India-West Asia

WEST ASIA

India’s relations with the West Asian countries are historical since the independence. India has interests in economic, political, security and strategic fields with the West Asian nations.

India’s west Asia policy

For decades, India was a passive player in West Asia-a beneficiary of good relationships with multiple actors. Historically, India’s West Asia policy has been multi-directional.

  • During the Cold War years, India maintained close economic cooperation with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, the rival poles in regional geopolitics.
  • In the post-Soviet world: The bi-directional approach has been expanded to a tri-directional foreign policy to accommodate the three key pillars of West Asia — Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.

Importance of west Asia for India

India has huge stakes involved in the region such as energy, trade and safety of Indian community in the region.

  • Energy security: 70 per cent of India’s imported energy needs come from West Asia and this dependence will only increase as the Indian economy continues to grow at 8 per cent or more.
  • Security of Indian community :
  •  India is the largest recipient of foreign remittances from west Asia.
  •  11 million Indians working in West Asia. Therefore, stability in the region is high on India’s core agenda.
  • To counter radicalization: close cooperation is essential to counter radicalization in India.
  • Gate way to central Asia : West Asia is gate way to land locked and energy rich central Asia .
  • Geostrategic importance: To reduce the influence of china in west Asia and in Arabian Sea. China is continuously making in road to west Asia through OBOR initiative.

Challenges in west Asia

Political instability

The security situation in West Asia has been continuously deteriorating ever since the onset of the Arab Spring in December 2010.

  • The internal security situation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen has gone from bad to worse. The regional powers continue to fight proxy wars on sectarian lines, pumping huge amount of money and weapons to bolster their favoured groups.
  • The involvement of extra-regional players such as the USA and Russia in the internal conflicts in West Asia has further aggravated the situation.
  • The GCC-Iran rivalry, Shia-Sunni conflict, external intervention in the region, the fear of rise of religious radicalism etc have further contributed to instability in West Asia .
  • Terrorism: Terrorism has emerged as the biggest security threat to the region. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the most disturbing trend.
  • Saudi-Iran rivalry: destabilizing West Asia and influencing West Asian geopolitics.
  • Pakistan factor : Pakistan is very close ally of many west Asian countries especially with GCC.
  • Shia- Sunni divide may impact internal security of India.

India’s close relation with Israel is another sore point with west Asia.

  • India’s close relation with Iran may antagonize Saudi Arabia. India has to balance its ties with all three regional power in west Asia-Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

India’s “Look West” policy

India adopted look west policy in 2005. However, the policy did not get much attention since 2005. Recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to number of west Asia countries has the potential to transform our engagement with West Asia.

Change in West Asian strategic thinking

Several factors have contributed to this fundamental shift in West Asian strategic thinking.

  • First, the structural change in the global energy market with West Asian oil and gas increasingly heading to South and East Asian markets rather than to the Trans-Atlantic markets.
  • Second, partly as a consequence of this change in flows and partly owing to the fiscal stress faced by the trans-Atlantic economies, West Asia is looking to India and other Asian powers to step in and offer security guarantees to the region. Many GCC states have welcomed defence cooperation agreements with India.
  • Third, in the wake of the Arab Spring and the mess in Egypt and Iraq, the Gulf states find India and China to be more reliable interlocutors than many western states.
  • Fourth, under pressure from radical and extremist political forces within West Asia, most states in the region have come to value the Indian principle of seeking and securing regional stability as an over-riding principle of regional security.

Analysis

  • “Look East” Policy succeeded because South-East Asia began to “look West” to India, seeking a balancer to China.
  • “Look West” Policy will succeed because West Asia is “looking East” worried about the emerging strategic instability in its own neighbourhood and the structural shift in the global energy market.
  • India-West Asia relation is the assertion of not just a “shared” past but of shared challenges in the present and a shared future.

FIRST INDIA ARAB MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE

  • The 1st Ministerial Meeting of Arab-India Cooperation Forum was held on 24 January 2016 in the Bahraini capital Manama.
  • From Indian side meeting was attended by Minister of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs and foreign ministers of Arab States also participated in this meet.
  • In meeting, leaders reviewed the achievements of the Arab- Indian cooperation and adopted the Manama Declaration.
  • The Arab-Indian Co-operation Forum was launched in New Delhi in 2008.

 

Key Highlights

 Regional Issues

  • Arab Israel Conflict – A comprehensive and permanent solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict should be achieved on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions, Madrid Peace conference of 1991 and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut.
  • Syria Issue – There is need to preserve the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability of Syria and the importance to reach a political solution to the crisis that preserves the lives of Syrians.

Israel – Palestine Conflict

  • Israel should end its occupation of the Palestinian “Arab” territories it seized in 1967 and dismantle all the settlements.

Global Issues

  • UNSC Reforms – There is a need for urgent reform of the United Nations Security Council through expansion in both permanent and non-permanent membership to reflect contemporary reality.
  • Terrorism – They emphasized the need for concerted regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and to develop a strategy to eliminate the sources of terrorism and extremism including its funding, and combating organized cross-border crime.

INDIA-SAUDI ARABIA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid first official visit to Saudi Arabia. He is the fourth Indian Prime Minister to visit Saudi Arabia after Dr. Singh in 2010, Indira Gandhi in 1982 and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956.

  • Prime Minister presented a gold-plated replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid to King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
  • Prime Minister was conferred the Arabian country’s highest civilian honour — the King Abdulaziz Sash.

Significance of visit

Following are the areas in which Prime Minister visit will have significant impact:

  • The first is the elevation of ties between the two countries. This involves upgrading three key agreements-the energy security partnership of 2008, the strategic partnership of 2010 (which has included robust anti-terror cooperation), and the defence partnership of 2014.
  • The second possibility is improving the trade and investment relationship. Bilateral trade at about $40 billion must be built beyond its current oil dependence.
  • Investment opportunities for India: The Saudi government is pitching its mega project, the King Abdullah Economic City, with a deep-sea port as a connector between the East and the West, and wants India to see it as a gateway to its new forays into Africa.

Importance of Saudi Arabia:

Maintaining vibrant ties with Saudi Arabia is imperative for India’s energy security as well as for national security.

  • Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude oil.
  • India is the largest recipient of foreign remittances from the kingdom.
  • Of the 11 million Indians working in West Asia, nearly three million are in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, stability in the region, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, is high on India’s core agenda.
  • In recent years, bilateral ties had acquired a security dimension with both countries stepping up cooperation in counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing.
  • Riyadh also extradited several terror suspects to India.
  • Saudi Arabia can force Pakistan to abandon its anti-India foreign policy.

Importance of India for Saudi Arabia

  • Economic Strain: Due to persistently weak oil prices. Also competition in oil market due to a sanctions-free Iran entering the global economic mainstream. In this context, India is a vital market for Saudi Arabia.
  • Change in US policy: The US is no longer as dependent on the region for energy as it used to be. Also, US is more accommodative towards Iran to bring peace in west Asia.
  • Friction with Pakistan: Islamabad renewing its ties with Tehran. Pakistan also refused to join Saudi Arabia’s war coalition against the Iran-backed Shia rebels (Houthi) in Yemen.

Critical Issues with Saudi Arabia

Saudi – Pakistan relation: Pakistan is a “Historic ally” of the Saudis.

Saudi-Iran rivalry: destabilizing West Asia and influencing West Asian geopolitics.

Ideological problem:

  • While Saudi Arabia denounces all forms of terrorism, Saudi money is funding Wahhabi Islamic groups around the world.
  • Many extremist outfits are inspired by the Wahhabi branch of Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s aggressive foreign policy in West Asia: foreign policy is doing great damage to regional stability, which is India’s most important goal in the region.

  •  In Syria, the Saudi support for the rebels has played a key role in destabilising the regime, leading to the rise of the Islamic State.
  • In Yemen, the war has unleashed chaos and a humanitarian catastrophe, creating conditions for radicalism to flourish.

India’s west Asia policy

  • Despite the growing economic ties, political contacts between Saudi Arabia and India were at minimum till the Manmohan Singh government took office in 2004.
  • In 2010, India and Saudi Arabia signed the Riyadh Declaration, which set the framework for enhanced cooperation in the security, defence and economic spheres. Since then, there has been marked improvement in security cooperation and intelligence sharing.
  • Prime Minister visit to Riyadh reflects a resolve to deepen India’s engagement in West Asia.

 

INDIA AND IRAN

Prime Minister paid his first official visit to Iran. During the visit, the two sides signed a total of 12 of agreements on economy, trade, transportation, port development, culture, science and academic cooperation.

Chabahar port agreement

India and Iran signed the “historic” Chabahar port agreement, which has the potential of becoming India’s gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe.

  • A contract for the development and operation for 10 years of two terminals and five berths;
  • The extension of credit lines of $500 million for the port and of Rs.3,000 crore for importing steel rails and implementation of the port;
  • Memorandums of understanding on provision of services by Indian Railways, including financing to the tune of $1.6 billion, for the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line — a line that is also part of the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan on a transit and trade corridor.
  • India will invest billions of dollars in setting up industries — ranging from aluminium smelter to urea plants in Iran’s Chabahar free trade zone after it signed a pact to operate a strategic port on the Persian Gulf nation’s southern coast New Delhi and Tehran had agreed in 2003 to develop the port, near the Iran-Pakistan border. But the project did not take off, mainly owing to international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, but also on account of inertia in Delhi.

Economic significance of Port

  • Once the Chabahar port is developed, Indian ships will get direct access to the Iranian coast; a rail line to the Afghan border town of Zaranj will allow India a route around Pakistan.
  • The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan — Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. This will surely boost trade with Iran and Afghanistan.
  • Once the Chabahar port is developed, goods from India will not only travel up to Afghanistan, but beyond, along the yet-to-be developed International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to Central Asia.
  • The road, rail and port development projects, once implemented, will change the way India, Afghanistan and Iran do business.

Strategic significance

  • Chabahar is situated just 100 km from Pakistan’s Gwadar port, the centrepiece of a $46 billion economic corridor that China is building.
  • The Chabahar port will act as a gateway for India to Central Asia bypassing the China-Pakistan arc.
  • India’s presence in Chabahar will offset the Chinese presence in Pakistan port of Gwadar.

The trilateral trade treaty

  • India, Afghanistan and Iran signed the trilateral trade treaty for developing the Chabahar port.
  • The signing of the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan has been described as a “game changer”. A trilateral transport corridor project has the potential to alter the geopolitical map of South and Central Asia.

INDIA-UAE

  • Prime Minister made his first visit to the Gulf region and West Asia with a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), marking the first visit by Indian PM to the UAE in more than three decades. In 2014-2015, trade between India and the UAE crossed $59 billion with the balance of trade in favour of India, making the UAE one of India’s biggest trading partners.
  • India and UAE elevated the relationship between the two countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership.That is being seen as a significant elevation of ties as well as a sign of India’s shift in the region.
  • Both the countries agreed to “co-ordinate efforts to fight radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims.” It is seen as a shift in foreign policy where security and terrorism take precedence over diplomacy in driving India’s interests.
  • The joint statement was also significant in the way it indicted Pakistan and state sponsored terror without naming the country.
  • The two countries would also work towards the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations.
  • In real terms, the strategic relationship will entail regular meeting (at least every six months) between national security advisors of both countries, and improve points of contact between their security agencies to improve operational cooperation.
  • The UAE will also support India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC).

Transformational visit

  • The Joint Statement between the United Arab Emirates and India is an important articulation of a significant shift in the Arab world’s view of India.
  • It talks of historic ties of “commerce, culture and kinship”, drawing attention to the unique history of Arab interaction with Indian communities of the west coast, from Gujarat to Kerala.
  • The joint statement, outlining closer government-to-government (G2G) relations, draws attention to the vibrant business-to-business (B2B) and people-to-people (P2P) relationships and commits the UAE to a sharp increase in its investment in India.
  • The new strategic partnership outlined by the UAE and India is not just defined by India’s “Look West” policy but that it is equally defined by the GCC’s “Look East” policy.

INDIA-QATAR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his first official visit to gas-rich Qatar. During the visit following seven agreements were signed.

  • MoU between National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).The MoU aims at establishing framework for facilitating participation of Qatari institutional investors in Infrastructure projects in India under NIIF
  • Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters.
  • MoU between Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND) and the Qatar Financial Information Unit (QFIU) concerning cooperation in the exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes.
  • MoU for Cooperation in Skill Development and Recognition of Qualifications.
  • MoU on cooperation in Tourism.
  • The First Executive Programme for MoU in the field of Youth and Sports.
  • MOU for Cooperation in the field of Health.

Importance of Qatar

  • Qatar is an important trading partner for India in the Gulf region with bilateral trade in 2014-15 standing at $15.67 billion of which India’s exports accounted for nearly $1 billion.
  • It is also one of India’s key sources of crude oil.
  • India is the third largest export destination for Qatar after Japan and South Korea, with LNG being the major item of trade.
  • Indians comprise the single largest group of migrants in Qatar.
  • The Prime Minister has been focusing on improving ties with the Gulf region which is crucial for India’s energy security. He has already visited United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Qatar is member of Gulf cooperation council (GCC).

India Israel Relations

An overview

India formally recognised Israel on September 17, 1950. Relations between India and Israel were not always warm. The two countries found themselves at loggerheads for almost 4 decades. India was the leader of NAM, and tilted towards Soviet and Arab world, where as Israel was out and out an US ally. India’s large muslim population was also a hurdle in establishing good bilateral relations.

Since firmly establishing ties, both countries have benefitted immensely.

Since the upgradation of relations in 1992, defence and agriculture have been the main pillars of bilateral engagement. In recent years, ties have expanded to areas such as S&T, education and homeland security. The future vision of the cooperation is of a strong hi-tech partnership as befits two leading knowledge economies.

India-Israel Interaction
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President Pranab Mukherjee visited Israel in October, 2015. From Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Ezer Weizmann visited India in 2003 and 1997 respectively . There have been frequent Ministerial level exchanges in the recent past.

India has benefited from Israeli expertise and technologies in horticulture mechanization, protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro-irrigation and post-harvest management particularly in Haryana and Maharashtra. Israeli drip irrigation technologies and products are now widely used in India. Some Israeli companies and experts are providing expertise to manage and improve dairy farming in India through their expertise in high milk yield.

India imports critical defence technologies from Israel. There are regular exchanges between the armed forces and defence personnel.

India is known in Israel as an ancient nation with strong cultural traditions.

Why India and Israel are bringing their relation out of the carpet?

Since 1992, the relations between the countries has developed steadily. Shared concerns regarding terrorism, have been  key drivers. In fact, The President of India recently stated that Israel has come through for India, when needed the most.

The president referred to the assistance given during the Kargil crisis in 1999 in particular, but there has also been less publicly-acknowledged help in the past. India, for its part, has felt that the closer relationship with Israel has created a constituency for it in the United States.

The governments have also been trying to increase people-to-people interaction through educational exchanges and tourism, with some success.

Israel has talked about the relationship being held under the carpet.” More bluntly, happy to engage intimately in private, but hesitant to acknowledge the relationship in public. The explanations for this have ranged from Indian domestic political sensitivities to its relations with the Arab countries.

In 2014, India had expressed concern about loss of life in Gaza strip, as well as provocations against Israel, and called both sides to deescalate. Yet, it then voted in support of the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemned Israel, a move that left observers wondering why didn’t India abstain. Since then, however, the government has moved toward the expected approach.

The first sign of this was PM Modi’s decision to meet with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in 2014. Since then, there have been a number of high-level visits and interactions, including a few “firsts.  Last year, Pranab Mukherjee, for example, became the first Indian president to travel to Israel. The Israeli ambassador to India has observed the “high visibility” the relationship now enjoys.

 

 

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The deepening and more open relationship with Israel, however, hasn’t been accompanied by a U-turn on the Indian government’s policy toward Palestine. Government seems to be doing is trying to de-hyphenate its ties with Israel and PalestineThe de-hyphenated approach, in turn, potentially gives Indian policymakers more space to take India’s relationship with Israel further.

The government has reiterated India’s traditional position on a two-state solutionas  an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The continuity on this front is not just driven by historic and domestic political factors, but also by India’s broader balancing act in the region. Even as India’s relations with Israel have deepened, it has maintained and even enhanced its relations with Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Main areas of cooperation

There is a lot of complementarity between both nations’ economic interests.

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  • In the defense space, cooperation is only growing. India has recently bought spike anti tank missiles, and Barak Missiles, for navy, and also tested the Barak 8 missile system.
  • Cooperation is also continuing in the agricultural sector, with 30 centers of excellence either established or planned across 10 Indian states.
  • More broadly, the two governments are seeking to facilitate greater economic ties, as well as science and technology collaboration. 
  • Israel is one of the first country which is implementing the ‘Make In India’ vision.There are already plans for joint ventures for making for India by Israeli company with the support of the Israeli government.
  • There are vibrant people-to-people interactions, strategic dialogues between the security forces and strategic establishments, among other on-going exchanges between the two countries.
  • India has been a favourite tourist destination, especially for Israeli youth. In 2010, nearly 50,000 Israeli tourists had come to India.

Israeli President’s visit to India

  • Mr Reuven Rivlin met both the President and the Prime Minister, and discussed working together to combat terrorism and extremism. He  is  the first Israeli president to travel to India since 1996
  • Memoranda of understanding,  in agriculture and the management of water resources, were signed.
  • Israel and India already cooperate closely in the areas of defense and combating terrorism, but in talks between Rivlin and Modi, it was agreed to strengthen this cooperation even further.
  • PM  and Mr Rivlin said that they deeply value the strong and growing partnership between their countries to secure their respective societies.

What challenges remain?

  • One area that needs attention is coproduction in order to produce cheaper products and to reduce dependency on third actors. Military exercises should be incorporated into defence cooperation since Israel has a growing interest in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • In the area of academics, one issue constraining better relations between Indian and Israeli academics is money.
  • Foreign policy concerns for the two countries are dominated by third party issues such as Iran and the Palestinian issue.

Asian alliance comprising India, Israel, South Korea, Japan and Australia could work together to deal with issues including missile defence and piracy. At the global level, the differences in outlook of both nations are evident. India seems more in favour of a multi-polar world while Israel prefers a uni-polar one. But both nations do not want to see a weakened US.

Conclusion

Over the past 60 years, India’s Israel policy has been rooted in pragmatism.  Although India initially opposed the creation of Israel, strategic cooperation caused Indo-Israeli relations to warm from the 1960s onward without alienating the Arab World.

Today India maintains close relationships with both Israel and Arab nations.  Due to its close ties with both parties, India has the potential to play a major role in the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis.  India is in a position to serve as an honest, unbiased broker, a role that the United States has struggled to fill.

The India-Israel relationship provides a valuable lesson in international politics, especially for states whose ideological alliances prevent them from forging solely pragmatic ties.  India has shown that the even-handed pursuit of diplomatic, military, and economic interests is the way to garner diplomatic credibility and popular good will without damaging other strategic relationships.

Important Contemporary issues related to West Asia

IRAQ CRISIS

A civil war is raging in Iraq. There is a deadlock between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS an unrecognized state and active Jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria influenced by the Wahhabi movement). It is operating in Iraq and Syria.

Here we are analyzing the situation of IRAQ in FAQ form:

 What was Operation Iraqi Freedom?

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the overthrow of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States Government turned its attention to Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein. Citing intelligence information that Iraq had stockpiled and continued to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) such as poison gas, biological agents, and nuclear weapons, as well as harboring and supporting members of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, the United States and Great Britain led a coalition to topple Hussein’s regime in March 2003.

Since the end of the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991, the United States Air Force had maintained a continuous presence in the Middle East, enforcing no-fly zones in the northern and southern portions of Iraq, termed Operation NORTHERN WATCH, based out of Turkey, and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, based out of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the U.S.-led coalition military operation in Iraq, was launched on March 20, 2003, with the immediate stated goal of removing Saddam Hussein’s regime and destroying its ability to use weapons of mass destruction or to make them available to terrorists. Over time, the focus of OIF shifted from regime removal to the more open-ended mission of helping the Government of Iraq (GoI) improve security, establish a system of governance, and foster economic development.

What were the outcomes of Operation Iraqi Freedom?

The outcomes were:

a) End the regime of Saddam Hussein.

b) Elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

c) Destruction of terrorist infrastructure in Iraq.2

d) Coalition military forces secured Iraq’s southern oil fields

e) Sanctions on Iraq were imposed by the United Nations Security Council as a result of the Hussein regime’s unwillingness to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and terrorist programs, account for individuals missing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and stop its repression of the Iraqi civilian population. With the military action to remove the Hussein regime a success, U.N. sanctions against Iraq come to an end.

f) Estimates on the number of casualties during the invasion in Iraq vary widely. Estimates on civilian casualties are more variable than those for military personnel. According to Iraq Body Count, a group that relies on press reports, NGO-based reports and official figures to measure civilian casualties, approximately 7,500 civilians were killed during the invasion phase. The Project on Defense Alternatives study estimated that 3,200–4,300 civilians died during the invasion.

What was Operation New Dawn?

The transition to Operation New Dawn, Sept. 1, marks the official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and combat operations by United States forces in Iraq.

During Operation New Dawn, the remaining 50,000 U.S. service members serving in Iraq will conduct stability operations, focusing on advising, assisting and training Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Operation New Dawn also represents a shift from a predominantly military U.S. presence to one that is predominantly civilian, as the Departments of Defense and State work together with governmental and non-governmental agencies to help build Iraq’s civil capacity.

The transition to Operation New Dawn represents the U.S. commitment to the government and people of Iraq as a sovereign, stable country that will be an enduring strategic partner with the United States. This has been made possible by the improved capability of the ISF to take the lead in securing their country.

New Dawn also signifies the success of the responsible drawdown of forces and the redeployment of thousands of U.S. Soldiers, as well as the return or transfer of war fighting equipment to the U.S. or to combat troops fighting in Afghanistan.

What happened after withdrawal of US forces in 2011?

The withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq began in June 2009 and was completed by December 2011, bringing an end to the Iraq War.

Despite the elimination of a repressive single-party cult of personality state, the invasion and occupation led to sectarian violence which caused widespread displacement among Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi Red Crescent organization estimated the total internal displacement was around 2.3 million in 2008, and as many as 2 million Iraqis leaving the country. Poverty led many Iraqi women to turn to prostitution to support themselves and their families, attracting sex tourists from regional lands. The invasion led to a constitution which supported democracy as long as laws did not violate traditional Islamic principles, and a parliamentary election was held in 2005.

In addition the invasion preserved the autonomy of the Kurdish region, and stability brought new economic prosperity. Because the Kurdish region is historically the most democratic area of Iraq, many Iraqi refugees from other territories fled into the Kurdish land.

What was the Economic and Political Situation of Iraq after withdrawal?

Iraq’s political and economic challenges dominated both its internal politics and relations with the US, Iran, and Iraq’s other neighbors. To improve economic situation Iraq needs trade and cross-border support from Iran, just as it needs aid, diplomatic, and military support from the US. Iraq’s much-reduced military capabilities make it dependent on aid, military sales, and training from the United States, and Iraq still lacks the resources and cohesion to resist against Iranian coercion and to defend against Iranian aggression.

A budget crisis that lasted from 2008 to 2010, and a political crisis that began long before the March 2010 election that produced a de facto stalemate in many aspects of governance, have added to these economic problems as well as sharply delayed critical qualitative improvements in every branch of Iraq’s national security forces.

Iraq has not been able to absorb and support many of the aid projects funded during the US occupation, and its problems in national governance have been compounded by corruption, political infighting, and sectarian and ethnic struggles at the provincial and local levels.

While the existence of vast oil reserves in Iraq are not in question, the country’s petroleum sector faces many challenges that have limited its ability to produce, export, and deliver this valuable natural resource.

Battle over Iraq’s natural resources has a significant impact on its domestic politics and divisions. Iraq faces political fallout between the central government and the Kurdish regional government (KRG) over energy contracts and the right to invite and award lucrative contracts to international companies.

In April 2012, the KRG halted its supply of oil for export through Iraq’s national pipeline, claiming that the central government owed over $1.5 billion in operating costs to companies in the Kurdish region.

For its part, the government in Baghdad has threatened to simply deduct that lost oil revenue from what the KRG’s portion of the Iraqi budget. At the same time, Iraq’s oil-rich Shi’ite provinces want a larger share of the country’s export earnings while other Arab Shi’ite and Sunni provinces want the distribution of these shares based on need of their portion of Iraq’s total population.

Internal disputes between the central government and Iraq’s oil rich regions, as well as poor infrastructure, political uncertainty, sabotage, and internal demand will further limit Iraq’s ability to produce and export oil.

What were the Criticisms for the USA Invasion on Iraq?

The Bush Administration’s rationale for the Iraq War has faced heavy criticism from an array of popular and official sources both inside and outside the United States, with many U.S. citizens finding many parallels with the Vietnam War. For example a former CIA officer who described the Office of Special Plans as a group of ideologues who were dangerous to U.S. national security and a threat to world peace, and that the group lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. The Center for Public Integrity alleges that the Bush administration made a total of 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq’s alleged threat to the United States.

Criticisms include:

  • Legality of the invasion
  • Human casualties
  • Insufficient post-invasion plans, in particular inadequate troop levels (a RAND Corporation study stated that 500,000 troops would be required for success)
  • Financial costs with approximately $612 billion spent as of 4/09 the CBO has estimated the total cost of the war in Iraq to US taxpayers will be around$1.9 trillion.
  • Adverse effect on US-led global “war on terror”
  • Damage to U.S.’ traditional alliances and influence in the region, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. Endangerment and ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities by insurgent.
  • Disruption of Iraqi oil production and related energy security concerns (the price of oil has quadrupled since 2002)
  • After President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, some anti-war groups decided to stop protesting even though the war was still going on. Some of them decided to stop because they felt they should give the new President time to establish his administration, and others stopped because they believed that Obama would end the war.

The financial cost of the war has been more than £4.55 billion ($9 billion) to the UK, and over $845 billion to the US government. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes it costs the United States $720 million a day to wage the Iraq war. This number takes into account the long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware.

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University. Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the US economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion to $6 trillion, including interest rates, by 2053.

What are the Reasons for Current Crisis?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, took power in 2006 and largely left out many Sunnis from ascending in the political ranks, leaving religious strife as the centerpiece of this disagreement. In the past, al- Maliki has also been criticized for his alleged “spoils system” approach in promoting his political allies to posts in the military.

Earlier Shiite militants had encouraged by the government to conduct sectarian cleansing in mixed areas around Baghdad, particularly in Diyala province between Baghdad and the Iranian border. These events contributed to the motivation of Sunnis who have taken up arms or acquiesced in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s offensive.

Even as the ISIS tide rolls southward down the Tigris, there is probably little danger of Baghdad and other Shiite areas falling into Sunni insurgent hands.

Who are the major Players in the Iraq crisis?

The major players and groups in the crisis:

Insurgents

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a Sunni jihadist group that has its roots in the al-Qaeda linked insurgents that formed the backbone of the resistance against U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

It has since expanded operations into Syria, where it is fighting the regime of Bashar Assad, and has broken formal ties with al-Qaeda. It embraces a radical form of Islam and consists of battle-hardened fighters.

Earlier this year, the group ransacked Fallujah and Ramadi, two influential Sunni cities in western Iraq. It has managed to hold much of Fallujah and portions of Ramadi. More recently it seized parts of Mosul and was positioned to edge toward Baghdad.

ISIL is also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Nouri al-Maliki

The prime minister of Iraq leads a Shiite dominated government that has alienated many of the Sunnis in Iraq over the past several years. Maliki has been criticized for not taking more steps to include rival Sunni leaders in his government.

Shiites are the majority sect in Iraq, but for most of Iraq’s history they were oppressed by the Sunnis, who dominated the government. Saddam Hussein and his key leaders were all Sunnis. Shiite leaders during that time were driven into exile.

Iraq’s Armed Forces

Organized, trained and, to some extent, equipped by the United States, the Iraqi military was a competent force when the United States pulled all its forces out in 2011.

But over the past several years Maliki has been accused of appointing political cronies to key leadership positions and the military has ceased to conduct regular training. Sunnis have said the army is little more than another Shiite militia and have little confidence in its ability to protect them. Many units simply collapsed when insurgents attacked Mosul and other cities in Iraq.

 Shiite militias

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Shiite militias, some of which were backed by Iran, grew to become powerful forces. Among the strongest such militias is the Mahdi Army, a group loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Shiite militias at various times attacked U.S. forces and also participated in sectarian warfare in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, which peaked in 2006. Most of the insurgent gains were in Sunni or mixed areas. Shiite militias will likely try to protect Shiite neighborhoods if insurgents attempt to move into Baghdad.

Who are ISIS?

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham abbreviated ISIL and ISIS, is an unrecognized state and active Jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria. In its unrecognized self-proclaimed status as an independent state, it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant including Lebanon, Israel, Jordan,Cyprus and Southern Turkey.

It was established in the early years of the Iraq War and has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group was composed of and supported by a variety of insurgent groups, including its predecessor organisation, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al- Tawhid wal Sunnah, Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura etc., and other clans whose population profess Sunni Islam. Its aim was to establish acaliphate in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq, later expanding this to include Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIS.

In addition to attacks on government and military targets, the group has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. Despite significant setbacks for the group during the latter stages of the Coalition’s presence in Iraq, by late 2012 the group was thought to have renewed its strength and more than doubled the number of its members to about 2,500.

In early June 2014, following its large-scale offensives in Iraq, ISIS have seized control of most of Mosul, the second most populous city in Iraq, its surrounding Nineveh province, and the city of Fallujah. ISIS has also taken control of Tikrit, the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate, with the ultimate goal of capturing Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. ISIS was believed to have only 2,000–3,000 fighters up until the Mosul campaign, but during that campaign it became evident that this number was a gross underestimate

What steps can be taken to control the problem?

The problem will only get worse in the coming months. Now that the Iraqi government’s weakness in Sunni territories has been exposed, other Sunni extremist groups are joining forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to exploit the opening. The Baathist-affiliated Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist Ansar al-Sunna Army are reportedly taking part in the offensive as well, and they are drawing support from a Sunni population that believes itself persecuted and disenfranchised by al-Maliki’s government and threatened by Shiite militias that are his political allies.

The problem at its core is not just a matter of security, but politics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its allies would not have had the opportunity to seize ground in the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of Salaheddin, Nineveh and Anbar if there had been more inclusive and sincere political outreach to the mainstream Sunni Arab community.

In the end, the solution to the ISIS threat is a fundamental change in Iraq’s political discourse, which has become dominated by one sect and one man, and the inclusion of mainstream Sunni Arabs and Kurds as full partners in the state.

If al-Maliki truly wishes to restore government control to the Sunni provinces, he must reach out to Sunni and Kurdish leaders and ask for their help, and he must re-enlist former Sons of Iraq leaders, purged military commanders and Kurdish Peshmerga to help regain the territory they once helped the Iraqi government defend. But these are steps a-Maliki has shown himself unwilling and unlikely to take.

Recommendations for a path forward

In this complicated and quickly evolving situation, the steps that can be taken are:

  • To weaken ISIS to prevent it from controlling substantial territory in Iraq from which it can become a threat to the region.
  • To reduce threats of growing sectarian conflict sparking a wider regional war
  • To safeguard reliable and capable partners such as Jordan, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
  • The nations should engage in a regional full-court press involving top military, intelligence, and diplomatic officials to persuade relevant regional stakeholders—Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran—to step back from actions in Iraq and Syria that could lead to a wider regional war.
  • Additional security and intelligence coordination and operations with Jordan, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Regional Government are essential, along with humanitarian assistance to help care for those displaced by the crisis. These partners have intelligence and capabilities that should leverage to degrade the threat from ISIS.
  • Action against ISIS in Iraq alone will likely push the problem back across the border into Syria, where ISIS controls large swaths of ungoverned territory. This possibility requires more robust efforts to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition forces that have shown a willingness and ability to fight ISIS and Assad, something CAP has called for previously. The administration and Congress should make this the first test of President Obama’s Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, using resources already dedicated to Overseas Contingency Operations. Details about vetting, the location for training, and the types of equipment necessary should be worked out rapidly.

ARAB SPRING: 

The Arab Spring, a term given to the Arab Revolution. In almost all of the Arabian and African countries they are either ruled by the autocratic Kings or by the Military Rulers who had overthrown the earlier government and established an autocratic regime.

As you know in autocratic regimes it become very difficult for the citizens of the country to be heard as per Rule of Law. In most of the Arabian countries still all the Laws are as per the orthodox Sunni Rules. But now it is very true to say that : “the longer an autocrat stays in power the shorter time it takes for his regime’s ouster” upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, as well as the violent uprising and foreign military intervention in Libya and now the ongoing tension in Syria is the best example of that.

The main reasons for the civil uprising was:
1.Double digit Inflation Rates
2.UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLOYMENT:

Mohammed Bouazizi

eg. The very first instance which sparked the whole Arab Spring in Tunisia is only due to Mohammed Bouazizi from Tunisia is a prime example of how unemployment can prove deadly for a regime and how the government’s indifference proves fatal for the whole country. Instead of helping out the 26-year-old who tried his best to seek a job including his attempt to get drafted into the military and applying for jobs in both public and private sectors, the government officials confiscated his vegetables kiosk and effectively barred him from feeding his family and paying for his sister’s university fees.

With no way out, he set himself on fire in front of the government building where his confiscated kiosk rested and registered his extreme condemnation of Ben Ali’s 23-year-old regime and its economic policies. He immolated himself but also burnt the outlandish castles of the ruling elite, spinning the wheel of a massive revolution that changed everything in the country.

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POLITICAL/RELIGIOUS OPPRESSION

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it is independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty

The most apt example of this is :
The civil war in Algeria is a prime example of how political or religious or both forms of oppression can lead a country to civil war. The Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS) won the first round of elections with a heavy mandate in December 1991. Then president Chadli Bendjedid invited the Algerian military to take control of the situation. The army removed the president from power and installed a military-backed government.

The FIS was banned and the army put a squeeze on religious activities across the country. A military operation was started against the armed supporters of the FIS, which then splintered into smaller militant groups that attacked the security forces, police and civilians. The army also staged bloody attacks against suspected Islamists, which ensued a full-fledged civil war, leaving at least 200,000 Algerians dead and approximately 15,000 forcibly disappeared.

The conflict continued till 2002 when the armed militants laid down the arms and accepted the new civilian government’s amnesty. By then the damage was done and the socio-economic fabric of the country was ripped apart.
Following a wave of protests in the wake of popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libiya and Yemen, Algeria officially lifted its 19-year-old state of emergency on 24 February 2011. The country’s Council of Ministers approved the repeal two days prior.

ABSENCE OF POLITICAL DISSENT/LACK OF PARTICIPATION

Political dissent refers to any expression which conveys public dissatisfaction over the policies of the government. It may come in both violent and nonviolent forms – including protests, civil disobedience, strike, lobbying. The violent expressions may include self-immolation, rioting, arson, bombings, assassinations and armed revolution.

The lack of political dissent is the hallmark of any repressive government. Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes tend to punish any form of political dissent and are quick to quell it effectively. The suppression of freedom of speech is the first target of such government that denies an individual or group of individuals to speak freely without censorship, limitation or punishment.
Similarly, the freedom of assembly and association is the individual’s right to come together with the others to express, promote, pursue and defend common interests collectively. Any given authoritarian regime would deny this basic right to its citizens and violators would be punished sternly by employing the services of the notorious secret services and police forces. Jails and prisons in authoritarian states are full of political prisoners at any given time. Also, there is no existence of a viable political opposition group or movement.

Suppression of political dissent is very common in the Middle East and Central Asia. The Libyan example is a classic case study.

The arrest of Fathi Terbil, a human rights activist arrested in Benghazi by the security services, triggered massive anti-government protests in cities across Libya on 16 February.Instead of addressing the concerns of the general public and allowing them to peacefully air their views, the Libyan authorities commanded by Moammar Gaddafi, the 68-year-old dictator who has been in the power since the 1969 coup, opened fire on the protestors and used disproportionate force to disperse them. Initially, the masses withdrew from the streets but came back with vengeance after arming themselves with crude weapons and ammunitions.

Gaddafi source

The result was a large scale revolt that engulfed whole of Libya with large urban centres expelling the pro-Gaddafi regime elements and declaring the cities ‘free’. Though, the Gaddafi regime has mounted unprecedented attacks on the rebels controlled the cities in both east and west of Libya, the rage and determination to break away from the clutches of the authoritarianism and tyranny of the Libyan despot rages stronger than ever.

The Gaddafi regime denied the masses their right to govern themselves and address their problems. The Libyan system of the ‘People’s Committees’ was never reformed and crumbled under the weight of cronyism and nepotism. This injustice and repression turned into an insurmountable rebellion for Gaddafi’s loyal forces and mercenaries to crush.

FOREIGN INTERFERENCE

Acts of foreign interference can be described as activities carried by or on behalf of, are directed or subsidised by or are undertaken in active collaboration with, a foreign power. Such activities are usually clandestine or deceptive and are carried on for intelligence purposes. They are also carried on for the purpose of affecting political or governmental processes. Such activities are detrimental to the interests of a nation and involve threat to a person, group of people or the nation as a whole.
Middle East stands to be one of the most active regions of foreign interference. From meddling into the affairs of the state by regional players to direct/indirect interference by US and other western powers, this region has seen more than its share of foreign interference.

Lebanon is a hapless victim of foreign intervention in the Middle East region that faced brutal invasions and braved civil wars incited by regional powers. The country’s fragmented socio-political scenario provided ideal conditions to the outsiders who furthered their interests at the expense of Lebanese national interests.

Iran and Syria armed and aided Shia militants and named them Hezbollah whereas Israel propped up the Christian Phalange militias that went on to massacre thousands of people from rival sectarian groups.

On the top sat powers like US, France and Russia that benefitted from the arms trade while the country was being reduced to ashes. The situation is so grim in Lebanon today that governments in Beirut are formed or toppled on the directives coming from either Tehran, Damascus, Riyadh, Tel Aviv or Washington DC.

KLEPTOCRACY: 

A group of people that engages itself in thievery to govern is known as kleptocracy. It consolidates the tyrannical powers by practicing transfer of money and power from the many to the few. The kleptocratic ruling class consists of moneyed elite that usurps justice, liberty, equality, sovereignty, and other democratic rights from the people.

Just as the Middle East and North African nations are flush with oil wealth, the region is also a haven of kleptocratic rulers from the shores of the Atlantic to the warm waters of Persian Gulf. Kingdoms upon kingdoms are ruled by dynasties that are at least a few centuries old and owe their existence to the 19th century imperial powers. In fact it was the very imperial system that not only gave birth to them but also propped and saved them from the adverse winds of political change and democracy

The 7,000-strong House of Saud is the most powerful kleptocracy in the Middle East with most power resides in the hands of 200 or so descendants of Ibne Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the tapping of the world’s largest proven oil reserves, the Sheikhs of the Al Saud family have enriched themselves to astronomical proportions.

With all the accumulated wealth, the richest ruling family on the planet aids and abets other dictatorships in the region and provides a safe haven after their removal. In stark contrast to their mega-rich lifestyle, thousands of Saudi families live in dire conditions and are mired in poverty and unemployment.

The Saudi government is also actively accused of supporting neo-Wahhabi Islamic extremists in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Central Asia and elsewhere by funding religious seminaries (madarsas) and providing arms and weapons.

On the other hand, the very same rulers have massive stakes in US and European businesses, spread from California to French Riviera. This bizarre mix of religion and hedonism has contributed to numerous conflicts, human rights abuses and environmental disasters across the region and have resulted into the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

POLICE STATE

Police state can be described as a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls with the help of secret police forces and agencies over the social, economic and political life of the nation.

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Syria is one such state in the Middle East where the dynastic Al-Assad regime represses people with the help of the secret services and other state apparatus. The country is void of any form of political freedoms and the decades long arbitrary laws forbid any form of demonstration, activism or dissent.

Despite poverty, unemployment and harsh economic conditions, the masses are afraid of any kind of opposition to the Bashar Al-Assad regime fearing massive reprisals by the state. Many opposition political activists say the Syrian military and intelligence services were behind the 1982 Hama massacre that claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people believed to be supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, an arch rival of the ruling secular nationalist Baath party.

The Human Rights Watch, along with Syrian Human Rights Committee, maintains that thousands of political prisoners, including bloggers and journalists critical of the Baathist regime, remain imprisoned in Syrian jails without any trials.

The country remains under a state of emergency when the Baath Party seized power in 1963. The four major organs of security forces are the air force intelligence, general intelligence directorate, military intelligence and the political security directorate. These agencies, known as Mukhabarat (intelligence), enjoy wide ranging powers including the right to detain any person on suspicion for longer periods without any arrest warrant.

Syria is one of the most repressive countries in the world in terms of freedom of expression and information. Criticism of the president, ruling Baath party or discussions on the ethno-religious issues in Syria remain particularly sensitive and are often punished.

The repression comes despite the fact that Syrian constitution enshrines the right of every citizen “to freely and openly express his/her views in words, in writing, and through all other means of expression,” while also guaranteeing “the freedom of the press, of printing, and publication in accordance with the law.”
AUTOCRACY

Autocracy comes from the Greek words: “autos” meaning “self” and “kratos” meaning “power.” In an autocratic system, one person or group holds all the power, without the participation, or sometimes even the consent, of the people. It is considered as the opposite of democracy.

An autocracy lacks political competition, transparency, freedom of expression, right to have a different opinion, human rights framework, and accountability of state institutions. The autocrat of a country will definitely claim, in theory, the existence of such rights and will ask the state institutions to observe them. However, in practice, there won’t be any checks and balances or the precedent of such rights existing and laws observed by the state.

Egypt under the reign of Hosni Mubarak could be termed as a classical autocratic state where any form of dissent was not tolerated. The state was put under the firm control of the security apparatus that kept a lid on political activities, muzzled the press, and tortured opponents of the regime. Everything revolved around the policies of his cronies, known as the National Democratic Party.

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Mubarak, who came in power in October 1981, stayed clung onto it by “winning” four presidential elections – three of which were not contested by any candidate and the other by a landslide. The existence of the parliament was nothing more than a sham, which acted as a rubberstamp and approved Mubarak’s authoritarian policies without any debate. The formation of political parties was technically impossible if not constitutionally restricted.

The presence of the Egyptian autocrat was overwhelming. His portraits were hung in the government offices, the parliament, courts and public places. The intention of such imposing existence was to make sure that Mubarak is present on the public psyche all around the clock with absolute control. A whole generation grew up watching him in power, who always asked the people to cooperate with the government and help him defeat the imaginary ‘enemies of the state’.

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

A landmark Iran nuclear agreement was reached between Iran and six world powers is a historic step forward that solves an over-a-decade-long stand-off between Iran and the West. The agreement looks like a “win-win deal” for all sides.

  • Under its terms, sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union and the UN would be lifted, in return for Iran agreeing to long-term curbs on its nuclear programme.
  • All of Iran’s nuclear facilities would be allowed to continue operations. This provision will let the Iranian government sell the deal to its public, pointing out that its right to generate nuclear energy stays intact.
  • Tehran has also agreed to a “snapback” mechanism, under which some sanctions could be reinstated after 65 days if it violated the deal.
  • A UN weapons embargo would remain for five years and a ban on buying missile technology for eight years.

Global implications

  • It sets the stage for a radical realignment of equations in West Asia, and has the potential to transform the conflict-ridden region in the long term.
  • The U.S. would like Iran to no longer be a spoiler power and instead play a stabilising role in West Asia, suited to its interests. On the other hand, before effecting any structural change in its foreign policy orientation, Iran would seek strategic assurance from Washington that it would not return to anti-Iranism.

Cooperation between US-Iran: Tehran and Washington are engaged in Syria and Iraq. They share common interests in Afghanistan.

Opposition to deal

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his Cabinet are united in “strongly opposing” an emerging framework agreement on curbing.
  • Powerful sections, including the Republicans in the U.S., hardliners in Iran, and the Israelis and Saudis, remain steadfastly opposed to a U.S.-Iran rapprochement.

India’s benefit

  • A peaceful, stable Iran is vital for its interests, particularly for energy security and connectivity.
  • India has tried hard to maintain its civilizational ties with Teheran in the face of international sanctions, and pressure from the US. However bilateral trade with Iran has suffered because of banking and insurance strictures. India and Iran have an annual bilateral trade of about $14 billion, with an extremely high balance of trade problem.
  • The big advantage for India could be a further reduction in the price of oil that India used to source at a much higher quantity pre-2012, when Iran was India’s second biggest supplier.
  • An important benefit of a peace agreement will also be a renewed push to complete the Chabahar port route to Afghanistan, which for India could mean the opening up of Iran-Afghanistan trade and also a route to Central Asia.
  • Many people in India perceive the Mausam Project and the Spice Route as rivals to the Maritime Silk Road.

YEMEN CRISIS

A United Nations-backed ceasefire between the Saudi-allied forces and Shia Houthi rebels took effect in Yemen.

Yemen Conflict time line

  • September 21, 2014: Houthi rebels seize government and military sites in Sana’a. Rival groups sign a U.N.- brokered peace deal stipulating a Houthi withdrawal from the capital and formation of a new government.
  • October 14, 2014: The Houthis seize the Red Sea port of Hodeida, 230 km west of Sana’a, then move toward the centre without opposition from government forces but face fierce resistance from AQAP and its tribal allies.
  • January 20, 2015: Houthis attack Mr. Hadi’s residence and seize the presidential palace, and the President and Prime Minister resign two days later.
  • February 6, 2015: The rebels announce they have dissolved Parliament and installed a presidential council to run the country. The United States and Gulf monarchies accuse Iran of backing the Houthis. In the south and southeast, authorities reject what they brand a coup attempt.
  • February 21, 2015: Mr. Hadi flees south to Aden after escaping from weeksunder house arrest and urges the international community to “reject the coup,” rescinding his resignation and subsequently declaring Aden the temporary capital.

Saudi Arabia led air strikes

  • The advance of the Houthis raised Saudi fears that the Shia minority rebels would seize control of the whole of its Sunni majority neighbour and take it into the orbit of Shia Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia, spearheaded a coalition of nine Arab states, began carrying out airstrikes in neighbouring Yemen on 25 March 2015, heralding the start of a military intervention in Yemen,codenamed Operation Decisive Storm.
  • The airstrikes that followed have transformed Yemen into another arena for the regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
  • But after a year of relentless bombing by Riyadh, the Houthis still hold the capital city and control much of western Yemen.
  • The stateless chaos amid a disastrous war has helped al-Qaeda expand its footprint steadily in the country and also country is facing serious humanitarian crisis.
  • Observers say the fighting in the strategic Mideast nation is taking on the appearance of a proxy war between Iran, the Shiite powerhouse backing the Houthis, and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.
  • Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni power, believes that the rebels are backed militarily, financially and politically by its Shia regional arch-rival.
  • The real reason for the conflict lies in the complex geopolitics of the region. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthis as a front for Iran and does not want a Shia-dominated government in its backyard.

Impact of conflict on Yemen

The conflict has ruined large parts of the country and raised tensions in West Asia, with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies backing the government and Shia powerhouse Iran supporting the rebels.

Rise of extremist

  •  The stateless chaos amid a disastrous war has helped al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) expand its footprint steadily in the country, and it now runs a mini state from southeastern Yemen.

Humanitarian catastrophe

  • The war has turned Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe.
  •  More than 6,000 people, half of them civilians, have been killed since the Saudi bombing started, and about two million have been displaced.
  •  An estimated 80 per cent of the population needs humanitarian assistance, while millions of children face malnutrition.

Way forward

Three previous attempts to reach a ceasefire had collapsed mainly due to difference between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

  • The ceasefire to succeed, the regional powers should set aside their geopolitical games and come together to address the humanitarian problem pragmatically.
  • Any practical solution will require an end to external military intervention and a cessation of violence, followed by the formation of a government of national unity. These cannot be achieved unless Iran and Saudi Arabia cooperate, and in a manner that puts their selfish interests aside.

Who are the Houthis?

  • The Houthis are followers of the Shia Zaidi sect, the faith of around a third of Yemen’s population. Officially known as Ansarallah (the partisans of God), the group began as a movement preaching tolerance and peace in the Zaidi stronghold of North Yemen in the early 1990s. The group takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who launched an insurgency in 2004.
  • The group launched an insurgency in 2004 against the then ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh that lasted till 2010. They participated in the 2011 Arab Spring inspired revolution in Yemen that replaced Saleh with Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi.
  • They subsequently participated in a National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which led to President Hadi announcing plans in February 2014 for Yemen to become a federation of six regions.

 Syrian Crisis

Syrian Civil War map.svg

Current military situation: RedSyrian GovernmentGreenSyrian OppositionYellowFederation of Northern Syria (SDF), GreyIslamic State of Iraq and the LevantWhiteAl-Nusra Front

Background

2011 March – Security forces shoot dead protestors in southern city of Deraa demanding release of political prisoners, triggering violent unrest that steadily spread nationwide over the following months.

Anti-government protesters chant in the northern Syrian city of Idlib

2011 protests

Pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011; the government responded with violence

President Assad announces conciliatory measures, releasing dozens of political prisoners, dismissing government, lifting 48-year-old state of emergency.

2011 May – Army tanks enter Deraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus in an effort to crush anti-regime protests. US and European Union tighten sanctions. President Assad announces amnesty for political prisoners.

2011 June – The government says that 120 members of the security forces have been killed by “armed gangs” in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour. Troops besiege the town and more than 10,000 people flee to Turkey. President Assad pledges to start a “national dialogue” on reform.

2011 June – The IAEA nuclear watchdog decides to report Syria to the UN Security Council over its alleged covert nuclear programme reactor programme. The structure housing the alleged reactor was destroyed in an Israeli air raid in 2007.

Opposition organises

2011 July – President Assad sacks the governor of the northern province of Hama after mass demonstration there, eventually sending in troops to restore order at the cost of scores of lives.

2011 October – New Syrian National Council says it has forged a common front of internal and exiled opposition activists.

2011 November – Arab League votes to suspend Syria, accusing it of failing to implement an Arab peace plan, and imposes sanctions.

Civil war

The uprising against President Assad gradually turned into a full-scale civil war

2011 December – Twin suicide bombs outside security buildings in Damascus kill 44, the first in a series of large blasts in the the capital that continue into the following summer.

2012 February – Government steps up the bombardment of Homs and other cities.

International pressure:

2012 March – UN Security Council endorses non-binding peace plan drafted by UN envoy Kofi Annan. China and Russia agree to support the plan after an earlier, tougher draft is modified.

2012 May – France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia expel senior Syrian diplomats in protest at killing of more than a hundred civilians in Houla, near Homs.

Opposition rifts

Divisions and concern about the role of Islamists have bedevilled the opposition

Guide to the Syrian opposition

2012 June – Turkey changes rules of engagement after Syria shoots down a Turkish plane, declaring that if Syrian troops approach Turkey’s borders they will be seen as a military threat.

2012 July – Free Syria Army blows up three security chiefs in Damascus and seizes Aleppo in the north.

2012 August – Prime Minister Riad Hijab defects, US President Obama warns that use of chemical weapons would tilt the US towards intervention.

2012 October – Syria-Turkish tension rises when Syrian mortar fire on a Turkish border town kills five civilians. Turkey returns fire and intercepts a Syrian plane allegedly carrying arms from Russia.

Fire in Aleppo destroys much of the historic market as fighting and bomb attacks continue in various cities.

2012 November – National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces formed in Qatar, excludes Islamist militias. Arab League stops short of full recognition.

Israeli military fire on Syrian artillery units after several months of occasional shelling from Syrian positions across the Golan Heights, the first such return of fire since the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

2012 December – US, Britain, France, Turkey and Gulf states formally recognise opposition National Coalition as “legitimate representative” of Syrian people.

2013 January – Syria accuses Israeli jets of attacking a military research centre near Damascus, but denies reports that lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit. Unverified reports say Israel had targeted an Iranian commander charged with moving weapons of mass destruction to Lebanon.

International donors pledge more than $1.5bn (£950m) to help civilians affected by the conflict in Syria.

2013 March – Syrian warplanes bomb the northern city of Raqqa after rebels seize control. US and Britain pledge non-military aid to rebels.

Chemical arms claims

Government forces have faced – and denied – repeated allegations of chemical weapons use

Rise of Islamists

2013 June – Government and allied Lebanese Hezbollah forces recapture strategically-important town of Qusair between Homs and Lebanese border.

2013 July – Saudi-backed Ahmed Jarba becomes leader of opposition National Coalition, defeating Qatar-backed rival.

2013 September – UN weapons inspectors conclude that chemical weapons were used in an attack on the Ghouta area of Damascus in August that killed about 300 people, but do not explicitly allocate responsibility.

2013 October – President Assad allows international inspectors to begin destroying Syria’s chemical weapons on the basis of a US-Russian agreement.

2013 December – US and Britain suspend “non-lethal” support for rebels in northern Syria after reports that Islamist rebels seized bases of Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

2014 January-February – UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva fail, largely because Syrian authorities refuse to discuss a transitional government.

2014 March – Syrian Army and Hezbollah forces recapture Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border.

2014 May – Hundreds of rebels are evacuated from their last stronghold in the central city of Homs. The withdrawal marks the end of three years of resistance in the city.

‘Caliphate’ in east

2014 June – UN announces removal of Syria’s chemical weapons material complete.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants declare “caliphate” in territory from Aleppo to eastern Iraqi province of Diyala.

2014 August – Tabqa airbase, near the northern city of Raqqa, falls to Islamic State militants, who now control all of Raqqa province.

2014 September – US and five Arab countries launch air strikes against Islamic State around Aleppo and Raqqa.

2015 January – Kurdish forces push Islamic State out of Kobane on Turkish border after four months of fighting.

2015 March -Opposition offensives push back government forces. New Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) Islamist rebel alliance, backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, captures provincial capital of Idlib.

2015 May – Islamic State fighters seize the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria and proceed to destroy many monuments at pre-Islamic World Heritage site.

Jaish al-Fatah takes control of Idlib Province, putting pressure on government’s coastal stronghold of Latakia.

2015 June – Kurds take Ain Issa and border town of Tal Abyad, Islamic State attacks Kobane and seizes part of Hassakeh, the main city in north-eastern Syria.

Russian intervention

2015 September – Russia carries out its first air strikes in Syria, saying they target the Islamic State group, but the West and Syrian opposition say it overwhelmingly targets anti-Assad rebels.

2015 December – Britain joins US-led bombing raids against Islamic State in wake of Paris suicide bombing attacks.

Syrian Army allows rebels to evacuate remaining area of Homs, returning Syria’s third-largest city to government control after four years.

2016 February – A US-Russian-brokered partial ceasefire is agreed but fails to stick, as do repeated subsequent attempts.

2016 March – Syrian government forces retake Palmyra from Islamic State, with Russian air assistance.

2016 August – Turkish troops cross into Syria to help rebel groups push back so-called Islamic State militants and Kurdish-led rebels from a section of the two countries’ border.

2016 December – Government troops, backed by Russian air power and Iranian-sponsored militas, recaptures Aleppo, the country’s largest city, depriving the rebels of their last major urban stronghold.

Palestine-Israel issue

Introduction

Image result for israel palestine conflict

Few international disputes have generated as much emotion, passion, anguish, and diplomatic gridlock as∙ the Israeli‐Palestinian conflict. Rooted in decades of clashes over religion, borders, and territory, the dispute between Israelis and∙ Palestinians has engulfed scores of politicians, diplomats, and others in a peace process in which the ultimate goal has been tantalizingly close on numerous occasions only to be dismantled at the 11th hour. While the tortured history of the conflict dates back more than a century.

 Historical Background

  • In the aftermath of WWI, the Holocaust in which six million Jewish people were killed, more Jewish peoplewanted their own country.
  • The European powers awarded Britain the right to determine Palestine’s fate. In 1937, desperate to separate∙ the feuding Jewish and Arab communities, Britain recommended partition of Palestine into two sovereign states, Arab and Jewish.
  • The Arabs rejected this proposal, unwilling to cede what they felt was Arab land to yet another colonial∙ power.
  • Following the Holocaust, Jewish refugees from Europe and Arab lands streamed into Palestine, and Jewish‐∙ Arab conflicts intensified. When partition was suggested a second time in 1947, and Israeli statehood was declared in 1948 with the support of a United Nations vote, Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations were ready to go to war for complete control of the territory. Jews, by now almost a third of its population, were prepared to defend their embryonic state.
  • The ensuing∙ War of Independence saw more than 700,000 Arabs fleeing the territory, becoming refugees under Israeli, Egyptian, or Jordanian rule. In 1948, the two sides went to war.
  • When it ended, Gaza was controlled by Egypt and another area, the West Bank, by Jordan. They contained∙ thousands of Palestinians who fled what was now the new Jewish home, Israel.
  • While the traditional Zionist narrative asserted that Arab leaders encouraged their constituents to flee (with∙ the promise of eventual victory and return), recent scholarship has shown that Jewish fighters did, at times, forcefully evict Arabs.
  • Eventually, the area designated for Palestinian sovereignty was conquered by Jordan’s Arabian monarchy.∙ Jerusalem was left a war zone, and an independent Palestinian state never emerged.
  • During the 1948 and 1967 wars hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left, or were forced out of, their∙ homes and moved to neighboring countries to become refugees. More than 4.6 million Palestinians are refugees and their descendants, many living in camps in the West∙ Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
  • They get help from the United Nations. Though the Palestinians don’t have an army, rockets are regularly fired from Gaza into Israel. Israelis living in∙ border towns are used to having to take shelter and adapting their lives to deal with the rockets.

UN Partition Plan

Finally, in 1947 the United Nations decided to intervene. However, rather than adhering to the principle of “self‐determination of peoples,” in which the people themselves create their own state and system of government, the UN chose to revert to the medieval strategy whereby an outside power divides up other people’s land.

Under considerable Zionist pressure, the UN recommended giving away 55% of Palestine to a Jewish state‐ despite the fact that this group represented only about 30% of the total population, and owned fewer than 7% of the land

1947-1949 War

  • While it is widely reported that the resulting war eventually included five Arab armies, less well known is the∙ fact that throughout this war Zionist forces outnumbered all Arab and Palestinian combatants combined – often by a factor of two to three. Moreover, Arab armies did not invade Israel – virtually all battles were fought on land that was to have been the Palestinian state.
  • Finally, it is significant to note that Arab armies entered the conflict only after Zionist forces had committed∙ 16 massacres, including the grisly massacre of over 100 men, women, and children at Deir Yassin. Future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, head of one of the Jewish terrorist groups, described this as “splendid,” and stated: “As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest.” Zionist forces committed 33 massacres altogether.
  • By the end of the war, Israel had conquered 78 percent of Palestine; three‐quarters of a million Palestinians had been made refugees; over 500 towns and villages had been obliterated; and a new map was drawn up, in which every city, river and hillock received a new, Hebrew name, as all vestiges of the Palestinian culture were to be erased. For decades Israel denied the existence of this population, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once saying: “There was no such thing as Palestinians.

1967 War & USS Liberty

In 1967, Israel conquered still more land. Following the “Six Day War,” in which Israeli forces launched a highly successful surprise attack on Egypt, Israel occupied the final 22% of Palestine that had eluded it in 1948 – the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Since, according to international law it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war, these are occupied territories and do not belong to Israel. It also occupied parts of Egypt (since returned) and Syria (which remain under occupation).

Also during the Six Day War, Israel attacked a US Navy ship, the USS Liberty, killing and injuring over 200 American servicemen. President Lyndon Johnson recalled rescue flights, saying that he did not want to “embarrass an ally.” (In 2004 a high‐level commission chaired by Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, found this attack to be “an act of war against the United States,” a fact few news.

UN Security Council

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, which called for peace between Israel and its neighbors in exchange for Israel giving back the land it had acquired during the Six Day War. Negotiations about how to implement it went nowhere. The Sinai was returned to Egypt under a separate peace deal in 1979, but the Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories remain under occupation.

The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza were not given citizenship in Israel or equal protection or benefits under the law. The Israeli government also violated the Geneva Conventions by confiscating Palestinian land and water resources and building settlements on the West Bank and Gaza. For twenty years, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza were a traumatized, defeated, docile population, routinely humiliated by soldiers and used as cheap labor in the Israeli economy.

First Intifada

  • Then in 1987, the Palestinian population collectively rose up against Israel’s repressive policies. The uprising, which became known as the first Intifada, was characterized by mass civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts, refusals to pay taxes, and Palestinian youths throwing stones at Israeli tanks and soldiers. The word intifada means ‘shaking off,’ and this was the Palestinians first attempt to assert their own national identity rather than waiting for Arab armies or the UN to do it for them.
  • More than 1,100 Palestinians and 150 Israelis were killed in the ensuing five years, and tens of thousands more Palestinians were injured or arrested. The conflict was a public relations disaster for Israel. Videos were shown around the world of Palestinians armed only with flags and slingshots facing down tanks, and of Israeli soldiers beating terrified Palestinian children.
  • Israel began to lose its cherished image as the David against the Arab Goliath. Instead it began to be seen as the Goliath against the Palestinian David. Israelis also began to realize that the occupation could not be maintained indefinitely without cost. Many on the Israeli left began to oppose the occupation.
  • The Intifada also worried Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a coalition of Palestinian nationalist resistance groups with Fatah at its center. Founded in 1964, it was admitted to the UN with observer status in 1974 and was regarded as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
  • It initially operated out of Jordan and Lebanon, engaging in guerrilla tactics in an attempt to regain Palestine by force of arms. It was expelled from Jordan in 1971 by King Hussein, then expelled from Lebanon in 1982 by Israel, at which point it fled to Tunisia.
  • By the time the Intifada broke out, the PLO was largely out of touch with life in the Palestinian territories. It had played no part in leading or organizing the Intifada. In 1988, in order to gain recognition for the PLO and save himself from irrelevance, Arafat agreed to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism. It was a historic compromise. He unilaterally surrendered Palestinian claims to 78% of historic Palestine and agreed to focus aspirations for Palestinian statehood solely on the remaining 22% ‐ the West Bank and Gaza. Five years later, in 1993, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords, hailed as a blueprint for peace between the two peoples.
  • It was the first time Israelis and Palestinians publicly recognized each other as partners for negotiations toward peace rather than enemies who might be defeated by force of arms. (In October 1994, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan, leaving Syria and Lebanon the only countries bordering Israel still in a state of conflict with it.) After that, the ‘two‐state solution’ became the mantra of the mainstream.
  • The Accords created the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Arafat and his associates and based in Ramallah. It had limited administrative and security duties in the West Bank and Gaza while Israel retained control of water, airspace, borders, imports, exports, residency, travel, taxation, currency, etc.
  • This arrangement was supposed to last for a five‐year period during which Israel and the PA would engage in trust‐building measures and negotiate final‐status issues such as East Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and settlements. It was hoped that an independent Palestinian state‐and peace‐would follow.

 Second Intifada

The explosive atmosphere reached a flashpoint in September of 2000, when the second Intifada erupted.Soon afterwards, Israelis voted in a new Prime Minister ‐‐ Ariel Sharon of the right‐wing Likud party. The unrest spiraled from Palestinian protests and deadly Israeli repression into riots, assassinations, suicide bombings, and massive Israeli military incursions. The conflict became known as the second Intifada.

 India’s balanced attitude since past

  • India’s balancing act between its Israeli and Palestinian friends is a relatively recent phenomenon. For most of its pre and post‐independence history, New Delhi viewed the Israeli‐Palestinian conflict through an ideological lens and in zero‐sum terms, pursuing a foreign policy antagonistic towards the Jewish state.
  • India was one of the first nations to recognise Palestine’s cause and it was the first non‐Arab state to∙ recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974.
  • In fact, India refused to grant Israel full diplomatic recognition until 1992, the last major non‐Muslim country to do so. Such hostility towards Israel is surprising given the similarities the two countries share.
  • Both nations are former members of the British colonial system, are surrounded by traditionally hostile states, are islands of democracy in the middle of generally undemocratic regions, and are constant victims of Islamic extremism. Despite these similarities, New Delhi maintained an unsympathetic posture towards Israel from its earliest days.
  • Several factors, including a fear of alienating its large Muslim population, Cold War politics, a desire to counter Pakistan’s influence in the Muslim world, and a need to garner Arab support for its position over the Kashmir issue compelled New Delhi to pursue an exclusively pro‐Arab and thus pro‐Palestinian foreign policy for more than forty years. Such a policy translated into India reflexively condemning Jewish aspirations in Palestine and later the Jewish∙ state itself while instinctively supporting the Palestinian position.
  • After more than four decades of such policy imbalance, however, a host of developments, notably the end of Cold War, exposed the discredited and anachronistic assumptions underlying India’s Middle East policy, and forced New Delhi to recalibrate its approach towards the region to reflect new international realities. India’s cherished Non‐Aligned Movement (NAM) lost its validity following the end of the Cold War and with it, New Delhi’s ideological justification for its staunchly pro‐Palestinian and anti‐Israeli position.
  • Additionally, the 1991 Madrid Peace Process prompted India to conclude that if the Arab world and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) were now willing to negotiate with Israel, New Delhi had no reason to maintain the status quo. India also realized by this time that its longstanding and unqualified support for the Palestinians had reaped few, if any, dividends for New Delhi over the Kashmir issue or any other dispute involving Pakistan for that matter. New Delhi has continued to deepen its relations with Israel while simultaneously showcasing its ties to the Palestinians, deftly pursuing both bilateral relationships in tandem. That neither side sees any inconsistency in India doing so is a testament to New Delhi’s newfound diplomatic dexterity.
  • India’s skillful balancing act between its Israeli and Palestinian counterparts is an enlightening illustration of the transformation Indian foreign policy has experienced since the end of the Cold War.
  • Although India has not entirely jettisoned some of its outdated instincts that previously shaped its approach to the region, it is no longer guided by zero‐sum calculations or held hostage by outdated ideologies.

Present India-Israel relations

  • Abandoning ideology for pragmatism and zero‐sum calculations for a more fair balanced approach, India finally extended full diplomatic recognition to Israel in 1992. Ties between the two countries have flourished since then with India and Israel sharing a congruence of interests in several areas and embarking on a multidimensional “strategic partnership” as a result.
  • The two natural allies have made counter terrorism and military cooperation the center piece of their bilateral relations, which is unsurprising considering both countries share similar strategic outlooks and face constant assault from Islamic terrorism.
  • New Delhi has benefited from Israel’s expertise in counterterrorism training and border security, while Israel has emerged as one of India’s most important sources of sophisticated military equipment and weapons systems. Economic cooperation as well as collaboration in space research, trade, science and technology, and education is also thriving between India and Israel.
  • Although India’s dynamic relationship with Israel advances a series of critically important Indian interests, New Delhi has not allowed its robust ties with the Jewish state to dilute its historic bonds with the Palestinian people. Whether India can sustain the success it has achieved is yet to be seen, but so far, India’s new foreign policy calculus towards the Middle East is a welcome departure from decades past.

 India-Palestine relations

India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and its attitude to the Palestinian question was given voice through our freedom struggle by Mahatma Gandhi. India’s empathy with the Palestinian cause and its friendship with the people of Palestine have become an integral part of its time‐tested foreign policy.

In 1947, India voted against the partition of Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly. India was the first Non‐Arab State to recognize PLO as sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974. India was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine in 1988. In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the Palestine Authority in Gaza, which later was shifted to Ramallah in 2003.

Apart from the strong political support to the Palestinian cause at international and bilateral levels, India has been contributing, since long time, material and technical assistance to the Palestinian people. With the Government of India’s aid, two projects were completed in the field of higher education i.e. Jawaharlal Nehru Library at the Al Azhar University in Gaza city and the Mahatma Gandhi Library‐cum‐Student Activity Centre at the Palestine Technical College at Deir Al Balah in the Gaza Strip.

Under India‐Brazil‐South Africa (IBSA) Forum’s assistance, an Indoor Multi‐purpose Sports Complex has been constructed in Ramallah Al Quds hospital in Gaza is in the process of reconstruction and the process of building a rehabilitation centre in Nablus has started. Trade between India and Palestine has shown steady improvement.

Products imported from India include fabrics, yarns, readymade garments, household appliances, stationery products, leather products, industrial tools and accessories, basmati rice, spices, vaccines and pharmaceutical products, sanitary wares, marble and granites.

India’s recent steps towards Israel and Palestine

Belief that is growing as India’s tilt towards the Israel is shown by following incidence:

  • Increase in burgeoning military relationship of India with Israel.
  • India refused to vote against Israel in a resolution related to strikes in Gaza over a period of two months in 2014 that left more than 2,200 dead, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians. The vote was on a report, submitted during the UNHRC’s summer session in Geneva a year later that blamed Israel for what it called “extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius.
  • India’s abstention from voting can be termed as a departure from India’s traditional position on Palestine∙ that has remained unwavering since the last seven decades.
  • India’s engagement with Israel has grown substantially in the last two decades on military, scientific, commercial and agricultural matters.
  • The affinity has been less ideological than pragmatic, each side understanding the other’s needs. Israel remains uncomfortable about India’s close ties with Iran, just as India looks warily at Israel’s relationship with China.

By B2B

Revisiting the Basics

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