Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Abraham Accords as India’s West Asia bridge

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Abraham Accord

Mains level : India's West-Asia plan

The recent visit by the Indian Air Force chief to Israel offers a window to study how New Delhi is taking advantage of the Abraham Accords deal signed between Israel and a consortium of Arab States.

Try this question:

What are Abraham Accords? Discuss how the Israel-Gulf synergy could impact India’s relations with Israel.

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What are Abraham Accords?

  • The Israel–UAE normalization agreement is officially called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement.
  • It was initially agreed to in a joint statement by the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on August 13, 2020.
  • The UAE thus became the third Arab country, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, to agree to formally normalize its relationship with Israel as well as the first Persian Gulf country to do so.
  • Concurrently, Israel agreed to suspend plans for annexing parts of the West Bank. The agreement normalized what had long been informal but robust foreign relations between the two countries.

Do you know?

Abraham was the first of the Hebrew patriarchs and a figure revered by the three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

New friendships

  • For common enemy: Externally, Israel, the UAE and Bahrain share the common threat perception of Iran.
  • Upholding modern values: They are relatively more modern societies that share the overarching and immediate priority of post-pandemic economic resuscitation.
  • Extended cooperation: They have lost no time to set up logistics such as Internet connectivity and direct flights to pave the way for more active economic engagement.

India and the Gulf

  • Now India has stronger, multifaceted and growing socioeconomic engagements with Israel and the Gulf countries.
  • With over eight million Indian diasporas in the Gulf remitting annually nearly $50 billion, annual merchandise trade of over $150 billion.
  • It sources nearly two-thirds of India’s hydrocarbon imports, major investments, etc. Hence it is natural to ask how the new regional dynamic would affect India.
  • India has acquired a large and rewarding regional footprint, particularly as the preferred source of manpower, food products, pharmaceuticals, gem and jewellery, light engineering items, etc.
  • Indians are also the biggest stakeholders in Dubai’s real estate, tourism, and Free Economic Zones.
  • In the evolving scenario, there may be scope for a profitable trilateral synergy, but India cannot take its preponderance as a given.

The Israel-GCC synergy

  • Culture: Even the Israeli Arabs may find career opportunities to bridge the cultural divide. Israel is known as the start-up nation and its stakeholders could easily fit in the various duty-free incubators in the UAE.
  • Tourism: Tourism, real estate and financial service sectors on both sides have suffered due to the pandemic and hope for a positive spin-off from the peer-to-peer interactions.
  • Defense: Israel has niche strengths in defence, security and surveillance equipment, arid farming, solar power, horticultural products, high-tech, gem and jewellery, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Technology: Further, Israel has the potential to supply skilled and semi-skilled manpower to the GCC states, particularly from the Sephardim and Mizrahim ethnicities, many of whom speak Arabic.

The Iran link

  • Iran, as part of India’s ‘West Asia’ construct, will also play a significant part in India’s outreach in the months to come as the crisis in Afghanistan deepens.
  • The fact that New Delhi used Iranian airspace and facilities when evacuating its diplomatic staff from Kandahar in July showcases a level of strategic commonality.
  • Keeping this in mind, connectivity projects such as Chabahar Port and Chabahar-Zahedan rail project (project discussions are still on) amongst others remain critical.

Conclusion

  • India’s strategic play in West Asia will be reflective of its economic growth, and by association, an increasingly important place in the global order.

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