What India must do to protect its ties with the Islamic world

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WANA region

Mains level : Paper 2- Engagement with Gulf countries

Context

A controversial remark by the ruling party spokesperson against the Prophet has snowballed into a diplomatic row. Against this backdrop, New Delhi should not stop engaging the Gulf countries and strive to move beyond damage control.

International reaction against the remarks

  • The United Arab Emirates, Oman, Indonesia, Iraq, the Maldives, Jordan, Libya and Bahrain have joined the growing list of countries in the Islamic world that have condemned the remarks.
  • Earlier, Kuwait, Iran and Qatar had called Indian ambassadors to register their protest, and Saudi Arabia had issued a strongly-worded statement.
  • Campaigners (including a few GCC regimes) demand that Prime Minister of India should tender an apology for all that happened.
  • But New Delhi’s stance is categorial and legitimate insofar as the Union government has nothing to do with such unsolicited comments.

Why WANA is important for India

  • Engagement with WANA: Countries in West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region do not have a fixed position vis-à-vis India.
  • Delhi has vibrant economic and strategic ties with almost all regimes in the region.
  • That’s precisely the reason these countries are unwilling to join the Islamabad-led chorus or go beyond passing resolutions.
  • India’s signing of a free trade agreement (FTA) with the UAE and the ongoing negotiations for a wider FTA with the GCC could be an eye-opener for the country’s detractors.
  • India’s energy needs: As much as 40 per cent of oil and an equal share of gas requirements are met through India’s strategic cooperation with the Gulf regimes.
  • Mutuality of interests: India and the WANA regimes know that there is a mutuality of interests in these transactions which cannot be substituted by any other segments of the world system.
  • Indian diaspora: Equally important is the role of the more than eight million-strong Indian diaspora in the WANA region.
  • The “Gulf remittance” is an important part of the Indian economy, as important as the Indian investment in the GCC and GCC investment in India.

Way forward

  • India’s foreign policy strategy — which includes strategic bargaining with regional and international actors — would fetch reasonable dividends.
  • The response to its Ukraine war strategy has convinced South Block that it has adequate manoeuvrability in global affairs.

Conclusion

New Delhi should not stop engaging the countries, especially the ones in the WANA region, as both have shared interests. Therefore, South Block must go beyond a mere damage-control exercise.

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