Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Factors driving India’s growing security footprints in West Asia


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India's growing security footprints in West Asia

The article examines the factors that are leading to a growing footprint of Asian economies in West Asia.

Growing interest of Asian Economies  in West Asia

  • This month, a contingent of the Indian Air Force participated in a multi-nation exercise hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) named Desert Flag (March 3-27).
  • Other than India and the UAE, Bahrain, France, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and the United States are also participating.
  • While joint exercises in West Asia between Arab states and their western counterparts is common, the 2021 edition’s involvement of contingents from India and South Korea.
  • This showcases the growing interests of Asian economies.
  • As net importers of crude oil, these Asian economies rely heavily on the West Asian states for their supplies,
  • And, by association, Asian economies have increased stakes in the safety and security of the region from the perspective of political and economic stability.
  • And more importantly, in the protection of vital sea lanes in areas such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea stretching out into the Arabian Sea and the wider Indian Ocean.

Declining U.S. influence

  • In April 2020, Saudi Arabia was India’s top supplier of oil followed by Iraq.
  • For South Korea, in late 2019, it was also Saudi Arabia as the top supplier.
  • The participation of both India and South Korea in these exercises in the Persian Gulf is reflective of these trends and growing concerns in Asian capitals over an eroding U.S. security blanket in the region.

Tension in Iran-U.S. relations

  • Both India and South Korea have found themselves caught in regional tensions as the pressure on Iran to restart the 2015 nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) increases.
  • Both India and South Korea have faced carbon-copy consequences over the past decade as the West first negotiated with Iran, and later tried to manage the fallout of the JCPOA collapse.

India’s role in protecting it’s energy interests

  • The idea of Asian nations having to band together to protect their energy interests in West Asia is not new.
  • Former Indian diplomats have even suggested an idea equitable to an ‘importers OPEC’ led by Asian states which today have a much larger stake in West Asia’s oil than the West.
  • The Indian Navy has made multiple port calls from the UAE and Kuwait to Iran and Qatar in recent years.
  • In 2020, India had also planned its first bilateral naval exercise with Saudi Arabia.

Consider the question “Examine the factors responsible for India’s growing security footprint in West Asia and how India is achieving its objectives?”


Regional states will become more responsible for their own security, and as Asian economies become stronger stakeholders, their geopolitics will become more visible across this geography.

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