India’s Silent Pivot: West Asia

The pandemic has caused a lot of distrust against our government in power at the centre. Especially due to the inefficiencies in the handling of the crisis which led to the loss of more than 50 thousand lives, over the past few weeks. 

Although India managed to get a lot of foreign aid and support, the issues of distribution to most needy places persist. The government has started to take steps to face-save itself after repeated rebukes by high courts and finally the supreme court. 

With this as a pretext, it’s easy to miss several desirable machinations being orchestrated by Indian diplomats abroad, especially in West Asia and Pakistan. Given its geographical location ( West Asia ) and plenty of oil, it’s hard to get ignored by world powers too. There are local and international fissure points as well. 

During the reign of Donald Trump, West Asia embraced the policy of Abraham accords. With the active participation of Israel, UAE, and Bahrein for acceptance of the statehood of Israel. This also has elements of nurturing inter-regional socio-economic and technological cooperation. The accords are named to emphasize the shared belief in the Prophet Abraham in Judaism and Islam yet the regional and ideological differences are far from over. 

Oftentimes countries like Turkey and Pakistan have played spoilsport to take a leadership role in the crisis-laden region. Challenges due to both these countries are now getting addressed one at a time. The region being close to India’s strategic interests in terms of security, energy supplies, and expatriates making a living in the region, India always remains invested. PM Modi in the first term has worked overtime to craft a predictable and stable foreign policy especially in Muslim majority West Asia, which seems to be paying off. 

Recently S Jaishankar was on a trip to West Asia and returned in late April. As we know Pakistan is in the middle of a terrible crisis both internally and externally. Pressure is on the Pak govt to sever ties with France by several internal Islamist sections, aggravating its economic isolation & decline. Pakistan is also cornered for its way of handling terrorist groups on its soil. Hence the double-edged sword of FATF is a constant threat. Further, the corona pandemic has led the establishment in Pakistan to take an ever pragmatic stand and come to terms. 

Recently in a statement by Pakistan foreign minister Qureshi, Art 370 is India’s internal matter ( unka andarooni masla ). This admission must not be seen in isolation. UAE had already extended a $ 2 Bn loan to Pakistan. After Qureshi made the statement on the 7th of May, MBS released $ 500 ml from Saudi Development Funds on 8th May. Further relaxations could be forthcoming if Pakistan softens its stance on the state recognition of Israel. Not to forget the oil loan from the Saudis which is due this year. 

It started with the West Asia Peace Plan at the behest of Palestine. It is for Israel to agree to a two-state solution. This as a bargaining chip and US-brokered Abraham accords for regional cooperation, pressure is on peripheral powers like Turkey and Pakistan to react in approval. With the intensifying pandemic all over the globe, crumbling state finances, and calls for support for medical supplies, Pakistan seems to be relenting. So do we see any contribution made by India in changing the geopolitical landscape? 

The reasons for India’s inevitable contributions could be many:-

  • India’s belief in being a development partner in the region. Against the Chinese chequebook and hegemonic designs. 
  • India has cultural and economic relations. With huge diaspora making a living and playing a vital role in regional development
  • India’s successful role in the peaceful & developmental contributions. In the form of Parliament, schools, libraries and cricket playgrounds in Afghanistan. 
  • With the withdrawal of American troops from Afgan, the anticipated surge insurgencies. Also, the active ISIS-Khorasan module places India on the diplomatic high table for security and peace dialogue. This is also a challenge with the Taliban on the table. 
  • Russian and US endorsement of India’s participation in several dialogues involving Afgan. It is a positive sign of status elevation. 
  • India being a pharmaceutical hub for the world and its proximity to Pakistan will only help.
  • Chinese development funds are infamous for their exploitative character even in Pak parliament. 
  • Last but not least, India’s immaculate balancing act with Russia – the US. Also Israel – Saudi – UAE and other middle eastern countries. 

India tried to fulfill its regional and global responsibilities by Mission Vaccine Maitri. But it seems to have lost the moral high ground to help others when we have graveyards in lakhs back home. Our star-studded foreign minister now has the challenge to see-through, all that is in planning over the years. Who knows POK is on the radar sooner than anticipated?

About the author: Sudhanshu Mishra

The Author presently works with Civilsdaily as a Faculty member and has keen interests on social reform & Geopolitics.

Ex- Defence Serviceman, has been part of India’s largest industrial defence complex, the Indian Ordnance Factories Organization.

He can be reached @SudhanshuM on Habitat & @sudhanshu_misR on Twitter.

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1 year ago

Sir, could’ve added the Iran angle as well – recent Saudi outreach to Iran, Iran’s role(complementing India’s developmental role & in anti terrorism) in post-US Afghanistan, China’s deepening ties with Iran, ongoing JCPOA discussions etc…

Sudhanshu Mishra
1 year ago
Reply to  Nagesh

Hello Nagesh, the Iran angle is purposefully left out of mention. If you have followed the geopolitical dynamics in west Asia, you’d know about the Shia and Sunni camps. If India were to exert any pressure on Sunni majority Pakistan, it will never toe the Saudi-UAE axis. Moreover, faced with global isolation and American sanctions due to its uranium enrichment plans (albeit for civil use) Iran is far from becoming a regional power to reckon with. Developmental gains wrt chabahar port are highly inflated given greater inflow of Chinese investments. Some experts also see chabahar as an Indian hoodwinking to Chinese CPEC initiative, apparently rendering it worthless.

Anyways that becomes a topic for next “soon-to-be-released” article. Keep visiting this space. All the best!

Last edited 1 year ago by Sudhanshu Mishra