Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Importance of close alignment with moderate Arab centre


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Threat to sovereignty of the Arab countries and India's role

The article analyses the threat the Arab countries faces from the new geopolitical realignment and India’s role in it.

Geopolitical realignment in the middle east

  • Agreement on the normalisation of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel was signed recently.
  • At the same time, there is an equally significant reorientation of the Subcontinent’s relationship with the region.
  • This is marked by Pakistan’s alignment with non-Arab powers.

Deteriorating relation of Pakistan with Arab world

  • Pakistan has been angry with UAE’s invitation to India to address the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in early 2019.
  • Saudi Arabia’s reluctance to convene a meeting to condemn Indian actions in Kashmir last August has angered Pakistan.
  • While Pakistan appears to be dreaming of a new regional alliance with Turkey and Iran.
  • Pakistan is also betting that a rising China and an assertive Russia will both support this new geopolitical formation as part of their own efforts to oust America from the Middle East.

Threat to the Arab world

  • Saudis and Emiratis see sharpening existential threats to their kingdoms from both Turkey and Iran.
  • Both Turkey and Iran now intervene with impunity in the internal affairs of the Arab world.
  • Two other states have joined this Great Game.
  • Malaysia’s Mahathir fancied himself as a leader of the Islamic world.
  • Arab Qatar, which is locked in a fraternal fight with the Saudis and the Emiratis, wants to carve out an outsized role for itself in the Middle East.

India’s should follow five principles for Arab Sovereignty

  • 1) India must resist the temptation of telling the Arabs what is good for them.
  • India should support their efforts to reconcile with non-Arab neighbours, including Israel, Turkey and Iran.
  • 2) Oppose foreign interventions in the Arab world. In the past, those came from the West and Israel.
  • Today, most Arabs see the greatest threat to their security from Turkish and Iranian interventions.
  • 3) Extend support to Arab economic integration, intra-Arab political reconciliation and the strengthening of regional institutions.
  • 4) Recognise that India’s geopolitical interests are in close alignment with those in the moderate Arab Centre — including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman.
  • 5) India can’t be passive amidst the unfolding geopolitical realignment in West Asia.
  • Some members of the incipient alliance — Turkey, Malaysia and China — have been the most vocal in challenging India’s territorial sovereignty in Kashmir.

Consider the question “Examine the importance of India’s relations with Arab countries. What are the threats the region faces to their sovereignty and how India can play an important role to ensure their sovereignty.”


Standing up for Arab sovereignty and opposing the forces of regional destabilisation must be at the very heart of India’s new engagement with the Middle East.

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