[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: The Gulf in foreign policy

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Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gulf Cooperation Council, Middle East Strategic Alliance

Mains level: Scrapping of Iran nuclear deal and its impact on India’s economy as well as foreign policy


Context

India’s gulf policy

  1. India didn’t do the annual engagement at the UN with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
  2.  It’s a pity since the confrontation between the Gulf Arabs and Iran is one of the top international security issues on the table at the UN this year
  3. It is also the most important emerging regional security challenge for India

Developments at UN

  1. There is deep opposition in the Arab countries of the Gulf to President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran and key sections of the region have welcomed Trump’s decision to discard the deal
  2. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ministers from eight Arab nations met at UN to discuss the future of the deal
  3. The Arab side included the six countries of the GCC as well as those of Egypt and Jordan
  4. The ministers had “productive discussions” on setting up what is to be known as the Middle East Strategic Alliance to promote security and stability in the region
  5. The putative alliance is being termed as the “Arab NATO”
  6. This new organisation, likely to be launched in January, is expected to reinforce the expansive new regime of US sanctions against Iran that are to go into effect next month

Questioning India’s gulf policy

  1. A question being raised is: Why Delhi tilts towards Tehran, when so many of India’s interests — including trade, energy, expatriate remittances, and counter-terror cooperation — are so heavily to tied to the Gulf Arabs
  2. Delhi, which denounces Pakistan’s destabilisation of the Subcontinent at every opportunity, never utters a word about Iran’s effort to undermine the regional political order in the Arab world

What should India do?

  1. Delhi must deal with the rapidly changing situation in the Gulf region, whose economic and political salience for India is not matched by any other sub-region in the world
  2. Delhi is practical enough to find ways to avoid the effect of America’s Iran sanctions on the Indian economy
  3. But India’s approach appears bereft of realism when it comes to dealing with the conflict between Gulf Arabs and Iran
  4. As storm clouds gather in the Gulf, Delhi can’t afford to ignore the deepening Arab fears about Iran and their expectations for a measure of political understanding from India
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East
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