[op-ed snap] India, Iran and a divided Middle East

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cold War, Iran nuclear deal 2015

Mains level: India’s stakes in middle east and emerging problems


First presidential visit from Iran since 2003

  1. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is on three-day visit to India
  2. For the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is the best of times and the worst of times
  3. Iran’s regional influence has never been as expansive as it is today
  4. Yet, there is a huge push back against Tehran from some of its Arab neighbors, Israel and the Trump Administration

Increasing internal and economic and political volatility

  1. The Iranian currency rial is rapidly losing its value
  2. High inflation and large-scale unemployment, as well as widespread corruption, triggered protests in Iran’s cities around the new year
  3. There are also demands for social liberalization, with the women protesting the law on the compulsory wearing of the veil in public

Delhi’s biggest current challenge in dealing with Iran

  1. There is a conflict sharpening between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  2. India’s public discourse on relations with Iran has for long been framed it in terms of Tehran’s relations with Washington
  3. During the early decades of the Cold War, India stayed away from the Shah of Iran, a secular modernizing ruler
  4. This was because he was too close to the United States
  5. Today, one of the main problems is the unending enmity between Iran and the US

Iran nuclear deal a temporary relief

  1. India was relieved when the US, under President Barack Obama, and Iran in 2015 concluded a nuclear deal
  2. The deal opened up some space for international commercial cooperation with Tehran
  3. But, President Donald Trump and his Republican party’s hostility towards the deal has created fresh complications for India

Recognising the reality of regional conflicts in the Middle East

  1. India would certainly want to see a serious effort to reconcile the current tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbors
  2. Delhi does not have the power to mitigate the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  3. But Delhi can certainly encourage the emerging trends for political and social moderation in the Middle East
  4. India has positively viewed the recent calls from the political leadership in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for reclaiming Islam from violent extremists

Way forward

There are three important Indian objectives in the Middle East

  • Promotion of mutual political accommodation within the region
  • Pressing for an end to the export of destabilizing ideologies from the region
  • The construction of a coalition against violent religious extremism that has inflicted so much suffering in the Middle East and the Subcontinent

[op-ed snap] Ramallah recall: On India’s Palestine policy


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UN General Assembly, West Bank

Mains level: India’s Israel-Palestine policy


PM Modi’s Palestine Visit

  1. PM’s visit to Palestine visit signals India’s strategy to grow ties with Israel and Palestine separately
  2. It underlines the delicate balance New Delhi has adopted in this long-standing and seemingly intractable conflict

Growing ties with Israel

  1. India, which has been a champion of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations, has built strong ties with Israel in recent years
  2. Last year Mr. Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel
  3. Israel is a vital source of defence equipment and agricultural technology for India

Supporting Palestine

  1. Late last year India voted along with a vast majority of member-states at the UN General Assembly against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  2. PM reiterated India’s support for the Palestinian cause during his recent visit
  3. Both sides also signed a number of agreements for India-funded projects in the West Bank

Why not full-fledged ties with Israel?

  1. Israel faces political isolation internationally over its occupation of the Palestinian territories
  2. Isreal does not have diplomatic ties with most countries in West Asia
  3. India, which has vital interests in the Gulf and enjoys good ties with the region’s Muslim countries, cannot afford to be seen to be politically closer to Israel at the expense of ties with Palestinians

India’s support for two-state solution

  1. India has supported the creation of an independent Palestine within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital
  2. According to this line, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and either pull out the Jewish settlements or do a land-swap with the Palestinians as part of a final agreement
  3. India’s support for the two-state solution remains, but it has now stopped short of the specifics related to borders

Way Forward

  1. India’s policy objective is clear and rooted in political realism
  2. It wants to maintain the balance in its relationship with both Palestine and Israel, and strengthen bilateral ties with each separately

India gets access to strategic Oman port Duqm for military use, Chabahar-Gwadar in sight

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Port of Duqm, Assumption, Agalega Islands

Mains level: India’s counter-strategy to China’s string of pearls


Access to the Port of Duqm

  1. India has secured access to the key Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support
  2. This is part of India’s maritime strategy to counter Chinese influence and activities in the region

MoU with Oman

  1. An annexure to the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation was signed between the two countries
  2. Following this pact, the services of Duqm port and dry dock will be available for maintenance of Indian military vessels

The Port of Duqm: Strategic importance

  1. The Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean
  2. It is strategically located, in close proximity to the Chabahar port in Iran
  3. With the Assumption Island being developed in Seychelles and Agalega in Mauritius, Duqm fits into India’s proactive maritime security roadmap

[op-ed snap] As India looks west


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEAN, Look East Policy, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Conference, Gulf Cooperation Council

Mains level: Factors shaping India’s middle east policy


Changing Middle East

  1. Women in Iran are taking off their headscarves in a bold protest against Iran’s rule on compulsory wearing of the veil in public
  2. Women in Saudi Arabia are learning how to drive as they await legal sanction this summer
  3. Riyadh has also lifted a four-decade-old ban on movie theatres
  4. The current clamor for liberation from social controls imposed in the name of religion is one of the many surprising turns in the Middle East
  5. There is a quest for “moderate Islam”

What can India do in changing scenario?

  1. There is a need for the articulation of objectives and a strategy to achieve greater traction in relations with the Middle East
  2. There is a need for the formulation of a “Look West Policy” that puts India’s relations with the region on a sound basis
  3. The success of India’s “Look East Policy” provides a persuasive precedent

Differences between SouthEast Asia and the Middle East

  1. One big difference between the two regions is an institutional framework that facilitates India’s regional diplomacy
  2. The Association of South East Asian Nations has been the vehicle for India’s expanding partnership with South East Asia
  3. There is no similar forum in the Middle East
  4. Groupings such as the Arab League, or the Organisation of Islamic Conference, were never really effective
  5. More narrowly focused organizations like the Gulf Cooperation Council are beginning to crack amid the region’s turbulence

How was ASEAN helpful

  1. The ASEAN’s process-driven diplomacy, with multiple lines of continuous engagement, puts pressure on India to stay focused on its Look East Policy
  2. One important reason for Delhi’s success east of India has been the absence of domestic political discord over the region

Middle East Policy: 1947-1990

  1. Ideological, political and religious divisions in India over the Middle East have long complicated Delhi’s thinking of the region
  2. The Partition of the Subcontinent produced a set of outcomes that complicated India’s relations with the Middle East
  3. In the first decades after Independence, India had bet that its commitment to pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism would counter Pakistan’s claims for special affection of the region as a state founded on Islam
  4. While religion remains important, pan-Islamism is no longer a dominant force in shaping the politics of the region
  5. The rise of sectarianism has undercut pan-Islamism

Middle East Policy: 1990 onwards

  1. After the Cold War, India stepped out to pursue a more practical policy towards the region
  2. India’s economic ties deepened after the economic reforms launched in 1991
  3. But Delhi has persistent tendency to view the region in terms of the conflict between Israel and Arab states
  4. There is a perception that PM Modi’s visit to Palestine is part of Delhi’s perceived need to find a balance between the two relationships

Is situation same in the Middle East?

  1. India’s policy seems at odds with what is happening in the region
  2. Israel, which once embraced Iran to balance the Arabs, is now partnering the Sunni Arabs to defeat the growing influence of Shia Iran
  3. It also collaborates with the conservative Arab regimes in fighting the Sunni extremists
  4. The Sunni monarchies that traditionally looked to the United States to ensure their security, are taking matters into their own hands to shape the regional security architecture

Way forward

  1. Navigating the multiple internal contradictions of the Middle East has never been easy for external powers
  2. India may not need a formal “Look West policy” to realize the new opportunities in the region if it views the Middle East on its own merits

India, UAE to ink 12 pacts during Modi’s visit


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: West Asia (map related), World Government Summit

Mains level: India-West Asia relations over the years


PM’s visit to three West Asian countries

  1. PM Modi will visit three West Asian countries — Palestine, the UAE and Oman
  2. The visit will focus on cooperation in key areas of defence, security and counter-terrorism
  3. PM will also participate in the 6th World Government Summit in Dubai on February 10-11 in which India is a partner country

Agreements to be signed

  1. Twelve agreements will be signed during the visit
  2. The agreements will include areas like finance and skills development


World Government Summit

  1. The World Government Summit is an annual event held in Dubai, UAE
  2. The first World Government Summit was held in Dubai in 2013 and has been held annually since then
  3. It brings together leaders in government for a global dialogue about governmental process and policies with a focus on the issues of futurism, technology and innovation
  4. The summit acts as a knowledge exchange hub between government officials, thought leaders, policymakers and private sector leaders
  5. The World Government Summit was formed by a team of experts from different disciplines in an effort to bring government, business and civil society together at an international level
  6. Reports for the public about issues explored at the summits are issued by Oxford Analytica, Mackenzie and Harvard Business Review

Indian aid for Palestine diplomatic institute


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNRWA

Mains level: Relations with Palestine and Israel are very crucial. The upcoming visit to Palestine can be seen as an act of counterbalance between the two.


Foundation of diplomatic training institute

  1. Prime Minister, on his upcoming visit to Palestine, is expected to lay the foundation stone of a new diplomatic training institute
  2. The Government of India has also sanctioned US$4.5 million for the Indo-Palestine Diplomatic Institute which will be a unique institute in the region
  3. The visit to Palestine will be part of a three-nation tour to the Arab world that Mr. Modi will undertake during February 9-12

Main aim of the upcoming visit

  1. The upcoming visit is aimed at de-hyphenating India’s policy towards Israel and Palestine that was reflected in Mr. Modi’s 2017 visit to Tel Aviv when he skipped Palestine

Financial support for Palestine

  1. India has provided educational support to palestine which also included IT training for younger generation of Palestinians
  2. A new agreement on IT-training was sealed last year
  3. Continuing India’s commitment, Indian government also pledged $1.25 million humanitarian assistance to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) in 2016



  1. Created in December 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees, and their descendants, who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war as well as those who fled or were expelled during and following the 1967 Six Day war
  2. Originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief, today UNRWA provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports. Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;[4] aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR
  3. It also provided relief to Jewish and Arab Palestine refugees inside the state of Israel following the 1948 conflict until the Israeli government took over responsibility for Jewish refugees in 1952
  4. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2017.
  5. UNRWA is the only agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR
  6. Formed in 1950, UNHCR is the main UN refugee agency, which is responsible for aiding other refugees all over the world. Unlike UNRWA, UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation when possible
  7. Both UNRWA and UNHCR allow refugee status to be inherited by descendants

Modi to visit Palestine in February


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Palestine (Location, disputed areas)

Mains level: India’s relationship with Arab world


Visit to Palestine 

  1. PM Modi is expected to travel to the Palestinian capital of Ramallah on February 10
  2. This will be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister will visit the Palestinian capital of Ramallah

India back at balancing between Israel-Palestine

  1. The trip indicates that India remains on track with its traditional stance on Palestine
  2. Palestine had praised India’s recent vote in the UN against the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
  3. The issue of Indian support to the two-state solution was also discussed during the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Mr. Netanyahu (Israel PM)

Supplement this news with the related op-ed: Raja Mandala: The art of balance

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: The art of balance

Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cold War, UN General Assembly

Mains level: India’s approach towards middle east countries


Complex legacies of India’s diplomatic tradition

  1. Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor had, back in 2010, famously described Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy as a “moralistic running commentary” on international affairs
  2. By saying this, Tharoor was reflecting on the complex legacies of India’s diplomatic tradition, especially Delhi’s temptation for moral posturing on international issues

Change in Indian diplomacy since 1991

  1. The end of the Cold War and India’s economic reorientation saw an inevitable recasting of Indian diplomacy after 1991
  2. Governments have made a bow to pragmatism but the public discourse tends to remain ideological

Finding a middle path

  1. The left accuses PM Modi of abandoning India’s traditional solidarity with the Palestinians
  2. The right attacks the PM for not voting with Israel when the UN General Assembly strongly criticised the US move to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
  3. These rival arguments are indicators that the MEA may have found a sensible middle path

Importance of Israel and Arab nations

  1. The Arab Middle East is the main source of India’s energy
  2. It is home to nearly seven million expatriate workers
  3. It is also a big market for Indian goods

The Pakistan factor

  1. Israeli and Arab leaders also view India from the perspective of regional balance, rather than an ideological framework
  2. Israel will be delighted if Pakistan chooses to establish diplomatic relations with it
  3. The political significance of the diplomatic recognition from the second largest Muslim nation is indeed valuable for Israel

India not getting same support

  1. India’s exceptional political warmth with Israel certainly does not beget uncritical Israeli support for India in its territorial disputes with Pakistan or China
  2. Arab nations don’t back India on Kashmir, just because India extends formal solidarity with the Palestinians
  3. Israelis and Arabs want to maximise possibilities with India, but would want to limit its impact on the relations with Pakistan

Way forward

  1. The pursuit of balance is an essential feature of international life
  2. Domestic political pieties, on the left and right, are the last thing India needs in navigating the Middle East minefield

Ties with India intact, says Israeli Ambassador

Image Source


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The statement from the Israeli official is important, as India has recently voted against Israel at the UNGA.


Israel statement on India

  1. Israeli officials has said that India’s vote at the United Nations General Assembly against the American recognition of Jerusalem as its capital would not affect its ties with India
  2. Background: Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: India votes against US at United Nations

Why is this important?

  1. Israeli PM will soon visit India and will be accompanied by a 130-member business delegation and Baby Moshe, an Israeli survivor of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai

[op-ed snap] UN Jerusalem vote: Why India went against the US


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNGA, Pax Americana policy

Mains level: Israel-Palestine conflict and its ramifications on India


India’s vote in the UNGA on Jerusalem issue

  1. India voted in favour of the resolution in the UN general assembly (UNGA) condemning the US for moving its embassy to, and recognizing, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Possible reasons for vote

  1. The belief that Arab states would have somehow penalized India for voting with the US on this issue
  • This involves either an oil embargo or action against the Indian diaspora in the Gulf
  • Although Pax Americana policy of U.S. bars this, a possibility cannot be ruled out

2. Indian Muslims would punish the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for voting with Israel

  • This is shorn of any cause-effect analysis, based on the simplistic assumptions
  • One such is the assumption that Indian Muslims choose who to vote for based on foreign policy

3. The belief that the Palestinians would view the Indian vote favourably

  • Palestinian goodwill or the lack thereof means zero to India—tangibly or esoterically
  • Palestine votes for every obnoxious anti-India resolution on Kashmir that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) comes up with periodically

4. The argument that India’s vote reflects its concern over the sovereignty of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, through which China is building infrastructure

  • Shivshankar Menon’s March 2014 statement that “Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine”, justifying Russia’s ongoing aggression there (à Pakistan in Kashmir in 1947), was enough to erode Indian claims of sovereignty over Kashmir

5. The belief that Israel will ignore this slight

  • In the normal course of things, that may very well have been the case
  • Israel is quite used to posturing and ridiculous partisanship
  • But seeing recent warmth in India-Israel relationship, this vote is extremely bad manners

6. The US would ignore India’s vote

  • U.S. president in office is not willing to do that any more
  • He is willing to link up issues in international negotiations that were not up for linking before, such as trade and jobs with geopolitics , in a way previous presidents were shy to

Way forward

  1. India could have abstained itself from voting as none would have questioned the wisdom of abstention
  2. Our foreign policy needs to become responsible and responsive


Pax Americana policy of U.S.

  1. Pax Americana is a term applied to the concept of relative peace in the Western Hemisphere and later the world beginning around the middle of the 20th century
  2. It is thought to be caused by the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States
  3. Pax Americana is primarily used in its modern connotations to refer to the peace among great powers established after the end of World War II in 1945, also called the Long Peace
  4. In this modern sense, it has come to indicate the military and economic position of the United States in relation to other nations
  5. For example, the Marshall Plan, which spent $13 billion to rebuild the economy of Western Europe, has been seen as the launching of the pax americana

Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: India votes against US at United Nations


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations General Assembly, Israel, Palestine (position on map)

Mains level: Israel-Palestine conflict and its effect on India


Government sticks to its position

  1. Government on Thursday stuck to New Delhi’s principled position on Palestine followed over the last seven decades
  2. It voted in favour of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly which opposed and rejected US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  3. The 193-member body voted to support the long-standing international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as a capital — can only be settled as an agreed final issue in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

About the resolution

  1. The resolution, co-sponsored by Turkey and Yemen, called Trump’s recognition “null and void” and reaffirmed 10 Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem dating back to 1967
  2. These include requirements that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
  3. It also demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions

Difference despite growing relationship

  1. New Delhi’s “yes” vote comes even as the government’s proximity to Israel and the US has grown
  2. Israel’s Prime Minister is expected to visit India next month and PM Narendra Modi had skipped Palestine during his visit to Israel in July this year

India in dilemma over Isreal-Palestine conflict

  1. New Delhi has, as a norm, always voted in favor of Palestine at the UN
  2. But in July 2015 it abstained from a vote against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva
  3. This was seen as a subtle shift in India’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue

Read full background of the issue here

East Jerusalem is Palestine’s capital: OIC


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Isreal, Palestine (map based), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

Mains level: Unstable middle-east and its effects on India and world


Tension over Jerusalem’s status rises

  1. Islamic leaders urged the world to recognize occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine
  2. Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector, which the international community regards as annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state

Emergency summit of OIC

  1. An emergency summit of the world’s main pan-Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was convened in Istanbul to discuss this issue
  2. With the Islamic world itself mired in division, the summit fell short of agreeing on any concrete sanctions against Israel or the U.S.


Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) 

  1. It is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states
  2. The organization states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony”
  3. According to its charter, the OIC aims to preserve Islamic social and economic values; promote solidarity amongst member states; increase cooperation in social, economic, cultural, scientific, and political areas; uphold international peace and security; and advance education, particularly in the fields of science and technology

UN rejects US recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNSC

Mains level: Rising tensions in middle east


UN Security Council urgent meeting

  1. Eight of the 15 members of the UN Security Council had called for an urgent meeting to analyze the decision taken by Washington to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  2. Jerusalem is a final status issue for which a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be achieved through negotiations between the parties, UN said

What is this all about?

Read entire issue here

What US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital means


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Jerusalem-historical importance and position (map based)

Mains level: Isreal-palestine conflict and itrs ramifications on world


Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

  1. At a planned speech US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
  2. Turkey said that “This could plunge the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight”

What is the big deal about Jerusalem?

  1. Jerusalem is emblematic of the Israel-Palestine conflict
  2. There is a tussle over who gets to control the ancient city that is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians
  3. Fight is over both faith and civic space
  4. Jerusalem has the Western Wall, part of the mount on which the Holy Temple stood, containing the Holy of Holies, the most sacred Jewish site where Jews believe the foundation creating the world was located
  5. It also contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son
  6. And the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and where he rose again

How this conflict started?

  1. After the end of the First Arab-Israel War in 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned into West and East, under Israeli and Palestinian control respectively
  2. But in June 1967, during the Six-Day Arab-Israel War, Israel snatched East Jerusalem from Jordanian forces, and Israel’s Parliament declared the territory had been “annexed to Israel” and Jerusalem had been “reunited”
  3. This marginalised the Palestinians, who wanted East Jerusalem to be their capital under the “two-state solution”

International stand over the issue

  1. Despite Israel’s hold over its “united and eternal capital”, in December 2016, the UN reaffirmed that Jerusalem’s Palestinian territories were under “hostile occupation”
  2. Foreign embassies to Israel are in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem
  3. The positions of countries on the status of the city differ by degrees, but virtually none recognise the Israeli claim
  4. India has traditionally backed a two-state solution

What does Trump hope to gain?

  1. As with most political developments in the Middle East, a bigger regional game could be afoot
  2. This could be, possibly, a US-Saudi-Israel alliance against Iran, the common enemy

UAE and Saudi form new group separate from GCC


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

Mains level: Crisis in Middle east and its ramifications on India


Joint cooperation committee

  1. The UAE on Tuesday announced it has formed a new economic and political partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
  2. The new committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries

Effect of this decision

  1. This move could undermine the council amid a diplomatic crisis with Qatar
  2. Half of the GCC members are boycotting Doha

What is the issue all about?

Read about background of issue and current rift here

Qatar’s ruler to attend Gulf meeting in Kuwait amid dispute


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gulf Cooperation Council, location of member countries (map based)

Mains level: Groupings across world and challenges they have been facing in recent times


GCC faces threat of tearing apart

  1. Qatar’s ruling emir will attend a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council this week in Kuwait
  2. Summit comes amid a boycott of the energy-rich country by three of the council’s members
  3. The ongoing dispute has threatened to tear apart the six-member GCC, all U.S. allies who serve in part as a Gulf Arab counterbalance to Shiite power Iran

Reason for the rift

  1. GCC members Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have cut off Doha over allegations that Qatar supports extremists and has too-friendly relations with Iran
  2. Qatar long has denied supporting extremists, while it shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran

Crisis is not new

  1. A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014
  2. The UAE in particular views Islamists as a threat to hereditary rule in its federation of seven sheikhdoms
  3. Egypt, long angered by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, is also boycotting Doha


Gulf Cooperation Council

  1. It is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf, except for Iraq
  2. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates
  3. All current member states are monarchies, including three constitutional monarchies (Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain), two absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Oman), and one federal monarchy (the United Arab Emirates, which is composed of seven member states, each of which is an absolute monarchy with its own emir)

[op-ed snap] The new oil game

Image source


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca, South China Sea

Mains level: Developments in the geopolitics of the Middle East and its effects on India


China and the middle east

  1. What will China, the “mighty power” of the 21st century, do to mitigate its dependence on oil supplies from the Middle East?
  2. What might be the consequences for India of such actions?

History of oil era

  1. In 1911, the First Lord of the Admiralty (the cabinet member responsible for the navy), Winston Churchill, persuaded his cabinet colleagues to support the recommendation to substitute oil for coal as the fuel for the British Navy
  2. The cabinet was, at first, reluctant because Britain had an abundance of coal and no domestic oil
  3. The switch would expose the navy to the vagaries of international oil supplies
  4. Churchill allayed these concerns with a combination of economic and geopolitical logic
  5. He added, Britain would secure oil supplies from the Middle East through a combination of hard power and political guile
  6. Churchill’s decision marked the beginning of the “oil era” and the start of the Great Game of oil politics that over the years has convulsed the region

US intervention post-WWII

  1. Post World War II, America emerged as the dominant global political, economic and military power
  2. Security of oil supplies was a crucial ingredient of this development
  3. To safeguard this security and in contradistinction to its avowed commitment to democracy and freedom, America offered the region’s autocrats an “implicit” guarantee of protection
  4. And at times, towards fulfillment of this guarantee, they intervened “explicitly”
  5. Today, the Middle East is riven by sectarian tension, civil conflict, and fundamentalism, in no small part due to the fiasco of this “explicit” intervention

How will China protect its energy interests?

  1. The chink in the global aspirations of China, just as it was a chink in imperial Britain and superpower America’s ambitions, is dependency on oil imports
  2. China is the largest importer of crude oil in the world today and will remain so for the foreseeable future
  3. Of total oil consumption of China, 60 percent is imported of which 50 percent is sourced from the Middle East — mainly Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia — through the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Malacca and the conflictual South China sea
  4. The Chinese leadership are fully aware of this chink and have for years sought to mitigate the risk by investing in non-oil sources of energy
  5. They are operating 34 nuclear reactors and another 20 are under construction
  6. They have invested in long-term gas supply deals with Russia, Central Asia and Australia

China active in middle east

  1. China has, for years, adopted a low profile in the Middle East
  2. It has proffered economic support but it has not been an active participant in traditional great power politics
  3. Recently, it upped the ante with a slew of ideologically agnostic initiatives
  4. It cast its lot with Iran in support of President Bashar-al-Assad of Syria and carried out a small-scale naval exercise with the Iranian Navy in the Straits of Hormuz
  5. It welcomed Iran’s arch-enemy, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, to Beijing in March 2016 and signed an agreement in April 2017 to manufacture Chinese drones in the kingdom
  6. There has also been speculation that China is interested in picking up a stake in the Saudi national oil company, Aramco
  7. This heightened interest by China is perhaps to fill the space left behind by America

Importance of Middle East for India

  1. India has major strategic interests in the Middle East
  2. Apart from its dependence on the region for oil, it has eight million citizens who remit approximately $70 billion annually
  3. A convulsion in the region would give India a massive logistic and financial headache
  4. India must track China’s moves assiduously to avoid any problems in future

[op-ed snap] Gathering clouds over West Asia



Mains Paper 2| Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: JCPOA, Levant region

Mains level: Implications of the Iran-US nuclear deal on India and Indian interests in the West Asia.



  1. The article talks about the possibility of US violating the US-Iran nuclear deal and why is it necessary for the US to NOT do so.


Current scenario in West Asia-

  1. In the Levant, regional powers are scrambling to fill the vacuum created by the steady dismantling of the Islamic State’s caliphate across Syria and Iraq.
  2. Kurds have held an independence referendum which has drawn ire of their Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian neighbours.
  3. Turkey’s relations with the Europe are growing sourer every day.
  4. Qatar crisis– A crisis within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), pitting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar, has entered its sixth month, with no sign of resolution.
  5. UK, France, Germany and the EU all have expressed their categorical support to the nuclear deal.

The EU-Iran connection-

  1. EU-Iran trade is 30 times larger than US-Iran trade and it has increased by 95% the first half of this year itself.
  2. European banks, manufacturers and energy companies have also signed dozens of major agreements with Iran over the past year.
  3. EU has jurisdiction over the SWIFT network for cross-border banking transactions of which Iran is also a member.

What the US must do-

  1. Under U.S. law, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement. The next deadline is October 15. On this day the US must certify Iran’s compliance. If it refuses to do so then it might pave the way for the US Congress to re-impose sanctions on Iran.

Probable reactions from the world if US re-imposes sanctions-

  1. Europe would most likely take legal and diplomatic steps to protect its substantial commerce with Iran, even at the cost of a transatlantic crisis.
  2. China, Iran’s main trading partner, and Russia, Iran’s military ally in Syria, would defy U.S. sanctions with even greater enthusiasm.

Probable reaction from Iran-

  1. Even if the deal collapses Iran is unlikely to expel inspectors (inspecting its nuclear reactors) entirely, as it did in 1997, or pull out of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is because such actions would undercut Iran’s profession of peaceful intent and it stands to lose the moral high ground.
  2. The bargaining chip: Iran would try to restart accumulating centrifuges and nuclear fissile material that it had halted owing to an interim deal in 2013.

Uncertainties that could lead to war-

  1. It is difficult to gauge the future path of Iran’s segmented leadership which is divided between an elected president and an autocratic supreme leader.
  2. The erratic and impulsive behaviour of the US President makes things more unpredictable.

In the eventuality of war-

  1. Iran’s Shia militia could unleash war against US troops in Iraq and expand support to Afghan insurgents.
  2. Saudi Arabia-Iran tensions and the probability of US-Russia confrontation in the West Asia would increase dramatically.
  3. Pulling out of the Iran-US nuclear deal would be detrimental to the credibility of future US diplomacy.
  4. Implications for India
    i) India’s ambitious Chabahar project, scheduled for completion next year, could face fresh obstacles.
  5. ii) Iran- Pakistan relations may shift unpredictably.


  1. Tehran would have to have to balance the support it has garnered from the Europe while bargaining with the US, such that it would not provoke Europeans into siding, reluctantly, with Washington, and that it may push the U.S., Israel, or both, into a preventive war.
  2. In short, it would be virtually impossible to rebuild today the broad, multinational sanctions regime that helped push Iran to the negotiating table during 2013-15. Hence, it is better to persuade Iran that its economic integration into the world economy could continue regardless and therefore it should abide by the deal.
  3. The US must not risk its diplomatic credibility and push the West Asian region into spate of war which is still trying to recover from the gradual fall of the ISIS.


  1. Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): This is the technical name for the nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six major powers (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany).
    i) It recognised Iran’s right to enrich uranium in exchange for a battery of tough, but time-bound, limits on nuclear activity for non-peaceful purposes.
  2. ii) However, critics of the deal said– it did not address Iran’s non-nuclear behaviour, such as support for Hezbollah and other militant organisations, and that the “sunset” clauses, which progressively relax the constraints on Iran over the next three decades, were too generous.
  3. Levant: The term refers to states or parts of states in Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey.
  4. SWIFT Network: The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) provides a network that enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized and reliable environment. (Headquarters: La Hulpe, Belgium)


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

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

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.

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.

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.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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