Need for West Asia’s diplomatic resets


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Factors driving engagement among West Asian countries

The article highlights the unprecedented engagement among the countries of West Asia even among the rivals and explains its significance.

New diplomatic engagements in West Asia

  • Recently, there have been interactions between senior Saudi and Iranian officials, the first since diplomatic ties were broken in January 2016.
  • Following the removal of the diplomatic and economic blockade on Qatar that was imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, Doha has made efforts to mend ties with both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in tandem with similar initiatives of its doctrinal and political ally, Turkey.
  • On May 5, Turkey and Egypt had their first diplomatic meeting in Cairo after they had broken diplomatic ties in 2013.
  • The two countries, on opposite sides on almost all regional issues, are now exploring how to address their differences.

Driving force behind these engagements

  • The driving force behind these unprecedented engagements is the advent of the Biden administration at the helm of politics in the United States.
  • He has taken a tough line on Saudi Arabia, scrutinising its human rights record and opposition to the war in Yemen.
  • Besides concerns in West Asian capitals, the broader message is that the U.S. is now likely to be less engaged with the region’s quarrels.
  • These signals of new U.S. policies have occurred even as the novel coronavirus pandemic is devastating West Asia.
  • Finally, one major factor is the recognition that the ongoing regional conflicts, in Syria, Yemen and Libya, despite the massive death and destruction, have yielded no military outcome and now demand fresh diplomatic approaches.

Long way to go in resolving differences

  • Egypt remains uneasy about Turkey’s ties with the Brotherhood and its regional ambitions.
  • Saudi Arabia has similar concerns about Turkey’s doctrinal affiliations and its relations with Iran.
  • There are difficulties in reshaping Saudi-Iran relations as well.
  • Iran may ease the pressure on the kingdom in Yemen and gradually yield ground in Iraq.
  • However, Syria will test their diplomatic skills as they explore how to accommodate their competing strategic interests in that devastated country.

Historic period for West Asian diplomacy

  • This is truly a historic period for West Asian diplomacy.
  • The major states are displaying unprecedented self-confidence in pursuing initiatives without the involvement of western powers that have dominated regional affairs for at least a couple of centuries.
  • This has left a pervasive sense of insecurity across West Asia and made the countries dependent on western alliances to ensure their interests.
  • This has left a pervasive sense of insecurity across West Asia and made the countries dependent on western alliances to ensure their interests.

Role for India

  • Given that regional contentions are inter-connected, third-party facilitators will be needed to promote mutual confidence and prepare the ground for a comprehensive regional security arrangement.
  • This will bring together regional and external states with a stake in West Asia security.
  • This arrangement will have provisions for participating states to uphold regional peace and promote mutually beneficial cooperation in energy, economic and logistical connectivity areas.
  • Given its close ties with all the regional states, India is well-placed to build an association of like-minded states — Japan, Russia, South Korea — to shape and pursue such an initiative for West Asian peace.


These new diplomatic engagements with erstwhile rivals could in time overturn existing regional alignments and possibly end ongoing conflicts.

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