Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

The Abraham Accords as India’s West Asia bridge


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Implications of Abrahams Accord for India


The recent visit by the Indian Air Force chief, to Israel offers a window to study how India is taking advantage of the Abraham Accords deal signed between Israel and a consortium of Arab States led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2020.

Increasing defence cooperation between India and West Asia region

  • India’s trajectory towards an increased strategic footprint in West Asia has been in development for some time now.
  • Starting from the relatively low-key staging visit to Saudi Arabia conducted by the IAF in 2015.
  • India hosted visiting Iranian naval warships in 2018.
  • India takes an active part in the defence of the critical waterways in and around the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the extended Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • An Indian contingent of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will visit Israel in October to take part in multilateral military exercises.
  • India also conducted the ‘Zayed Talwar’ naval exercises with the UAE off the coast of Abu Dhabi, further deepening the fast-developing strategic cooperation between the two countries.
  • In December 2020, Indian Army chief visited the UAE and Saudi Arabia, becoming the first chief of the Indian Army to do so.
  • In 2017, India signed a deal with Oman, the home to Duqm Port  for access to the facility, including dry dock use by the Indian Navy.

How Abraham Accords accelerated India’s engagement with West Asia region?

  • No need for balancing act: The signing of the Accords has removed a significant strategic obstacle for India — delicate balancing act India has had to play out between the Arab Gulf and Israel over the decades.
  • India had welcomed the Accords, highlighting its support for mechanisms that offer peace and stability in the region.
  • From the UAE’s perspective, Accords were to make sure the emirate along with its international centres of trade such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi do not become targets between Jerusalem and Tehran.
  • However, not all Arab States have been on board with the geopolitical shifts the Accords have pushed through.
  • Saudi Arabia has maintained a distance from this arrangement.

India’s West Asia construct and relations with Iran

  • 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.
  • Connectivity projects such as Chabahar Port and Chabahar-Zahedan rail project (project discussions are still on) amongst others remain critical.
  • Recently,  strategic cooperation revitalised despite multiple obstacles in the bilateral relations, led by U.S. sanctions against Tehran and the general tensions between Israel, the Gulf and Iran via proxy battles in theatres such as Yemen, Syria and beyond.


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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