfield and brownfield, including stalled projects
  2. Fund aims to attract investment from both domestic and international sources
  3. Govt’s contribution: Limited to 49% of the subscribed capital
  4. Partnership: From strategic investors such as sovereign fund, multilateral or bilateral investors, which can help leverage this fund to many times
  5. Cash-rich PSUs, pension funds, provident funds, National Small Saving Fund will be able to pick up stake in the fund
  6. Budget: Govt has budgeted to contribute Rs.20,000 crore to the fund in the current fiscal year

Opec sees lower 2016 demand for its oil, pointing to higher surplus

  1. Context: Falling crude oil prices in global market
  2. News: The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries predicted global demand for its crude oil will be less in 2016
  3. Reason: The supply from producers outside OPEC is more resilient to low prices and they have started cutting production
  4. OPEC sees considerable uncertainty for 2016 in Europe

UAE calls for more reforms in India

  1. Context: The visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
  2. The News: The MoU between India and the UAE on Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) could not materialise
  3. The Gulf nation has demanded more reforms from India
  4. Challenges: Complex tax policies and cumbersome processes for doing business in India
  5. UAE also wanted the Indian govt to be a “strategic partner for safety” of their investments
  6. Benefits: India’s access to UAE’s Sovereign Wealth Funds will increase investments in India

India, UAE sign nine agreements

  1. Agreement in fields: currency swap, culture, investments in infra, renewable energy, space research, insurance supervision, cyber security, skill development and information sharing
  2. Context of Terrorism: We have common interest in fighting terrorism and, therefore, we have an agreement to counter terror in the cyber field.
  3. What’s remain? The much anticipated agreement on India accessing UAE’s Sovereign Fund was not declared
  4. Changes Needed? India should carry out some structural changes in its economy to facilitate such an agreement
  5. FTA Dialogue: India and the UAE had begun a dialogue that would firm up a Free Trade Agreement between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

India to buy more crude oil from Nigeria

  1. India is set to import more crude oil from Nigeria, already one of the biggest contributors to the country’s oil imports.
  2. Nigeria has now agreed to increase the term contract from 1.7 million tonnes(MT) per annum to 3 MT in 2016.
  3. The benefit of a term-contract is that it ensures quantity as well as a stable price.
  4. Nigeria is the 3rd-largest contributor to India’s oil imports, behind Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
  5. Sudan has offered more oil blocks for exploration and asked for Indian companies’ expertise to raise production from existing fields.

For A More Fruitful Future

Pranab Mukherjee and Sushma Swaraj visits reflect today’s tighter India-Israel bond.

  1. Though we have made powerful strides in the 24 years since we opened full diplomatic relationship.
  2. We need to truly broadbase our partnership to sectors such as S&T, R&D, innovation, water technology trade etc.
  3. Not just limited to security, counter-terrorism, and agriculture.
  4. Israel is a “start-up nation”, a hub for new technologies, hi-tech and start-ups, and “Startup India” provides opportunities for meaning collaboration.
  5. We are both vibrant democracies, with ancient civilisational histories.
  6. Jews in India never faced persecution or anti-Semitism — indeed, Jews facing persecution around the world often fled to India.
  7. All of this makes the case for a stronger and more fruitful relationship in future.

Owning a friendship

Swaraj’s Israel visit took place against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean’s growing significance for bilateral security.

  1. Visit comes on the heels of one by President Pranab Mukherjee last October, and ahead of a speculated visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  2. It signifies that India no longer feels the need to keep its burgeoning ties with Israel discreetly low-profile.
  3. The wish to avoid angering India’s large Muslim minority and concern for the considerable expats working in the Arab Gulf states kept relationship discreet and low profile .
  4. Trade has grown more than 20-fold since formal diplomatic ties were established , $5 billion today.
  5. Barak-8, brimming with cutting-edge technology, is the product of a joint Indo-Israeli development endeavour.
  6. Spectre of a resurgent Iran unencumbered by international sanctions and its coffers replenished by the nuclear deal, the waters of the Indian Ocean have assumed critical significance for Israel’s security.

Saudi Arabia’s oil premium may force India to tap Africa

  1. India is looking at Africa to spruce up its oil and gas imports as it seeks to diversify its energy basket.
  2. Recently, Saudi Arabia has decided to charge a premium for the oil it sells to Asian customers.
  3. It would be charging Asian customers 60 cents a barrel more for crude oil during February.
  4. The upcoming 4th India-Africa Hydrocarbon Summit will help in moving this forward.
  5. Africa already contributes around 15% of India’s oil needs and Nigeria is one of the top providers of oil to India.

Raja-Mandala: Re-imagining the Middle East

Persisting with its traditional political timidity in the region will cost India dearly.

  1. After Independence, India’s mental map of the Middle East had two axes.
  2. One was the conflict between the Arabs and Israelis. The other was anti-imperial solidarity.
  3. Establishment of full diplomatic relations with Israel after the Cold War did not help move Delhi decisively towards an interest-driven regional policy.
  4. India’s interests demand an open and transparent engagement with all sides in the Middle East.
  5. China is moving gingerly on a pivot to the Greater Middle East and is now the biggest oil importer from the region.
  6. The emerging Middle East has little in common with India’s outdated perceptions of the region.*(point no. 2)
  7. To secure India’s vast and vital interests in the Middle East and to prevent the fires there enveloping the subcontinent.
  8. Delhi needs to liberate its policy from narrow domestic political considerations, look beyond oil and diaspora, and embark on a substantive strategic engagement with the region.

Syrian invite for Sushma hints at Delhi’s role in peace talks

  1. Sushma Swaraj, who has visited several Arab countries in the past, has now been invited to war-torn Syria.
  2. It is a clear sign that Syria is eager to include India within the ambit of direct political consultation to help in bringing a closure to the destructive civil war.
  3. Analyst point that it shows the broadening international consultation that can end the international terrorism from Syrian soil.

India turns to Israel for armed drones

  1. India has accelerated plans to buy drones from Israel that can be armed, allowing the military to carry out strikes overseas with less risk to personnel.
  2. The plan to acquire Israeli Herons was first conceived three years ago, as Pakistan and China develop their own drone warfare capabilities.
  3. The plan to buy Herons in a deal estimated at $400 million would open the option of covert cross-border strikes.

India, UAE resolve to combat radicalisation

  1. India and Abu Dhabi discussed steps to check radicalisation and deal with terror threats from transnational organisations.
  2. UAE stressed on adopting India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the UN.
  3. The two sides discussed pending extradition requests.
  4. The countries signed MoUs in the areas of telecommunications, tourism, higher education and scientific research.

A New Chapter Could Unfold After Modi’s UAE Visit

  1. Two countries have agreed to cooperate against terrorism, radicalism and organised crime, and to promote maritime security and “inter-operability” in regard to “humanitarian assistance, natural disasters and conflict situations”, strengthen defence ties through exercises, training and in coastal defence and a high-level “Strategic Security Dialogue”.
  2. It is important to widen our perspective beyond South Asia and recognise that the forces of extremism and violence have become much more broad-based since the Mumbai attacks.
  3. Blue-print for action makes UAE side to the setting up of a $75 billion bilateral infrastructure fund.
  4. India’s economic well-being and the resilience of its political order and institutions is closely linked to continued stability in West Asia.

Now,India faces the challenge of shaping and pursuing a diplomatic initiative to promote dialogue and enhance confidence between the various estranged powers in West Asia so that the regions’ resources can be used for national development and to combat jihad.



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