Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE in support of Open Skies Agreement with India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Open Sky Agreements, OST

Mains level : Not Much

The UAE is keen to have an open sky agreement with India.

Open Skies Agreement! Look how confusing does it sound compared to the Open Skies Treaty between the US and Russia.

What is the Open Skies Agreement?

  • The National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016, allows the government to enter into an ‘open sky’ air services agreement on a reciprocal basis with SAARC nations as well as countries beyond a 5,000-kilometre radius from New Delhi.
  • This implies that nations within this distance need to enter into a bilateral agreement and mutually determine the number of flights that their airlines can operate between the two countries.
  • India has open sky agreements with Japan, Greece, Jamaica, Guyana, Czech Republic, Finland, Spain and Sri Lanka.
  • India also has an open sky agreement with the US, among other countries.

Why UAE wants such an agreement with India?

  • There are about 1,068 flights a week between India and the UAE operated by the airlines of the two countries under the bilateral Air Service Agreement.
  • India has open skies policy with SAARC countries and those beyond the 5,000-km radius.
  • UAE wants India to revisit this policy.

Must read:

U.S. set to exit the ‘Open Skies Treaty’ Copy

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Cooperative security in Persian Gulf littoral and Implications for India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gulf countries

Mains level : Paper 2- Stability and security in the Persian gulf and impact on India

This article analyses the security environment in the Gulf countries. Their common characteristic as being the oil producers and similarity in their social and security problems are also explained in detail in this article. And all this has implications for India. So, what are the implications? Read to know…

Let’s look at the importance of countries surrounding Persian Gulf

  • The United Nations defines this body of water as the Persian Gulf.
  • The lands around it are shared by eight countries: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • All are the members of the UN.
  • There is a commonality of interest among them in being major producers of crude oil and natural gas.
  • And thereby contribute critically to the global economy and to their own prosperity.
  • This has added to their geopolitical significance.
  • At the same time, turbulence has often characterised their inter se political relations.
Arab Countries surrounding Persian Gulf

Power play and security of the region

  • For eight decades prior to 1970, this body of water was a closely guarded British lake, administered in good measure by imperial civil servants from India.
  • When that era ended, regional players sought to assert themselves.
  • Imperatives of rivalry and cooperation became evident and, as a United States State Department report put it in 1973, ‘The upshot of all these cross currents is that the logic of Saudi-Iranian cooperation is being undercut by psychological, nationalistic, and prestige factors, which are likely to persist for a long time.’
  • The Nixon and the Carter Doctrines were the logical outcomes to ensure American hegemony.
  • An early effort for collective security, attempted in a conference in Muscat in 1975, was thwarted by Baathist Iraq.
  • The Iranian Revolution put an end to the Twin Pillar approach and disturbed the strategic balance.
  • The Iraq-Iran War enhanced U.S. interests and role.
  • Many moons and much bloodshed later, it was left to the Security Council through Resolution 598 (1987) to explore ‘measures to enhance the security and stability in the region’.

Gulf regional security framework: Some questions

  • Any framework for stability and security thus needs to answer a set of questions:
  • Security for whom, by whom, against whom, for what purpose?
  • Is the requirement in local, regional or global terms?
  • Does it require an extra-regional agency?
  • Given the historical context, one recalls a Saudi scholar’s remark in the 1990s that ‘Gulf regional security was an external issue long before it was an issue among the Gulf States themselves.

What should be the ingredients of a  regional security framework?

  • The essential ingredients of such a framework would thus be to ensure: 1) conditions of peace and stability in individual littoral states; 2) freedom to all states of the Gulf littoral to exploit their hydrocarbon and other natural resources and export them; 3) freedom of commercial shipping in international waters of the Persian Gulf 4)freedom of access to, and outlet from, Gulf waters through the Strait of Hormuz; 5) prevention of conflict that may impinge on the freedom of trade and shipping and 6)prevention of emergence of conditions that may impinge on any of these considerations.
  • Could such a framework be self-sustaining or require external guarantees for its operational success?
  • If the latter, what should its parameters be?

Misunderstanding the role great powers can play

  • Statesmen often confuse great power with total power and great responsibility with total responsibility.
  • The war in Iraq and its aftermath testify to it.
  • The U.S. effort to ‘contain’ the Iranian revolutionary forces, supplemented by the effort of the Arab states of the littoral (except Iraq)  GCC initially met with success in some functional fields and a lack of it in its wider objectives.

The turbulent nature of US-Iran relations

  • In the meantime, geopolitical factors and conflicts elsewhere in the West Asian region — Yemen, Syria, Libya — aggravated global and regional relationships.
  • And it hampered a modus vivendi in U.S.-Iran relations that was to be premised on the multilateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme agreed to by western powers and the Obama Administration.
  • But it was disowned by U.S. President Donald Trump whose strident policies have taken the region to the brink of armed conflict.

Perception of declining U.S. commitment to sub-regional security

  • Perceptions of declining U.S. commitment to sub-regional security have been articulated in recent months amid hints of changing priorities.
  • This is reported to have caused disquiet in some, perhaps all, members of the GCC, the hub of whose security concern remains pivoted on an Iranian threat (political and ideological rather than territorial).
  • And American insurance to deter it based on a convergence of interests in which oil, trade, arms purchases, etc have a role along with wider U.S. regional and global determinants.
  • It is evident that a common GCC threat perception has not evolved over time.
  • It has been hampered by the emergence of conflicting tactical and strategic interests and subjective considerations.
  • The current divisions within the organisation are therefore here to stay.
  • These have been aggravated by 1)the global economic crisis, 2) the immediate and longer term impact of COVID-19 on regional economies, 3) the problems in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), 4) and the decline in oil prices.

Let’s look at the emerging trends in the region

  • One credible assessment suggests that in the emerging shape of the region.
  • 1) Saudi Arabia is a fading power.
  • 2) UAE, Qatar and Iran are emerging as the new regional leaders.
  • 3) Oman and Iraq will have to struggle to retain their sovereign identities.
  • 4)The GCC is effectively ended, and OPEC is becoming irrelevant as oil policy moves to a tripartite global condominium.
  • None of this will necessarily happen overnight and external intervention could interfere in unexpected ways.
  • But it is fair to say that the Persian Gulf as we have known for at least three generations is in the midst of a fundamental transformation.

Improvement relations between Arab states and Iran

  • With the Arab League entombed and the GCC on life-support system, the Arab states of this sub-region are left to individual devices to explore working arrangements with Iraq and Iran.
  • The imperatives for these are different but movement on both is discernible.
  • With Iran in particular and notwithstanding the animosities of the past, pragmatic approaches of recent months seem to bear fruit.
  • Oman has always kept its lines of communication with Iran open.
  • Kuwait and Qatar had done likewise but in a quieter vein.
  • And now the UAE has initiated pragmatic arrangements.
  • These could set the stage for a wider dialogue.
  • Both Iran and the GCC states would benefit from a formal commitment to an arrangement incorporating the six points listed above.
  • So would every outside nation that has trading and economic interests in the Gulf. This could be sanctified by a global convention.
  • Record shows that the alternative of exclusive security arrangements promotes armament drives, enhances insecurity and aggravates regional tensions.
  • It unavoidably opens the door for Great Power interference.

Ties with India and impact on its strategic interests

  • Locating the Persian Gulf littoral with reference to India is an exercise in geography and history.
  • The distance from Mumbai to Basra is 1,526 nautical miles and Bander Abbas and Dubai are in a radius of 1,000 nautical miles.
  • The bilateral relationship, economic and political, with the GCC has blossomed in recent years.
  • The governments are India-friendly and Indian-friendly and appreciate the benefits of a wide-ranging relationship.
  • This is well reflected in the bilateral trade of around $121 billion and remittances of $49 billion from a workforce of over nine million.
  • GCC suppliers account for around 34% of our crude imports and national oil companies in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi are partners in a $44 billion investment in the giant Ratnagiri oil refinery.
  • In addition, Saudi Aramco is reported to take a 20% stake in Reliance oil-to-chemicals business.
  • The current adverse impact of the pandemic on our economic relations with the GCC countries has now become a matter of concern.

India’s relationship with Iran

  • The relationship with Iran, the complex at all times and more so recently on account of overt American pressure, has economic potential and geopolitical relevance on account of its actual or alleged role in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Iran also neighbours Turkey and some countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea region.
  • Its size, politico-technological potential and economic resources, cannot be wished away, regionally and globally, but can be harnessed for wider good.

Consider the question “Stability and security of the Persian Gulf region has wider consequences for Indians strategic concerns. Comment.”

Conclusion

Indian interests would be best served if this stability is ensured through cooperative security since the alternative — of competitive security options — cannot ensure durable peace.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Oslo Peace Accord

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Oslo Peace Accord, West Bank

Mains level : Palestine & Israel conflicts

 

Palestinian officials threatened to withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Accords, which define relations with Israel, if U.S. President Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan next week.

The Oslo Peace Accord

  • The Oslo Accords were a landmark moment in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.
  • Actually a set of two separate agreements signed by the government of Israel and the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)—the militant organization established in 1964 to create a Palestinian state.
  • The negotiations between Israel and the PLO that ultimately led to the Oslo Accords began, in secret, in Oslo, Norway, in 1993.
  • The Oslo Accords were ratified in Washington, D.C., in 1993 (Oslo I) and in Taba, Egypt, in 1995 (Oslo II).
  • Sometimes called Oslo II, the interim agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • The interim pact was only supposed to last five years while a permanent agreement was finalised but it has tacitly been rolled over for more than two decades.

A final nail in the coffin

  • World powers have long agreed that Jerusalem’s fate should be settled through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and believe Trump’s plan buries the two-state solution that has been for decades the cornerstone of international Middle East diplomacy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE declared ‘Reciprocating Territory’ by India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Reciprocating Territory

Mains level : Reciprocating Territory

Recently, the Ministry of Law and Justice issued an Extraordinary Gazette Notification, declaring the UAE to be a “reciprocating territory” under Section 44A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. The notification also declared a list of courts in the UAE to be “superior Courts” under the same section.

What is a ‘Reciprocating Territory’ ?

  • Essentially, orders passed by certain designated courts from a ‘reciprocating territory’ can be implemented in India, by filing a copy of the decree concerned in a District Court here.
  • The courts so designated are called ‘superior Courts’.

What does Section 44 of the CPC say?

Section 44A, titled “Execution of decrees passed by Courts in reciprocating territory”, provides the law on the subject of execution of decrees of Courts in India by foreign Courts and vice versa.

Under Explanation 1 of S. 44A:

  • “Reciprocating territory” means any country or territory outside India which the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare to be a reciprocating territory for the purposes of this section; and “superior Courts”, with reference to any such territory, means such Courts as may be specified in the said notification.”
  • 44A (1) provides that a decree passed by “a superior Court” in any “reciprocating territory” can be executed in India by filing a certified copy of the decree in a District Court, which will treat the decree as if it has been passed by itself.
  • According to Explanation-2, the scope of the Section is restricted to decrees for payment of money, not being sums payable “in respect of taxes or other charges of a like nature or in respect of a fine or other penalty”.
  • It also cannot be based on an arbitration award, even if such an award is enforceable as a decree or judgment.

Other countries with such status

  • Apart from Dubai, the other countries declared to be “reciprocating territories” are: United Kingdom, Singapore, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Trinidad & Tobago, New Zealand, the Cook Islands (including Niue) and the Trust Territories of Western Samoa, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Aden.

Why such move?

  • The notification was the only remaining part of a 1999 agreement between the UAE and India related to cooperation in civil and commercial matters.
  • The decision is believed to help bring down the time required for executing decrees between the two countries.
  • With this, Indian expatriates in the UAE would no longer be able to seek safe haven in their home country if they are convicted in a civil case in the UAE.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE’s new 5-year visa scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Indian diaspora in Gulf region

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced a five-year multiple-entry visa scheme for all nationalities, in a move that is geared towards promoting tourism in the country.

What is UAE’s new visa scheme?

  • According to the Dubai-based Gulf News, prior to this, tourists could get single or multiple-entry visas for a duration of 30 or 90 days.
  • In the new five-year multiple-entry system, visa holders may be allowed to stay for six months at a stretch.
  • The details of the scheme are yet to be announced. The country’s Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship will be implementing the decision.
  • Travellers from Africa, some South American countries, Arab states outside the Gulf, and European states from outside the European Union and the former Soviet Union previously needed visas.
  • The UAE currently receives more 2.1 crore tourists annually, and has recently increased its pace of rolling out policies to boost its trade and tourism sectors.

Other reforms

  • In July 2019, the UAE allowed women employed in the country to sponsor work permits for their husbands, fathers, and adult children, and reduced the fees for obtaining work permits by 50 per cent to 94 per cent for 145 services and transactions.
  • In the same month, the Emirate of Dubai said it would accept the Indian rupee (INR) for transactions at duty-free stores.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[oped of the day] India needs to remove growing negative perceptions of its domestic policies in the Muslim world

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Middle East - Islamic World

Context

The Islamic summit last week raised many familiar questions about the role of religion in promoting solidarity between nations. It also reminded the answer that national interest often tends to trump shared faith. 

At the event

  • Malaysia, Turkey, and Qatar led the summit.
  • Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were absentees.
  • Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic nation, kept a low profile at the summit.
  • Pakistan’s prime minister dropped out at the last minute.
  • Mahathir Mohamad wanted to use the summit to increase his domestic room for manoeuvering and win a leadership role in the Muslim world.

The leadership of the Islamic world

  • Middle East – The real contestation for leading the Islamic world remains within the Middle East. Turkey and Iran have a long tradition of challenging the Saudi leadership of the Islamic world. Qatar has now joined their ranks.
  • Outside OIC – Saudi Arabia is not pleased with convening the Islamic nations outside the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. 
  • On OIC – Mahathir suggested that the OIC has not been an effective instrument in addressing the contemporary challenges facing the Islamic world.

Religion – people

  • Binding force – The idea that religion can bind people together has an enduring appeal. In practice, religion has not been enough to sustain unity within and among nations that profess a common faith. 
  • Islamic nations – Many countries in the Islamic world struggle to respect the rights of minorities, Muslim or non-Muslim, and cope with the problems of religious sectarianism and ethnic separatism.
  • Supranational identity – keeping the faithful together within a nation is hard. It is a lot harder to promote supra-national solidarity in the name of Islam.
  • Pan Islamism – The origins of pan Islamism date back to the late 19th century, but its record in binding nations has not been impressive.

Other means of solidarity

  • Ethnic solidarity – the same applies to ethnicity-based solidarity in the world. The pan-Arab and pan-Asian movements that stirred the world in the 20th century, are pale shadows of themselves. The decline of pan-Arabism has been evident. The idea of Asian solidarity endures. 
  • Asian solidarity – if we look beneath the rhetoric on “Asian solidarity”, we can find deep contradictions between China and India, and China and Japan.
  • Class or political values based solidarity has been difficult to sustain for long periods. The communist solidarity that seemed so powerful in the middle of the 20th century crashed quickly against the rocks of nationalism in Central Europe, Russia and China.
  • Political and economic liberalism was successful in holding together the so-called political and economic “West”. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became ever harder to sustain harmony within the western world.
  • Donald Trump appears determined to restructure the political-economic institutions built after World War II. Intra-Western contradictions shaped the world before the middle of the 20th century, and are becoming an important factor in the 21st century.
  • National interests – In all these cases, the tension between transcendental ideologies and narrow national interests have often been resolved in favor of the latter.

Splits in the Islamic world 

  • Political Islam – The main differences are about political Islam and its role in shaping the domestic structures in Muslim nations.
  • Different versionsTurkey and Qatar have championed the Muslim Brotherhood that seeks to overthrow the current political order in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, as well as in Egypt. Iran has its own variant of political Islam for export.
  • Domestic protection – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE are protecting their own societies and state structures and are pushing back.
  • Strategic competition – Beyond the nature and role of Islam, there is also the growing competition among the major Middle Eastern states for strategic influence in the region and beyond.

South Asia – Islam

  • Monolith – In South Asia, the Muslim world is seen as a monolith. That has become difficult to maintain amidst the current conflicts in the Middle East.
  • Pakistan – Imran Khan was supposed to play a leading role at the Kuala Lumpur summit. But, under pressure from the Saudis and the Emiratis, he chose to stay away.
  • India – Malaysia, and Turkey have become critical of the NDA government’s policies. The UAE and the Saudis have given India the benefit of doubt. The Qatar-owned Al Jazeera channel has run a damaging campaign against Delhi.

Way ahead for India

  • Domestic policies – There is an urgent need to remove the growing negative perceptions of its domestic policies in the Middle East and in the Muslim world.
  • Otherwise, Delhi might be giving an opportunity to a divided world to disapprove of India’s domestic politics.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Palestine-India Techno Park

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Balanced relations between India, Palestine & Israel

The Representative of India to Palestine released third tranche of funding, worth $3 million, for the construction of a Palestine-India Techno Park.

The Palestine-India techno park

  • The techno park is meant to create a national business environment and culture “that will enable knowledge-based and creative enterprises as well as technology clusters to successfully operate locally, regionally and globally”.
  • In 2017, the park became a member of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP), a global network of science and technology parks.
  • Its objectives include establishing an environment that is accessible to industry, supporting the process of commercialisation and industrialisation, supporting entrepreneurship and bridging the knowledge gap between the private sector and academia.

Indian investment in Palestine

  • In total, India has made a commitment of investing over $12 million, part of India’s broader framework of capacity building in Palestine.
  • The Indian government pays $3 million on a half-yearly basis.
  • Trade between India and Palestine stands at roughly US $40 million and spans automotive spare parts, medical tourism, agro-products, textiles, agro-chemicals and pharmaceuticals among others.
  • India’s investment towards the park is part of India’s support to the Palestinian cause.

Back2Basics

India, Palestine & Israel

  • Historically, India’s ties with Israel and Palestine have been more or less balanced. India fully established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992.
  • Defence and agriculture have formed the main pillars of their relationship.
  • In 1974, India became the first non-Arab state to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
  • In 1938, while expressing sympathies for the persecution of Jews in Germany, Mahatma Gandhi said, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French”.
  • In 1988, India was one of the first countries to recognise the state of Palestine after the Palestinian National Congress declared independence.
  • At that time, India maintained its support for the two-state solution and championed a “sovereign, independent, united” Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem.
  • In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the State of Palestine in Gaza, which was shifted to Ramallah in 2003.
  • In July 2017, PM Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Palestine.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[oped of the day] One state push for Israel and Palestine?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Two state solution

Mains level : Two state solution and the future of Israeli peace

Context

The U.S. State Department’s recognition of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank is another indication that the two-state solution is dead. 

Israel – Palestine

    • There are 600,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank. They will soon be one-third of the overall population. 
    • When the Zionist settlers in the 1930s became one-third of the population, Palestine was doomed.
    • Then, the Zionist leadership began to contemplate the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
    • The West Bank is under a similar danger. Vast areas have already been ethnically cleansed. The rest can turn inhabitable, as it did in the Gaza Strip. 

Imaginary homeland

    • The “Green Line” — the 1949 armistice line that separates Israel from the West Bank — is a figment of the imagination of those who support the two-state solution. 
    • It was replaced by a greater Israel, ruled by the Israeli nationality law passed in 2018. 
    • It states that only the Jews have the right of self-determination all over historical Palestine.
    • It sanctions the continued colonization of the country and upholds its apartheid system.

Requires new approach

    • This requires a different approach by anyone caring for the future of the Palestinians and respects their basic rights. 
    • The existing regime allows half of the population living between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean to have all the privileges.
    • It is robbing the other half of its living space, lands, rights, dignity, and life. 

Decolonization

    • It cannot be solved by a “peace process” but only by decolonization.
    • It should reformulate the relationship between the third generation of Jewish settlers and the indigenous population of Palestine on the basis of equality.
    • Decolonization is associated with processes that took place in the first half of the last century.
    • The process of decolonization, apart from Algeria and South Africa, has not affected settler-colonial projects which ended in the creation of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel.

Ongoing ‘catastrophe’

    • In some cases, the settler community acted upon “the logic of the elimination of the native”. 
    • This led to the genocide of native Americans and aboriginals. 
    • Even there the struggle continues for recognition, restitution, and equality. 
    • In Palestine, it was translated into an incremental process of ethnic cleansing. Palestinians call it “the ongoing Nakba”.
    • The Zionist movement succeeded in expelling half the Palestinian population in 1948.
    • Since 1967, it led to the departure of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from all over historical Palestine.
    • Today, the Israeli government continues to dispossess land and take away resources from Palestinians. This is creating conditions that become unsustainable for many Palestinians.

Early resistance

    • In the 1960s and 1970s, the Palestinians resisted this policy of colonization and dispossession with an armed struggle. 
    • In many ways, the Hamas in Gaza still seems to believe that this can be an effective tool in the struggle. 
    • Quite a few Palestinians seem to prefer a different kind of popular resistance given the imbalance of power.

Changing resistance

    • The “march of return” — the weekly peaceful demonstrations by thousands of Palestinians on the fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel is an example of a different kind of popular resistance.
    • It demands not only the end of the siege on Gaza and its two million people but also the right of return of refugees to their homes.
    • 80% of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are refugees who live near their lands, villages, and towns from which they were expelled in 1948.

International diplomacy

    • Popular resistance on the way to liberation would not have been needed if international diplomacy examined the origins of the conflict in Palestine. 
    • But the international community fully supports Israel and remain silent in the face of continued dispossession of Palestinians. 
    • It adopted the two-state solution as its mantra for what should be done and was supported by the Palestinian leadership. It hoped to salvage at least part of Palestine (22%). 

Failure of a two-state solution

    • Israel has established that any sovereign Palestinian state is impossible. 
    • We have an American administration that fully endorses Israel’s wish to de-politicize the Palestinian question.
    • It allows Israel to fully extend its sovereignty all over historical Palestine and also rejects the right of any Palestinian refugee to return.
    • We wasted 50 years trying to push towards this solution.
    • The end result of this effort was more Jewish settlements in the West Bank and total separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
    • Now we see an American recognition of the Judaisation of the West Bank.

Way forward

    • The situation in Palestine is not a conflict but a struggle against settler colonialism. Not unlike the struggle against Apartheid South Africa. 
    • Call upon the international community to divest from, boycott and sanction Israel in order to stop the “ongoing catastrophe”. 
    • BDS – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, the campaign will continue until the people of the West Bank would be liberated from a military rule, the people of Gaza from the siege, the refugees return from their exile, and the Palestinians in Israel would be recognized as equal citizens.
    • An alternative Palestinian call for the establishment of one democratic state all over historical Palestine is being heard.
    • Rectify past evils by compensating and restituting lost land and property, enable the repatriation of refugees, and offer democracy for all who live in historic Palestine. 
    • Pressure from the outside, a continued popular struggle from the inside and a clear Palestinian vision for the future can turn this vision into reality.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Occupation rewards: On U.S. support to Israeli occupation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Two state solution

Mains level : Israel - Palestine issue

Context

The US administration declared that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are not illegal. The decision is in line with President Donald Trump’s Israel policy, which has unconditionally favored the nation.

Immediate consequence

    • This challenges international laws and consensus on the issue.
    • It also complicates the already-stalled peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Line of events

    • Jerusalem – In 2017, Trump announced that the U.S. would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That broke an international consensus that the status of Jerusalem should be settled as part of a peace agreement. 
    • Golan Heights – In 2019, the US recognised the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 war, as part of Israel. 
    • West Bank – with the recognition of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, the US has boosted Israel’s religious right, which wants the settlements to be annexed.

International action

    • The UN General Assembly, the Security Council and the International Court of Justice have all stated that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal. 
    • According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power “shall not transfer parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies”. 

West Bank

    • There are at least 4,00,000 Israeli settlers on the West Bank.
    • The ‘security barrier’ Israel has built has cut deeper into the West Bank to incorporate some of the settlements. 
    • The check-points Israel has set up across the West Bank restrict the movement of Palestinians. 

Two state solution

    • Palestine wants the two-state solution implemented only based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state of Palestine.
    • Israel is non-committal on Jerusalem. The right of return of the Palestinian refugees forced from their homes during the 1948 war remains an issue. 

Border

    • Israel has already taken effective control of a huge chunk of the West Bank through the settlements. 
    • UNSC has asked Israel to stall the settlement activities, but Israel has hardly paid any attention to international opinion. 

Conclusion

If Israel goes ahead with the annexation of the settlements, that will be the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.


Back2Basics

Two-state solution

It is a proposed solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It envisages an independent State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel, west of the Jordan River.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Down, but still a potent terror force

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : ISIS - falldown and way ahead

Context

The U.S. President announced last week of the death of Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the Idlib Province of northwest Syria. 

Similar to Osama

    • This incident reminds of the elimination of Osama bin Laden. This perpetrator of violence and hatred was also hunted down in Abbottabad, Pakistan and liquidated by the Americans.

Economic background

    • Osama bin Laden was the older of the two and was from an affluent business family. Baghdadi had a modest economic background and was from a family of farmers. 

Education

    • But both had a religious streak and a university education with somewhat modest attainments. 

Violence

    • The violence came naturally to both, except that bin Laden seemed more rational in the choice of his targets.

Vision

    • Baghdadi’s vision was narrower and confined itself to West Asia, particularly Iraq and Syria. He exploited the opportunity created by bin Laden and retreating into a shell to escape American operations. 

Relationship

    • The al-Qaeda and the IS operated independently although not always at cross-purposes. 
    • They never complimented each other. The IS came into existence after bin Laden became nearly moribund. It believed in spectacular action and did not get bogged down to theory or ideology.

Ideology

    • Osama bin Laden never spoke in terms of sovereignty or territory. His appeal favored an ideology that considered all non-Muslims as infidels who needed to be dealt with the utmost severity. 
    • Baghdadi believed in the power of control over geographic territory and the full use of the state apparatus with all its resources, including oil, to spread and perpetuate the IS’s message. 

What lies ahead

    • No leader needed – The movement thrives solely on an individual’s spirit of vengeance and does not call for any extraordinary organising capacity. 
    • Immediate response – The short audio clipping that was released announcing the appointment of leader warned the U.S. of severe reprisal for Baghdadi’s killing. 
    • The situation in Iraq and Syria – It makes one believe that Iraq and Syria are in for a turbulent time. The partial withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria has led to the escape from custody of a number of IS prisoners and their families.
    • Cadre – The IS’ new leadership may be expected to make an intense appeal to its cadres not to become demoralised after the elimination of Baghdadi.
    • They may scale up revenge against the remaining American forces.
    • Extended organisation – There may not be any immediate attrition in the IS’s ranks which are spread over a wide area encompassing most of West Asia and parts of Asia and Africa. 
    • The basic structure would comprise what is known as Wilayats headquartered in a number of provinces in each country.

What it means for India

    • India has enough reason to be apprehensive about the developments in West Asia. 
    • There is the possibility of ‘lone wolf’ IS attacks across the nation. MHA is apprehensive about attacks on high dignitaries. 
    • The raids by NIA in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere suggest an IS presence in the country. 
    • A few misguided Indian youths crossed into Iraq in the early days of the IS to fight for jihad. Most were disillusioned in a quick time and a few returned home with horror stories of the state of IS camps. 
    • Others might have stayed back and could be the dangerous part of IS’s core.

Way ahead

    • Security agencies should keep a close eye on the returnees so that they do not lapse into mischief and allow themselves to be used as ‘sleeper cells.
    • They should also assist the authorities in deradicalisation as well as checking new recruitment to the IS. 
    • Both tasks require enormous community alertness and swift communication with security agencies.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Beyond Pakistan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Saudi Arabia relations

Context

The expansion and institutionalisation of strategic cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia mark the consolidation of a partnership that has long struggled to realise its full potential. 

Efforts in the past

    • Early efforts under Vajpayee – Efforts to end the mutual indifference began during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee when his foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, traveled to the Kingdom in early 2001. 
    • King Abdullah – Five years later, King Abdullah visited Delhi, the first visit to India by a Saudi monarch in half a century, to announce a new phase in bilateral relations. 
    • Slowed down – Progress in building the partnership remained elusive. It seemed confined to India buying oil from the Kingdom and exporting manpower. 
    • Expanding, limited by Pakistan – There were the beginnings of counter-terror cooperation but the Pakistan factor continued to cast a shadow over the relationship — until recently.

Pakistan factor

    • Balance – The Saudis sought to maintain a balance in their relations with India and Pakistan.
    • Religion + finances – Pakistan has demanded religious solidarity and unending financial support from Riyadh. 
    • Hesitations of India – India was hesitant to adopt a bolder friendship towards Saudi Arabia amidst the obsession with the Pakistan question. 
    • Even in recent visit – when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, visited Delhi, the question of India’s tensions with Pakistan figured quite prominently. 
    • No reference now – This time, the joint statement issued at the end of PM Modi’s visit made no reference to Pakistan. India appreciated that Saudi Arabia has a lot more on its mind than protecting Pakistan in the name of religious solidarity.
    • It is possible to build a solid partnership with Saudi Arabia on the basis of shared interests.

Saudi interests

    • Neighbor issues – Within its immediate neighborhood, Saudi Arabia has been struggling to cope with an assertive Iran and Turkey. Both of them seek to undermine the authority of the Saudi monarchy within the Kingdom and the region. 
    • If Iran mobilises the Shia militancy against the Kingdom, Turkey chips in with its support to Sunni radicals threatening the House of Saud. 
    • US – increasingly looks unreliable. 
    • Limits to religion – The rapidly growing Saudi population can no longer be kept with a diet of religious orthodoxy.
    • Oil revenues – the generous subsidies from oil revenues are no longer a source of comfort. 
    • Reforms initiated – Saudi Arabia has begun serious social and economic reforms at home and diversification of its security and commercial partnerships abroad. 

India

    • India has recognised the urgency of seizing this moment and building strong security and economic partnership. 
    • The agreements signed during the PM’s visit include the establishment of a strategic partnership council, deepening energy interdependence, and expanding defense and security cooperation bilaterally as well as in the Indian Ocean region. 

Conclusion

The challenge for India now is to translate this bold new agenda with Saudi Arabia into quick and tangible results.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[oped of the day] ISIS after Baghdadi

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : ISIS fall

Context

On October 26, the top leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr-al-Baghdadi blew himself in a dead-end tunnel. As a “leader on the run” for more than five years, Baghdadi was more of a symbol for a Caliphate. His killing will only be a short-term setback for the network.

ISIS – brief history

    • Formation of ISIS – Within 18 months of the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, the al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) captured large territories across Iraq and Syria and morphed itself into ISIS. 
    • Caliphate – In 2014, the group declared a Caliphate and anointed a “descendant” of the Prophet, Abu Bakr Baghdadi as the Caliph. 
    • Propaganda – Using propaganda on social media, the Caliphate attracted thousands of foreign fighters, including over 5,000 from the West.
    • Decentralised wilayas(branches) – Riding high on extremists and terrorists from across the globe, ISIS announced “decentralised” wilayas and asked their supporters to join them if they could not travel to the Caliphate. 
    • Unique modus operandi – This modus operandi paid rich dividends and has continued to keep the network going despite their losses. 
    • Operation Inherent Resolve – The US-led coalition launched Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014 and cleared the last pocket of the Caliphate in Baghouz, Syria in March.

Only a temporary setback

    • Prepared for the eventuality – the ISIS core had been preparing for this eventuality even while fighting to save the Caliphate. Soon enough, the ISIS core will anoint a new Caliph, to whom all the wilayas and extremists and supporters will readily offer allegiance to. 
    • More ready to prove resilience – The ISIS network will also make serious efforts to mount “signature” attacks on chosen targets to prove its resilience, while local networks may mount lone-wolf attacks.
    • Attacks after victory – the ISIS-claimed attacks in Sri Lanka. It released the second video of Baghdadi. He hailed the revenge for Baghouz by “brothers in Sri Lanka”. The rare video of Baghdadi was released to assure the cadres that it could hit their enemies anywhere at will.
    • Huge cadres
      • Over 25-30,000 ISIS cadres have survived and many foreign fighters have escaped the Iraq-Syria theatre. 
      • Thousands of fighters and family members are being held in the Kurdish areas of Syria.
      • ISIS sleeper cells across Syria and Iraq have mounted hundreds of attacks this year. 
      • The decentralised wilayas in West Africa, the Philippines, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Libya have become more active and are showcasing successes on social media daily. 
      • The open propaganda forums have been replaced by “invitation only” links on social media, making detection much harder.
    • Complicated situation in Syria
      • The situation in Syria has become far more complicated as the US is only “guarding” oil fields from ISIS and chasing its counter-terror targets in Syria. 
      • The weakening of the Syrian Democratic Force’s position vis a vis Turkey and the Assad regime will deplete its resources and hinder the capability to defeat ISIS. 
      • Sectarian fault lines and public protests in Iraq and Lebanon, US/Saudi-Iran tensions, the region offers a fresh opportunity for recruitment to both the ISIS and al Qaeda networks.
    • Foreign networks: South AsiaISIS has attracted foreign fighters from South Asia, mainly Pakistanis, Afghans, Maldivians, and Bangladeshis.
      • The Easter attacks showed the potential of violence even by a small group of committed cadres with support of the ISIS network. 
      • In Bangladesh three years ago, ISIS did create an effective but small network, with the active support of western nationals of Bangladeshi origin. Bangladesh remains vulnerable.
    • India
      • Less than 100-200 Indians are believed to have traveled to Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan to join ISIS. This creates the potential for more recruitment as well as aiding attacks on Indian soil or interests.
      • A few weeks ago, ISIS propaganda has called for jihad pegged on sentiments around Kashmir and has specifically called for attacks on Indian interests in the Arabian Peninsula.
    • New radicalism – The fresh round of radicalisation and recruitment that ISIS will embark on under its new leader, will pose further threats to India as well as to South Asia.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[oped of the day] Raja Mandala: Prince and the PM

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Saudi Arabia relations

Context

Prime Minister is in Saudi Arabia for business. But he should also be interested in the wide-ranging social and religious reform initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the last few years. 

Davos in the Desert

    • PM is attending the annual international forum popularly known as “Davos in the Desert”.
    • The forum is formally called the Future Investment Initiative and seeks to elevate Saudi Arabia’s international economic engagement. 
    • It is part of Prince Mohammed’s efforts to rapidly transform Saudi economy under the “Vision 2030” that he unveiled in 2016.

Saudi – MBS

    • Economic reforms – Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation envisaged by MbS opens up huge new opportunities for India’s economic cooperation with the kingdom.
    • Beyond oil – Saudi has been limited for far too long to the import of oil and export of manpower.
    • Modernising society – Prince Mohammed has set an ambitious agenda to modernise the Saudi society that has come under the domination of religious conservatism since 1979, when Islamic radicals came close to destabilising the kingdom.
    • The drift towards conservatism in the Arabian peninsula had multiple negative effects on India and its neighbors. The reform of Saudi society will hopefully help to reverse some of these negative effects.
    • Reaction to reforms – Western liberals are dismissing the MbS agenda as cosmetic. Some religious conservatives in the Middle East are denouncing it as radical. Regional rivals of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, are mounting relentless pressures against MbS.

Economic reforms

    • Moving away from oil – The aim is to diversify the Saudi economy from its historical reliance on the oil business and develop manufacturing and service sectors through liberalisation and integration with the world. 
    • 3 basic foundations – It is founded on a tripod — the kingdom’s special status in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its strategic location at the trijunction of Africa, Europe, and Asia, and its expansive investment capability.
    • Initiatives made 
      • attempt to turn Saudi Aramco, the national oil producing company, into a global conglomerate
      • easing the restrictions on foreign direct investment
      • promoting tourism and the entertainment industry
      • development of the debt market
      • a bankruptcy law
      • introduction of VAT to enhance non-oil revenue generation
      • cuts in water and power subsidies
      • cash handouts to the needy
      • massive anti-corruption campaign
    • The result – The World Bank’s ease of doing business named the kingdom one of the top ten “global business climate improvers” in 2019.

India – Saudi

    • India has a huge stake in the successful economic and social modernisation of Saudi Arabia. 
    • Reinforce change – A modern and moderate Arabia will reinforce similar trends in the Subcontinent. 
    • Partnerships – An important element of Vision 2030 is the idea of strategic partnerships with select countries like the US, China, Japan, India, South Korea, Germany, France and the UK.
    • Investing capital – growing Saudi interest to deploy massive capital into India. Aramco’s decision to take a large stake in the oil business of Reliance could be the beginning of a new economic era in bilateral relations.
    • Moderate Islam – MbS’s commitment to strengthen the moderate trends in Islam is positive news for the subcontinent. Some of the social reforms of the last three years include limiting the power of the religious police in public places, granting more rights to women, lifting the 35-year-old ban on cinema halls, letting restaurants play music and permitting large music concerts. Yoga schools are now flourishing in Saudi cities. 
    • Strengthening nationalism – the “nationalist” themes of the kingdom’s narrative about itself are given strength. Nationalism is not seen as a counter to the deep religiosity of the people, but is seen as important to bring a much-needed balance into the Saudi worldview.

Conclusion

Developing stronger ties with Saudi Arabia has been an important diplomatic achievement in Modi’s first term. The reform agenda of Prince offers an opportunity for the PM to lend the relationship a durable strategic dimension.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Pullback and chaos

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : US withdrawal from Syria

Context

With the withdrawal of US forces from north-east Syria under Kurdish control, Trump is attempting to fulfill his promise of extricating the US from the conflicts it has been embroiled in across the globe ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections. 

Regional scene

    • The manner of the troop withdrawal sharpened the conflict in the region.
    • It also increased the influence of Russia in West Asia. 
    • Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan ordered his troops into the region, and there are reports of civilian casualties. US troops had suffered minimal casualties and were a buffer protecting the Kurdish forces. 
    • Erdogan is facing a violent Kurdish-led in the insurgency in his own country. He is seeking a deeper strategic buffer through military control of Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region. 
    • Russia and Iran are expected to back the Assad regime, filling the power vacuum left by the US. 
    • Erdogan seems undeterred by the threats of sanctions and other diplomatic consequences by the US and NATO.

Impact of the withdrawal

Trump’s sudden withdrawal is likely to be counterproductive. 

    • The claim that the “ISIS caliphate” has been defeated may be technically true, but many IS fighters retreated into remote parts of Iraq and Syria. 
    • Since the conflict in Syria began in 2015, the Kurds were instrumental in the fight against the Islamic State. Now, remnants of the IS may be emboldened
    • Assad regime has consolidated and its influence is growing along with that of Russia. 
    • An aggressive and expansionist Turkey could pose a long-term challenge to the regional balance of power. It has long been a NATO ally and even houses a US military base with nuclear capabilities.

Way ahead

In the near term, what is required is well-thought-out, firm diplomacy by the US and other world powers.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] The fires of Arabia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Houthi attack on Saudi - Peace in the Middle East

Context

The drone attacks on major Saudi hydrocarbon facilities have led to a spike in world oil prices. 

Facts of the issue

  • The attacks are claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
  • It has knocked out more than half of Saudi crude output and5% of the global oil supplies. 
  • Oil industry experts say the damage is serious and Saudi Arabia will not be able to quickly make up for the shortfall in production close to 5.7 million barrels a day. 

Marginal global impact

  • Global oil production expanded in recent years and there is the emergence of new major exporters like the US.
  • The world could possibly absorb the new oil shock without too much pain.

Challenges remain

  • Drone attacks have exposed the massive vulnerability of Saudi oil production 
  • Houthis have promised to attack again if Saudi Arabia continues its four-year-old war against them
  • The other is the danger of escalation in the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran that has enveloped the region in proxy wars. 
  • If Saudi Arabia has supported the government in Yemen in the tragic civil war, Iran has been the main backer of the Houthi rebels. 
  • Iran has backed the Houthi right to self-defense against Saudi Arabia. 
  • The US decision to blame Iran after the attack appeared to push the region to the brink of a new war. 
  • In the last couple of years, Iran has seen most of its oil exports vanish due to the American sanctions. 
  • Though Iran can hurt Saudi oil production, a military confrontation with the US could set Tehran back by decades. 

Way ahead

  • The recent developments offer an opportunity for all sides to step back. 
  • The US and Saudi Arabia have miscalculated that Iran would cave under the current campaign to put “maximum pressure”.
  • The current lose-lose situation should open the door for sensible compromises all around. 
  • India, which is friends with all the actors in the Middle East, can easily do more than being a passive observer. 
  • Like Japan and Europe, which are trying to calm the waters, India too must step in to nudge the region towards military restraint and political engagement.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[oped of the day] Israel, Pakistan ties a bridge too far?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Pakistan-Israel-India

Context

Recently, Israeli and Pakistani scholars have speculated about the possibility of the two states establishing diplomatic ties. 

Background of the relationship

  • Ever since Israel’s founding in 1948, it has been trying to overcome its regional isolation and enhance diplomatic relations with as many countries as possible. 
  • Apart from Turkey (1949), Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994), none of the states in the region have recognised Israel.
  • OIC routinely pillories Israel for its “occupation” of Palestinian lands. Recently OIC called to convene an emergency session to discuss Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks that, if re-elected, he would definitely annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank and the northern Dead Sea.
  • Still, Israel has been successful in gradually expanding its diplomatic profile beyond its immediate neighborhood. 
  • Israel has established diplomatic relations with a large majority of the 193 UN member states.

India-Israel ties

  • India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992. 
  • Many factors brought these two democracies together. Both have successfully tackled state-centric threats throughout their history. 
  • Both Israel and India have been victims of asymmetric warfare such as terrorism, which they continue to tackle with resolve.

India-West Asia

  • India’s interactions with the GCC states have witnessed an impressive upward trajectory in recent times. 
  • High-level political engagement with the West Asian region has been another hallmark of the government.

Israel’s outreach

  • Mutual apprehensions about Iran have brought Israel and the Gulf states closer. 
  • Israel continues to look beyond the confines of its immediate region for greater economic and diplomatic relationships.
  • Israel established diplomatic ties with China at the same time as India. Their relations have been primarily limited to the economic realm due to the American embargo on selling sophisticated weapons systems to Beijing. 
  • Israel is expanding its arms sales to India and countries in Southeast Asia.
  • It is also looking at increasing its diplomatic footprint in South Asia and beyond. 
  • Forging closer ties with populous Asian Muslim countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia would help it to gain greater legitimacy in the Islamic world.

Relations with Pakistan – convergence

  • It is argued that Pakistan’s national interests would better be served by having ties with Israel, particularly since Israel carries weight in Washington and could mediate on recurring U.S.-Pakistan tensions. 
  • Concerns regarding Iran were also cited as a point of convergence.
  • Iran is recognised as a potent threat by Israel and the Shia-Sunni divide in Pakistan is frequently a point of friction between Iran and Pakistan.

Limitations of the relationship

  • Pakistan is considered the “sword-arm” of the Sunni world. 
  • It has invested considerably in the security of the Arab monarchies, including in Saudi Arabia and Jordan. 
  • Pakistani military units have been stationed in these countries to promote internal stability. 
  • Pakistan has used the platform provided by the OIC to increase support for its stand on Kashmir, just as the OIC has done for the Palestinian issue. 
  • If Pakistan were to establish diplomatic ties with Israel, it would dilute its Islamic credentials and lead to a weakened support base within the OIC on Kashmir. 
  • The regime in Pakistan would also face the heat from its many domestic conservative Islamist groups. 
  • Israel cannot expect Pakistan to be used against Iran and escalate sectarian conflict as more than 20% of its population is Shia.
  • Pakistan is unlikely to take any steps that could rock its relations with Iran. In 2015, Pakistan’s Parliament had turned down Riyadh’s request to join a Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen to fight the Houthi rebels supported by Iran.

Conclusion

It is not in Israel’s interest to seek diplomatic ties with a state that sponsors terrorism. The idea of diplomatic ties between Israel and Pakistan remains, for now, seems a pie in the sky.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: What India has to offer in the Gulf

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India Gulf countries relations

CONTEXT

Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain underlines India’s continuing commitment to relations with the Gulf region.

Gulf region – a new approach to India

  1. Gulf Kingdoms are eager to develop an independent relationship with India, independent of their relationship with Pakistan. 
  2. Modi is being honored with the Zayed Medal, the highest civilian honor in the Emirates.
  3. Some Gulf countries have expanded counter-terror cooperation with India, extending support to India in the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir. They have sought to open the OIC platform for India despite Pakistan’s objections.
  4. Gulf kingdoms have begun to address many of the long-standing Indian concerns with respect to the Indian diaspora and expatriate labor. 
  5. Gulf has begun to see India as a major economic partner. Saudi decision to pick up a 2% stake in the oil business of Reliance Industries Limited and UAE’s support for the construction of India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve are two examples of deepening energy interdependence.

Challenges/ Way ahead

  1. Regional political turbulence – Paying greater attention to the domestic dynamics in the different kingdoms. A new trend has been the effort to promote moderate Islam in the region.
    1. UAE has been at the forefront of this effort.
    2. In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince has taken some small but significant steps to liberalize the economy and society.
    3. India should offer strong public support for the reform agenda in the region.
  2. India must reciprocate the strategic economic cooperation ranging from energy and digital innovation to arms production and space technology. China has moved quickly to elevate its economic and commercial profile in the region.
  3. Expanding security cooperation: The highly vulnerable Gulf has long depended upon Britain and the US to protect themselves from threats.  Trump’s talk on downsizing America’s role in the Gulf is encouraging the region to diversify its security partnerships. India must have a proactive strategy for defense cooperation in the region.
  4. India’s instinct was to avoid getting drawn into the conflicts. But it can’t be a permanent Indian security strategy in the Gulf. India must vision itself contributing to the regional security in whatever manner it can.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] A blinkered understanding of migration

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Issues in draft emigration Policy

CONTEXT

The draft emigration Bill is more about managing the export of human resources than being a humanitarian framework.

Benefits of emigration

  • A large emigrant population has many benefits for India:
  • The much-discussed international remittances (which touched $80 billion in 2018)
  • A positive impact on foreign direct investments, trade and foreign relations. The Indian diaspora also provides much needed philanthropic activities in health and education to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Issues

There is another side to the Indian emigration story, which is characterised by information and power asymmetries in the global labour markets to include exploitation, inhuman living conditions, violence and human rights violations.

Lost focus

  • Since Independence, a steadily increasing number of low-skilled emigrants moved to destinations in West Asia. In order to safeguard their rights and welfare, the government enacted the Emigration Act, 1983.
  • So, in an effort to update and upgrade this framework, a draft Emigration Bill, 2019 was released.

Abolishment of two different types of passport

  • What is most positive about the draft Bill is the inclusion of all students and migrant workers within its purview and the abolishment of the two passports (emigration clearance required and emigration clearance not required, or ECR and ECNR) regime based on a person’s educational qualifications.
  • This will significantly improve the collection of migration flow data when compared to the current system, which excludes most migrants leaving India.

Crucial exclusions

1.Exclusion of dependent migrants

  •  For instance, Indians reuniting with family members abroad .
  • These “dependent migrants” have increasingly little economic or political freedom at their destinations, an example being the recent attempt by the Trump administration in the U.S. to repeal the employment eligibility of spouses of high-skilled H1B immigrants (a majority are from India).
  • Also alarming are numerous instances of Indian spouses being ‘lured’ abroad in marriage and then stranded or exploited.
  • Between January 2015 and November 2017, the government received 3,328 such complaints.

2.Undocumented migrants

  • The perception is that undocumented migrants are those persons who leave India through informal channels, but most migrants become irregular on account of expired visas/permits.
  • In West Asia, when migrant workers flee their employers to escape exploitation, a single police complaint can make them ‘undocumented’ for no fault of theirs.

3.Regulation of intermediaries

  • The intermediaries play an instrumental role in minimising information asymmetries and migration costs.
  • Thus, any regulatory framework needs to balance strong disincentives for migrant welfare-destroying practices with the efficient supply of affordable intermediary services for prospective workers and students.

4.Return migrants

  • To effectively ensure their welfare, any emigration policy framework needs to be considerate of the complete migration cycle: the pre-departure, journey, destination and return.
  • The 2019 draft Bill addresses only the first three parts of the cycle while completely ignoring return migration.
  • Globally, one in four migrants today is a return migrant.

Other issues with emigrants

  • There is no complete database number of Indian migrants abroad.
  • There is also an erroneous assumption that Indian migrants in a developed destination country have sufficient protection and welfare. 
  • The draft Bill personifies the government’s primary view of emigration policy as a means for managing the export of human resources rather than a humanitarian framework to safeguard Indian migrants overseas.

Conclusion

Without drastic changes to the draft Bill’s approach, we will miss the opportunity to fulfil the hard-fought shared objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE launches ‘Golden Card’ scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden Visa Scheme

Mains level : Indian diaspora in UAE


  • The United Arab Emirates has launched a permanent residency scheme to woo wealthy individuals and exceptional talents, a move that could attract more Indian professionals and businessmen to the Gulf nation.

Golden Card Programme

  • The “Golden Card” programme is open to investors and “exceptional talents” such as doctors, engineers, scientists, students and artists.
  • The visa categories include:
  1. General investors who will be granted a 10 years visa
  2. Real estate investors, who can get a visa for 5 years Visa
  3. Entrepreneurs and talented professionals such as doctors, researchers and innovators: 10 years Visa
  4. Outstanding students — will also be permitted residency visas for 5 years
  • All categories of visas can be renewed upon expiry.

Benefits of the move

  • The new initiative will attract greater foreign investment and stimulate the local economy, making it more efficient and attractive for investors.
  • It will also increase the UAE’s competitiveness and reaffirms the country’s position as a global incubator.
  • The benefits of the permanent residency also include the spouse and children of the cardholder to ensure cohesive social ties.

Benefits for India

  • The Indian expatriate community is reportedly the largest ethnic community in the UAE, constituting roughly about 30 per cent of the country’s population of around nine million.
  • Though most of the Indians living in the UAE are employed, about 10 per cent of the Indian population constitutes dependent family members, according to the Indian Embassy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Explained: Significance of the Golan Heights

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Golan Heights

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Controversy again

  • Trump has recently said that the US should back Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in 1967.
  • The dramatic shift mirrors Trump’s decision in Dec. 2017 to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US Embassy to the city.
  • This delighted Israel but infuriated Palestinians and many Arab political and religious leaders.
  • The recent announcement is likely to further complicate US’s long-awaited plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Golan Heights

  • The Golan Heights were part of Syria until 1967, when Israel captured most of the area in the Six Day War, occupying it and annexing it in 1981.
  • That unilateral annexation was not recognised internationally, and Syria demands the return of the territory.
  • Syria tried to regain the Heights in the 1973 Middle East war but was thwarted.
  • Israel and Syria signed an armistice in 1974 and the Golan had been relatively quiet since.
  • In 2000, Israel and Syria held their highest-level talks over a possible return of the Golan and a peace agreement.
  • But the negotiations collapsed and subsequent talks also failed.

Why does Israel want the Golan?

  • Israel says that the civil war in Syria demonstrates the need to keep the plateau as a buffer zone between Israeli towns and the instability of its neighbour.
  • Israel says it also fears that Iran, an ally of Syria’s Assad, is seeking to establish itself permanently on the Syrian side of the border in order to launch attacks on Israel.
  • The area is a key source of water for an arid region. Rainwater from the Golan’s catchment feeds into the Jordan River. The area provides a third of Israel’s water supply.
  • The land is fertile, with the volcanic soil being used to cultivate vineyards and orchards and to raise cattle.

Who lives there?

  • More than 40,000 people live on the Israeli-occupied Golan, more than half of them Druze residents.
  • The Druze are an Arab minority who practice an offshoot of Islam and many of its adherents in Syria have long been loyal to the Assad regime.
  • After annexing the Golan, Israel gave the Druze the option of citizenship, but most rejected it and still identify as Syrian.
  • About another 20,000 Israeli settlers also live there, many of them working in farming and tourism.

Syrian stance on Golan 

  • Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011, there was an uneasy stand-off between Israeli and Syrian forces loyal to Assad.
  • But in 2014 anti-government Islamist rebels overran Quneitra province on the Syrian side.
  • The rebels forced Assad’s forces to withdraw and also turned on US forces in the area, forcing them to pull back from some of their positions.
  • The area remained under rebel control until the summer of 2018, when Assad’s forces returned to the largely ruined city of Quneitra and the surrounding area following a Russian-backed offensive and a deal that allowed rebels to withdraw.

What is the current military situation? 

  • Assad’s forces are now back in control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, which reopened in October 2018, while UN forces are still carrying out refurbishment works.
  • Although Israel signalled that it would not impede the Syrian army’s return to Quneitra, it has repeatedly expressed concern that Assad may defy the U.N. armistice, or let his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah allies deploy there.

What separates the two sides on the Golan? 

  • A United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is stationed in camps and observation posts along the Golan, supported by military observers of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO).
  • Between the Israeli and Syrian armies is a 400-square-km (155-square-mile) “Area of Separation” – often called a demilitarized zone – in which the two countries’ military forces are not permitted under the ceasefire arrangement.
  • The Separation of Forces Agreement of May 31, 1974, created an Alpha Line to the west of the area of separation, behind which Israeli military forces must remain, and a Bravo Line to the east behind which Syrian military forces must remain.
  • Extending 25 km beyond the “Area of Separation” on both sides is an “Area of Limitation” in which there are restrictions on the number of troops and number and kinds of weapons that both sides can have there.
  • There is one crossing point between the Israeli and Syrian sides, which until the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 was used mainly by United Nations forces, a limited number of Druze civilians and for the transportation of agricultural produce.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed sanap] An opening in Abu Dhabi

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OIC

Mains level: OIC’s Invitation to India and change in relationship with Islamic world.


NEWS

CONTEXT

The invitation to Swaraj, coming 50 years after Pakistan compelled the OIC to disinvite India from the founding session, marks the emerging possibilities for India.

Importance of this invitation

  • India getting an invite to address the gathering of the foreign ministers from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation may not look like a big deal.
  • OIC has the distinction of competing with the Non Aligned Movement and the League of Arab Nations for the unflattering tag of the world’s most ineffective international organisation.
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s participation at the meeting in Abu Dhabi is a significant discontinuity in India’s engagement with the Muslim world.
  • Its recasting India’s relations with the Middle East.

Change in the relationship with the middle east

  • Modi’s felicity to be befriend apparent adversaries — Saudi Arabia and Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, Egypt and Turkey as well as Israel and Palestine.
  • Real breakthrough under Modi is the transformation of India’s engagement with the conservative Arab monarchies, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia. These two Muslim states have long been Pakistan’s closest international partners. Islamabad has flaunted ties to the UAE and Saudi Arabia as reflecting its special religious connect to the Middle East.
  • dia’s expanding political ties with the UAE and the House of Saud go back a number of years, they have acquired a special strategic character under Modi.

Shared  Interests

  • Relationship is also rooted in the shared interest between India and the Arab conservatives in blunting the edge of religious extremism and terrorism.
  • In the past, the conservative Arab monarchies were happy to turn a blind eye to the dangers of encouraging political Islam and condoning the Pakistan army’s support for terror and religious extremism in South Asia.
  • Today, no governments are more threatened by forces of religious destabilisation than the Arab monarchies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Equally important has been the region’s growing economic and energy interdependence with India, which is emerging as the world’s third-largest economy and one of the biggest hydrocarbon importers and labour exporters.
  • As the region’s geopolitics enters a turbulent period, the potential for India as a military partner is also coming into view.
  • That India has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations, of course, is the immediate explanation of the surprising invite for Swaraj to address the OIC.

Pakistan’s expected Response

  • Pakistani establishment must be expected to redouble the effort to poison India’s ties with the OIC.
  • It will not miss any opportunity to use the OIC to criticise India’s Kashmir policy.

Relevance of OIC

  • Like NAM again, the OIC is a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with squabbles among member states.
  • Since everyone has a veto on what is said, nothing serious can be said,  about the many serious disputes between the member states that are now shaping the Middle East.
  • If Third Worldism in the case of NAM and pan-Arabism in the case of the League did not bind them into a cohesive force, Islamic identity was never going to be too strong a glue for the OIC.
  • While the OIC raises concerns about Muslim minorities in non-member states, it could never take up the problems that Shia or Sunni minorities face in countries across the Middle East.

Conclusion

The invitation to Swaraj, coming 50 years after Pakistan compelled the OIC to disinvite India from the founding session, marks the emerging possibilities for India to break out this unfortunate legacy. A non-ideological and interest-based relationship suits both India and the conservative Islamic states in the Middle East. Moving towards this new framework has allowed both sides to stop being defensive about engaging with each other.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Picking sides in West Asia

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: International relations| India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Mains level:  Chanaging nature of relationship and regional powers in West Asia


NEWS

CONTEXT

Over the past few years, the course of India’s relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suggests that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India finally appears to be moving away from its traditional “balancing” approach to West Asia.

Recent Trends

The  government has in practice demonstrated a preference for working with the three regional powers rather than Iran, a trend likely to be reinforced after the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and the proposed trip by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to New Delhi.

Regional Realities

  • Since the 1990-91 Gulf War, India has officially adopted a “balancing” approach to West Asia, which some view as a legacy of non-alignment.
  • Although this approach has allowed India to eschew involvement in regional disputes and de-hyphenate relations with regional rivals including Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia, the policy has also constrained India’s ability to press its geopolitical interests in the region.
  • Geopolitically, MBS and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ) have over the past few years escalated their battle against political Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Most notably, this materialised in their support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s takeover of power in Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, and in their dispute with Qatar, a key regional backer of the group.
  • Naturally, this brings them closer to Israel, which faces a growing threat from Islamist militant groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iranian-backed forces in Syria.
  • The campaign by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to curtail the influence of political Islamist groups also draws them closer to India.
  • During his visit to New Delhi, the Saudi Crown Prince hinted at the attack by vowing to “cooperate in every way, including intelligence sharing”.
  • The UAE has also ramped up its security cooperation with India, extraditing at least three suspects wanted in relation to the AgustaWestland case.

Defence and energy needs

  • India’s defence and security partnership with Israel has already proven useful to its security and military modernisation drive.
  • India’s defence and security partnership with Israel has already proven useful to its security and military modernisation drive.
  • India and Israel have collaborated on a $777 million project to develop a maritime version of the Barak-8, a surface-to-air missile that India successfully tested in January.
  • India has also reportedly agreed to purchase 54 HAROP attack drones for the Indian Air Force and two airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) worth over $800 million from Israel.
  • Israel has become one of India’s top suppliers of military technology.
  • Economically, the ability of Saudi Arabia and the UAE to mobilise investments despite low oil prices are a huge asset in their relations with India.
  • Investments have included a $44 billion oil refinery in India by Saudi Aramco and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in partnership with an Indian consortium.
  • During his visit to New Delhi, MBS said he foresaw up to $100 billion worth of Saudi investments in India over the next few years, including a plan by the Saudi Basic Industries Corp. to acquire two LNG plants.

Iran’s Stake

  • The simultaneous attacks that claimed the lives of 27 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and 40 members of India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are likely to bring India and Iran closer together against Pakistan, it is doubtful that the occasion would generate much momentum in bilateral relations.
  • U.S. sanctions have turned Iran into an unreliable economic partner.
  • Despite obtaining a six-month waiver from the U.S. in November on energy imports from Iran, India is shoring up plans to find alternative sources as the waiver reaches its term.
  • Meanwhile, Indian investments in Iran, including the Shahid Beheshti complex at Chabahar and the Farzad B gas field, have languished for years, reflecting the severe constraints on doing business with Iran.

Complex Relationships

  • India’s tilt towards Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE is not a risk-free move. Iran continues to exercise much influence in West Asia and can help shape events in Afghanistan by shoring up the Taliban against the U.S.
  • Iran’s Chabahar port represents a strategic investment for India which hopes to use the facility to connect with the International North-South Transit Corridor (INSTC) that extends to Central Asia and to bypass Pakistan en route to Afghanistan.
  • Yet, as tensions rise in West Asia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have coalesced more closely against Iran under the U.S.-sponsored Middle East Security Alliance (MESA).
  • Concurrently, the recent escalation between Iran and Israel on the Syrian front suggests that tensions are unlikely to drop soon.

Conclusion

  • Amid competing demands from West Asian powers for India to take sides, India might find it difficult to maintain a “balancing” approach even if it wanted to. Having practically abandoned a “balancing” approach, the government has, in effect, placed its bets on Israel and the Gulf monarchies, relegating relations with Iran to the side.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Rethinking the Gulf

Note4students

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

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Opportunities for India in the Gulf region and the need for a better-focused gulf foreign policy


Context

Blossoming relation with Gulf nations

  1. India’s relations with the key Gulf countries have never been as good as they are today
  2. The deepening energy interdependence is marked by growing volumes of energy imports into India and the prospect of substantive investments from the Gulf into the Indian hydrocarbon sector
  3. The number of Indian migrant workers in the region stands at more than 7 million
  4. The Gulf is among India’s top trading partners
  5. A high-level engagement between India and the Gulf has blossomed in recent years
  6. PM Modi and External Affairs Minister have travelled frequently to the Gulf and there has been a steady stream of senior Gulf leaders visiting India
  7. The expansion of the political engagement has been matched by the growing security cooperation, especially on counter-terrorism
  8. India and its Gulf partners are also taking tentative steps towards defence cooperation

Still lacking focus

  1. India’s relations with the Gulf have been constrained by too strong a focus on the bilateral
  2. Delhi is paying too little attention to the growing weight of the Gulf in regional affairs and the strategic possibilities that it opens up for India

How Gulf nations are important?

  1. Saudi Arabia has long been a pivotal state
  2. As the nation with one of the world’s largest petroleum reserves and capable of modulating its oil production, Riyadh has played a critical role in shaping the world energy markets since the 1970s
  3. As the home to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has a unique place in the Islamic world
  4. Since the late 1960s, Riyadh has exercised significant political influence in the evolution of the Middle East
  5. The rise of the UAE, in contrast, has been less noticed
  6. What differentiates the UAE from other petrostates is a rare purposefulness that has turned it into a strategic actor of consequence in the Middle East and beyond
  7. The UAE was the fourth-largest importer of weapons during 2013-17 and has a defence budget which is nearly 40 per cent of India’s defence spending
  8. The UAE is also a major player in the global logistics market, thanks to the successful development of Dubai as a major port and aviation hub
  9. It is now striving to emerge as a centre of art, higher education and technological innovation

Opportunities for India

If Delhi looks beyond the bilateral, it will find two very important axes of potential partnerships in the Middle East

  • One is the idea of a “moderate Arab centre”. The UAE leadership has made the construction of a moderate bloc in the region its highest regional priority
  1. It sees the construction of such a core around Egypt and Saudi Arabia
  2. Abu Dhabi believes that only a coalition of moderate Arab states can move the region out of its current deeply troubled state
  3. Abu Dhabi also believes that the values of cultural openness, religious tolerance, women’s empowerment, and economic opportunities for younger people — which helped the Emirates succeed — can be extended to other parts of the Middle East
  4. The idea of a moderate Arab centre should resonate deeply with India’s natural ethos and its traditional empathy for modernising forces in the Arab world
  5. Helping the construction of a moderate Arab centre envisaged by Abu Dhabi, then, is very much in India’s interest
  • Second is the growing impact of the Gulf countries in the Indian Ocean region
  1. Nowhere is this more evident than the Horn of Africa
  2. The recent success of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea who had been locked in a prolonged conflict underlines the positive role of the Gulf in Africa
  3. Alliances, military bases, interventions and peace-making have long been considered as the preserve of great powers
  4. But the Gulf countries today are bringing a combination of financial resources and political will to shape the geopolitics of their neighbouring regions
  5. Some of the Gulf countries like the UAE are eager to collaborate with India on development assistance and the construction of strategic infrastructure in the Indian Ocean littoral
  6. If India continues to be disinterested, they are bound to look for other partners

Way forward

  1. The Gulf states have relied in the past on the Anglo-Americans for their security
  2. As America and Britain gaze at their own navel, the Gulf states are taking greater responsibility for managing the regional order
  3. The conditions under which India could afford to take a purely bilateral approach to the Gulf nations are beginning to disappear
  4. India needs an integrated regional strategy to secure its ever-rising stakes in the Middle East and the Western Indian Ocean

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Shifting sands in West Asia

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: US sanctions on Iran and how they are being leveraged to rearrange geopolitics in West Asia


Context

India’s dilemma in handling West Asia relations

  1. When it comes to the Middle East, the political discourse in Delhi tends to oscillate between extremes
  2. One the one hand are the grandiloquent themes — solidarity with the Arabs and Muslims of the region and supporting their battle against imperialism and Zionism
  3. On the other hand are such mundane considerations as where the next barrel of oil comes from and its price. And the safety and security of millions of Indians working in the region
  4. Delhi’s efforts to deal with these difficult challenges in an unforgiving region constantly run into the tension between pragmatism and high-minded foreign policy rhetoric
  5. India’s Middle East policy has long been tied to domestic political contestation on “secularism” and “minority appeasement”

Emerging trends after US sanctions on Iran

  • The nature of confrontation between the US and Iran
  1. The sanctions regime against Iran, according to the US’s official claims, is one of the toughest the world has known
  2. Their objective is not just about getting Tehran to renegotiate the terms of the nuclear agreement of 2015 that Iran signed with the US and the international community but also to change the “behaviour” of the regime if not the regime itself
  3. It is an economic war against Iran that could escalate into a military conflict
  4. Many of Iran’s Arab neighbours, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, support the Trump Administration’s offensive against Tehran
  5. This is due to the fear Iran’s growing power and the assertion is threatening to undermine their national coherence and security
  • The unfolding normalisation of relations between Israel and the Gulf countries
  1. The tone for new thinking was set at the highest levels in the region by Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said who received the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat last month
  2. This was the first time in more than two decades that an Israeli PM was travelling to the Gulf
  3. Beyond this high-profile visit, there is growing engagement between Israel and the Gulf across a broad spectrum
  4. Apart from sport and culture, there have been unconfirmed reports on the growing intelligence exchanges and security cooperation between Israel and some Gulf countries
  • A new framework for peace between Israelis and Palestinians
  1. The Trump Administration is promoting this new framework
  2. The Trump Administration, which has discarded the traditional approaches to peace in the region, is betting that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arabs will help nudge the Palestinians into accepting a new deal
  3. For Washington, the political crisis over the killing of Khashoggi has come in handy to pressure Saudi Arabia into facilitating peace deals in Palestine and beyond in Yemen and Syria

Why the US is assertive about the transformation of the middle east?

  1. The idea of a grand transformation in the Middle East has tempted other American presidents before
  2. The US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was driven by the ambition to promote democracy in the region
  3. Now again, the Trump administration is hoping that a renewed confrontation with Tehran will create the conditions for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic and rearrange the regional order
  4. It thinks that the threat from Iran can be leveraged to build a new Middle East Security Alliance of Sunni Arabs and help settle the Palestine question

Way forward for India

  1. Trump has embarked on a bold new course in the Middle East
  2. As its stakes in the region grow by the day, Delhi needs to devote ever great amounts of diplomatic and political energies to deal with the unfolding changes in the Middle East

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: Recalling an older power play

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Iran’s expansive policies in the middle east and its impact on the geopolitics of the area


Context

The problem with Iran

  1. If Iran were a normal state operating on the basis of national interest, it should be possible to resolve differences through give and take
  2. But if a revolutionary Iran exports ideology and destabilises its neighbours, others have no option but to push back, balance or contain
  3. For most Arab regimes revolution in Iran brought by Ayatollah Khomeini during 1978-79 posed an existential threat to their legitimacy and survival
  4. Like Bolshevik Russia and Maoist China, Khomeini’s Iran framed its international objectives in expansive terms
  5. It declared the intent to overthrow the extant regional order in the Middle East
  6. It claimed to “out-Arab” the Arabs in confronting imperialism, Zionism and backing the Palestinian cause

Turn of events in the Middle East

  1. Iran’s radical Islamism threatened the conservative Islamic regimes of the Arabian Peninsula
  2. The Iranian revolution was seen as overturning the status quo and the Arabs wasted no time in pushing back
  3. They turned to Saddam Hussein, the strongman of Iraq and Iran’s neighbour in the Gulf
  4. Saddam, hired as the “Arab Gendarme” against the “Islamist hordes” of Iran, did engage in a prolonged war with Tehran through the 1980s that bled both the nations into a draw
  5. But Saddam tried to recoup his losses by turning a predator
  6. After he annexed Kuwait in 1990, the Gulf regimes looked to the US for redress
  7. The US mounted a massive military operation to liberate Kuwait and put it back on the map in early 1991
  8. It had some serious unintended consequences

What US intervention led to?

  1. Osama bin Ladin, who worked with the Americans and the Saudis in promoting jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, turned against them
  2. Bin Ladin set up the al Qaeda to confront both America and the Arabian rulers friendly to it
  3. A decade later, al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington, on 9/11, which in turn brought Americans into Afghanistan
  4. Rather than consolidating Afghanistan, Washington invaded Iraq in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein
  5. In the new Iraq, liberated from Saddam’s secular autocracy, Tehran gained huge influence, especially among the now empowered Shia majority
  6. Arabia, long ruled by Sunni regimes, now confronted the first Shia-dominated Arab state — Iraq
  7. The need to counter Iran’s “Shi’ite geopolitics” became a pressing preoccupation for the Arabs since the middle of the last decade

Changes in last decade

  1. The Iran problem became even more challenging for Arabia, as the Arab Spring of 2011-12 unleashed new threats to the region’s stability
  2. They were frightened by the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the important support it won from Turkey and Qatar
  3. On top of all this, came the rise of the extreme Sunni force, the Islamic State
  4. The Obama administration concluded an agreement with Iran on limiting its nuclear programme
  5. While Washington proclaimed it as a “non-proliferation” agreement, for Arabs it was about ending Iran’s international isolation, boosting Iran’s economy by lifting sanctions, and tilting the balance ever more in favour of Iran

Focus shifting from the US

  1. Having seen America turn wild, the Gulf Arabs can no longer afford to put all their eggs in the American basket
  2. While they hold on to the US, they are inviting other powers like France and Britain back into the Gulf
  3. They are also boosting national military capabilities
  4. The Gulf Arabs deeply dislike what they see as the “pro-Iranian” policies of Russia and China in the Middle East

Way forward for India

  1. India simply confounds the Arabs
  2. They are surprised by Delhi’s strange duality in the Gulf
  3. There is apolitical mercantilism when it comes to the Arabs and delusions of grand strategy in dealing with Iran

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

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

Note4students

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

[op-ed snap] India, Iran and a divided Middle East

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Cold War, Iran nuclear deal 2015

Mains level: India’s stakes in middle east and emerging problems


Context

First presidential visit from Iran since 2003

  1. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is on three-day visit to India
  2. For the Islamic Republic of Iran, it is the best of times and the worst of times
  3. Iran’s regional influence has never been as expansive as it is today
  4. Yet, there is a huge push back against Tehran from some of its Arab neighbors, Israel and the Trump Administration

Increasing internal and economic and political volatility

  1. The Iranian currency rial is rapidly losing its value
  2. High inflation and large-scale unemployment, as well as widespread corruption, triggered protests in Iran’s cities around the new year
  3. There are also demands for social liberalization, with the women protesting the law on the compulsory wearing of the veil in public

Delhi’s biggest current challenge in dealing with Iran

  1. There is a conflict sharpening between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  2. India’s public discourse on relations with Iran has for long been framed it in terms of Tehran’s relations with Washington
  3. During the early decades of the Cold War, India stayed away from the Shah of Iran, a secular modernizing ruler
  4. This was because he was too close to the United States
  5. Today, one of the main problems is the unending enmity between Iran and the US

Iran nuclear deal a temporary relief

  1. India was relieved when the US, under President Barack Obama, and Iran in 2015 concluded a nuclear deal
  2. The deal opened up some space for international commercial cooperation with Tehran
  3. But, President Donald Trump and his Republican party’s hostility towards the deal has created fresh complications for India

Recognising the reality of regional conflicts in the Middle East

  1. India would certainly want to see a serious effort to reconcile the current tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbors
  2. Delhi does not have the power to mitigate the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  3. But Delhi can certainly encourage the emerging trends for political and social moderation in the Middle East
  4. India has positively viewed the recent calls from the political leadership in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE for reclaiming Islam from violent extremists

Way forward

There are three important Indian objectives in the Middle East

  • Promotion of mutual political accommodation within the region
  • Pressing for an end to the export of destabilizing ideologies from the region
  • The construction of a coalition against violent religious extremism that has inflicted so much suffering in the Middle East and the Subcontinent

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Ramallah recall: On India’s Palestine policy

Note4students

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: UN General Assembly, West Bank

Mains level: India’s Israel-Palestine policy


Context

PM Modi’s Palestine Visit

  1. PM’s visit to Palestine visit signals India’s strategy to grow ties with Israel and Palestine separately
  2. It underlines the delicate balance New Delhi has adopted in this long-standing and seemingly intractable conflict

Growing ties with Israel

  1. India, which has been a champion of the Palestinian people’s national aspirations, has built strong ties with Israel in recent years
  2. Last year Mr. Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel
  3. Israel is a vital source of defence equipment and agricultural technology for India

Supporting Palestine

  1. Late last year India voted along with a vast majority of member-states at the UN General Assembly against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  2. PM reiterated India’s support for the Palestinian cause during his recent visit
  3. Both sides also signed a number of agreements for India-funded projects in the West Bank

Why not full-fledged ties with Israel?

  1. Israel faces political isolation internationally over its occupation of the Palestinian territories
  2. Isreal does not have diplomatic ties with most countries in West Asia
  3. India, which has vital interests in the Gulf and enjoys good ties with the region’s Muslim countries, cannot afford to be seen to be politically closer to Israel at the expense of ties with Palestinians

India’s support for two-state solution

  1. India has supported the creation of an independent Palestine within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital
  2. According to this line, Israel would have to withdraw from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and either pull out the Jewish settlements or do a land-swap with the Palestinians as part of a final agreement
  3. India’s support for the two-state solution remains, but it has now stopped short of the specifics related to borders

Way Forward

  1. India’s policy objective is clear and rooted in political realism
  2. It wants to maintain the balance in its relationship with both Palestine and Israel, and strengthen bilateral ties with each separately

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India gets access to strategic Oman port Duqm for military use, Chabahar-Gwadar in sight

Image source

Note4students

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: Port of Duqm, Assumption, Agalega Islands

Mains level: India’s counter-strategy to China’s string of pearls


Access to the Port of Duqm

  1. India has secured access to the key Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support
  2. This is part of India’s maritime strategy to counter Chinese influence and activities in the region

MoU with Oman

  1. An annexure to the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation was signed between the two countries
  2. Following this pact, the services of Duqm port and dry dock will be available for maintenance of Indian military vessels

The Port of Duqm: Strategic importance

  1. The Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean
  2. It is strategically located, in close proximity to the Chabahar port in Iran
  3. With the Assumption Island being developed in Seychelles and Agalega in Mauritius, Duqm fits into India’s proactive maritime security roadmap

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] As India looks west

Note4students

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: ASEAN, Look East Policy, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Conference, Gulf Cooperation Council

Mains level: Factors shaping India’s middle east policy


Context

Changing Middle East

  1. Women in Iran are taking off their headscarves in a bold protest against Iran’s rule on compulsory wearing of the veil in public
  2. Women in Saudi Arabia are learning how to drive as they await legal sanction this summer
  3. Riyadh has also lifted a four-decade-old ban on movie theatres
  4. The current clamor for liberation from social controls imposed in the name of religion is one of the many surprising turns in the Middle East
  5. There is a quest for “moderate Islam”

What can India do in changing scenario?

  1. There is a need for the articulation of objectives and a strategy to achieve greater traction in relations with the Middle East
  2. There is a need for the formulation of a “Look West Policy” that puts India’s relations with the region on a sound basis
  3. The success of India’s “Look East Policy” provides a persuasive precedent

Differences between SouthEast Asia and the Middle East

  1. One big difference between the two regions is an institutional framework that facilitates India’s regional diplomacy
  2. The Association of South East Asian Nations has been the vehicle for India’s expanding partnership with South East Asia
  3. There is no similar forum in the Middle East
  4. Groupings such as the Arab League, or the Organisation of Islamic Conference, were never really effective
  5. More narrowly focused organizations like the Gulf Cooperation Council are beginning to crack amid the region’s turbulence

How was ASEAN helpful

  1. The ASEAN’s process-driven diplomacy, with multiple lines of continuous engagement, puts pressure on India to stay focused on its Look East Policy
  2. One important reason for Delhi’s success east of India has been the absence of domestic political discord over the region

Middle East Policy: 1947-1990

  1. Ideological, political and religious divisions in India over the Middle East have long complicated Delhi’s thinking of the region
  2. The Partition of the Subcontinent produced a set of outcomes that complicated India’s relations with the Middle East
  3. In the first decades after Independence, India had bet that its commitment to pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism would counter Pakistan’s claims for special affection of the region as a state founded on Islam
  4. While religion remains important, pan-Islamism is no longer a dominant force in shaping the politics of the region
  5. The rise of sectarianism has undercut pan-Islamism

Middle East Policy: 1990 onwards

  1. After the Cold War, India stepped out to pursue a more practical policy towards the region
  2. India’s economic ties deepened after the economic reforms launched in 1991
  3. But Delhi has persistent tendency to view the region in terms of the conflict between Israel and Arab states
  4. There is a perception that PM Modi’s visit to Palestine is part of Delhi’s perceived need to find a balance between the two relationships

Is situation same in the Middle East?

  1. India’s policy seems at odds with what is happening in the region
  2. Israel, which once embraced Iran to balance the Arabs, is now partnering the Sunni Arabs to defeat the growing influence of Shia Iran
  3. It also collaborates with the conservative Arab regimes in fighting the Sunni extremists
  4. The Sunni monarchies that traditionally looked to the United States to ensure their security, are taking matters into their own hands to shape the regional security architecture

Way forward

  1. Navigating the multiple internal contradictions of the Middle East has never been easy for external powers
  2. India may not need a formal “Look West policy” to realize the new opportunities in the region if it views the Middle East on its own merits

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India, UAE to ink 12 pacts during Modi’s visit

Note4students

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: West Asia (map related), World Government Summit

Mains level: India-West Asia relations over the years


PM’s visit to three West Asian countries

  1. PM Modi will visit three West Asian countries — Palestine, the UAE and Oman
  2. The visit will focus on cooperation in key areas of defence, security and counter-terrorism
  3. PM will also participate in the 6th World Government Summit in Dubai on February 10-11 in which India is a partner country

Agreements to be signed

  1. Twelve agreements will be signed during the visit
  2. The agreements will include areas like finance and skills development

Back2Basics

World Government Summit

  1. The World Government Summit is an annual event held in Dubai, UAE
  2. The first World Government Summit was held in Dubai in 2013 and has been held annually since then
  3. It brings together leaders in government for a global dialogue about governmental process and policies with a focus on the issues of futurism, technology and innovation
  4. The summit acts as a knowledge exchange hub between government officials, thought leaders, policymakers and private sector leaders
  5. The World Government Summit was formed by a team of experts from different disciplines in an effort to bring government, business and civil society together at an international level
  6. Reports for the public about issues explored at the summits are issued by Oxford Analytica, Mackenzie and Harvard Business Review

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Indian aid for Palestine diplomatic institute

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNRWA

Mains level: Relations with Palestine and Israel are very crucial. The upcoming visit to Palestine can be seen as an act of counterbalance between the two.


News

Foundation of diplomatic training institute

  1. Prime Minister, on his upcoming visit to Palestine, is expected to lay the foundation stone of a new diplomatic training institute
  2. The Government of India has also sanctioned US$4.5 million for the Indo-Palestine Diplomatic Institute which will be a unique institute in the region
  3. The visit to Palestine will be part of a three-nation tour to the Arab world that Mr. Modi will undertake during February 9-12

Main aim of the upcoming visit

  1. The upcoming visit is aimed at de-hyphenating India’s policy towards Israel and Palestine that was reflected in Mr. Modi’s 2017 visit to Tel Aviv when he skipped Palestine

Financial support for Palestine

  1. India has provided educational support to palestine which also included IT training for younger generation of Palestinians
  2. A new agreement on IT-training was sealed last year
  3. Continuing India’s commitment, Indian government also pledged $1.25 million humanitarian assistance to UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) in 2016

Back2basics

UNRWA

  1. Created in December 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees, and their descendants, who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war as well as those who fled or were expelled during and following the 1967 Six Day war
  2. Originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief, today UNRWA provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports. Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;[4] aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR
  3. It also provided relief to Jewish and Arab Palestine refugees inside the state of Israel following the 1948 conflict until the Israeli government took over responsibility for Jewish refugees in 1952
  4. In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2017.
  5. UNRWA is the only agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR
  6. Formed in 1950, UNHCR is the main UN refugee agency, which is responsible for aiding other refugees all over the world. Unlike UNRWA, UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation when possible
  7. Both UNRWA and UNHCR allow refugee status to be inherited by descendants

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Modi to visit Palestine in February

Note4students

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: Palestine (Location, disputed areas)

Mains level: India’s relationship with Arab world


News

Visit to Palestine 

  1. PM Modi is expected to travel to the Palestinian capital of Ramallah on February 10
  2. This will be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister will visit the Palestinian capital of Ramallah

India back at balancing between Israel-Palestine

  1. The trip indicates that India remains on track with its traditional stance on Palestine
  2. Palestine had praised India’s recent vote in the UN against the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
  3. The issue of Indian support to the two-state solution was also discussed during the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Mr. Netanyahu (Israel PM)

Supplement this news with the related op-ed: Raja Mandala: The art of balance

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Raja Mandala: The art of balance

Image source

Note4students

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: Cold War, UN General Assembly

Mains level: India’s approach towards middle east countries


Context

Complex legacies of India’s diplomatic tradition

  1. Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor had, back in 2010, famously described Jawaharlal Nehru’s foreign policy as a “moralistic running commentary” on international affairs
  2. By saying this, Tharoor was reflecting on the complex legacies of India’s diplomatic tradition, especially Delhi’s temptation for moral posturing on international issues

Change in Indian diplomacy since 1991

  1. The end of the Cold War and India’s economic reorientation saw an inevitable recasting of Indian diplomacy after 1991
  2. Governments have made a bow to pragmatism but the public discourse tends to remain ideological

Finding a middle path

  1. The left accuses PM Modi of abandoning India’s traditional solidarity with the Palestinians
  2. The right attacks the PM for not voting with Israel when the UN General Assembly strongly criticised the US move to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
  3. These rival arguments are indicators that the MEA may have found a sensible middle path

Importance of Israel and Arab nations

  1. The Arab Middle East is the main source of India’s energy
  2. It is home to nearly seven million expatriate workers
  3. It is also a big market for Indian goods

The Pakistan factor

  1. Israeli and Arab leaders also view India from the perspective of regional balance, rather than an ideological framework
  2. Israel will be delighted if Pakistan chooses to establish diplomatic relations with it
  3. The political significance of the diplomatic recognition from the second largest Muslim nation is indeed valuable for Israel

India not getting same support

  1. India’s exceptional political warmth with Israel certainly does not beget uncritical Israeli support for India in its territorial disputes with Pakistan or China
  2. Arab nations don’t back India on Kashmir, just because India extends formal solidarity with the Palestinians
  3. Israelis and Arabs want to maximise possibilities with India, but would want to limit its impact on the relations with Pakistan

Way forward

  1. The pursuit of balance is an essential feature of international life
  2. Domestic political pieties, on the left and right, are the last thing India needs in navigating the Middle East minefield

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Ties with India intact, says Israeli Ambassador

Image Source

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The statement from the Israeli official is important, as India has recently voted against Israel at the UNGA.


News

Israel statement on India

  1. Israeli officials has said that India’s vote at the United Nations General Assembly against the American recognition of Jerusalem as its capital would not affect its ties with India
  2. Background: Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: India votes against US at United Nations

Why is this important?

  1. Israeli PM will soon visit India and will be accompanied by a 130-member business delegation and Baby Moshe, an Israeli survivor of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] UN Jerusalem vote: Why India went against the US

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNGA, Pax Americana policy

Mains level: Israel-Palestine conflict and its ramifications on India


Context

India’s vote in the UNGA on Jerusalem issue

  1. India voted in favour of the resolution in the UN general assembly (UNGA) condemning the US for moving its embassy to, and recognizing, Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Possible reasons for vote

  1. The belief that Arab states would have somehow penalized India for voting with the US on this issue
  • This involves either an oil embargo or action against the Indian diaspora in the Gulf
  • Although Pax Americana policy of U.S. bars this, a possibility cannot be ruled out

2. Indian Muslims would punish the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for voting with Israel

  • This is shorn of any cause-effect analysis, based on the simplistic assumptions
  • One such is the assumption that Indian Muslims choose who to vote for based on foreign policy

3. The belief that the Palestinians would view the Indian vote favourably

  • Palestinian goodwill or the lack thereof means zero to India—tangibly or esoterically
  • Palestine votes for every obnoxious anti-India resolution on Kashmir that the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) comes up with periodically

4. The argument that India’s vote reflects its concern over the sovereignty of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, through which China is building infrastructure

  • Shivshankar Menon’s March 2014 statement that “Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine”, justifying Russia’s ongoing aggression there (à Pakistan in Kashmir in 1947), was enough to erode Indian claims of sovereignty over Kashmir

5. The belief that Israel will ignore this slight

  • In the normal course of things, that may very well have been the case
  • Israel is quite used to posturing and ridiculous partisanship
  • But seeing recent warmth in India-Israel relationship, this vote is extremely bad manners

6. The US would ignore India’s vote

  • U.S. president in office is not willing to do that any more
  • He is willing to link up issues in international negotiations that were not up for linking before, such as trade and jobs with geopolitics , in a way previous presidents were shy to

Way forward

  1. India could have abstained itself from voting as none would have questioned the wisdom of abstention
  2. Our foreign policy needs to become responsible and responsive

Back2Basics

Pax Americana policy of U.S.

  1. Pax Americana is a term applied to the concept of relative peace in the Western Hemisphere and later the world beginning around the middle of the 20th century
  2. It is thought to be caused by the preponderance of power enjoyed by the United States
  3. Pax Americana is primarily used in its modern connotations to refer to the peace among great powers established after the end of World War II in 1945, also called the Long Peace
  4. In this modern sense, it has come to indicate the military and economic position of the United States in relation to other nations
  5. For example, the Marshall Plan, which spent $13 billion to rebuild the economy of Western Europe, has been seen as the launching of the pax americana

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: India votes against US at United Nations

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations General Assembly, Israel, Palestine (position on map)

Mains level: Israel-Palestine conflict and its effect on India


Government sticks to its position

  1. Government on Thursday stuck to New Delhi’s principled position on Palestine followed over the last seven decades
  2. It voted in favour of a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly which opposed and rejected US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  3. The 193-member body voted to support the long-standing international consensus that the status of Jerusalem – which is claimed by both Israel and the Palestinians as a capital — can only be settled as an agreed final issue in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process

About the resolution

  1. The resolution, co-sponsored by Turkey and Yemen, called Trump’s recognition “null and void” and reaffirmed 10 Security Council resolutions on Jerusalem dating back to 1967
  2. These include requirements that the city’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians
  3. It also demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the holy city of Jerusalem and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions

Difference despite growing relationship

  1. New Delhi’s “yes” vote comes even as the government’s proximity to Israel and the US has grown
  2. Israel’s Prime Minister is expected to visit India next month and PM Narendra Modi had skipped Palestine during his visit to Israel in July this year

India in dilemma over Isreal-Palestine conflict

  1. New Delhi has, as a norm, always voted in favor of Palestine at the UN
  2. But in July 2015 it abstained from a vote against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva
  3. This was seen as a subtle shift in India’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue

Read full background of the issue here

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

East Jerusalem is Palestine’s capital: OIC

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Isreal, Palestine (map based), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

Mains level: Unstable middle-east and its effects on India and world


Tension over Jerusalem’s status rises

  1. Islamic leaders urged the world to recognize occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine
  2. Israel sees the entire city as its undivided capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector, which the international community regards as annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state

Emergency summit of OIC

  1. An emergency summit of the world’s main pan-Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was convened in Istanbul to discuss this issue
  2. With the Islamic world itself mired in division, the summit fell short of agreeing on any concrete sanctions against Israel or the U.S.

Back2Basics

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) 

  1. It is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states
  2. The organization states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony”
  3. According to its charter, the OIC aims to preserve Islamic social and economic values; promote solidarity amongst member states; increase cooperation in social, economic, cultural, scientific, and political areas; uphold international peace and security; and advance education, particularly in the fields of science and technology

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UN rejects US recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNSC

Mains level: Rising tensions in middle east


UN Security Council urgent meeting

  1. Eight of the 15 members of the UN Security Council had called for an urgent meeting to analyze the decision taken by Washington to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  2. Jerusalem is a final status issue for which a comprehensive, just and lasting solution must be achieved through negotiations between the parties, UN said

What is this all about?

Read entire issue here

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

What US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital means

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Jerusalem-historical importance and position (map based)

Mains level: Isreal-palestine conflict and itrs ramifications on world


Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

  1. At a planned speech US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
  2. Turkey said that “This could plunge the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight”

What is the big deal about Jerusalem?

  1. Jerusalem is emblematic of the Israel-Palestine conflict
  2. There is a tussle over who gets to control the ancient city that is sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians
  3. Fight is over both faith and civic space
  4. Jerusalem has the Western Wall, part of the mount on which the Holy Temple stood, containing the Holy of Holies, the most sacred Jewish site where Jews believe the foundation creating the world was located
  5. It also contains the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son
  6. And the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and where he rose again

How this conflict started?

  1. After the end of the First Arab-Israel War in 1948, Jerusalem was partitioned into West and East, under Israeli and Palestinian control respectively
  2. But in June 1967, during the Six-Day Arab-Israel War, Israel snatched East Jerusalem from Jordanian forces, and Israel’s Parliament declared the territory had been “annexed to Israel” and Jerusalem had been “reunited”
  3. This marginalised the Palestinians, who wanted East Jerusalem to be their capital under the “two-state solution”

International stand over the issue

  1. Despite Israel’s hold over its “united and eternal capital”, in December 2016, the UN reaffirmed that Jerusalem’s Palestinian territories were under “hostile occupation”
  2. Foreign embassies to Israel are in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem
  3. The positions of countries on the status of the city differ by degrees, but virtually none recognise the Israeli claim
  4. India has traditionally backed a two-state solution

What does Trump hope to gain?

  1. As with most political developments in the Middle East, a bigger regional game could be afoot
  2. This could be, possibly, a US-Saudi-Israel alliance against Iran, the common enemy

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE and Saudi form new group separate from GCC

Note4students

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 (GCC)

Mains level: Crisis in Middle east and its ramifications on India


Joint cooperation committee

  1. The UAE on Tuesday announced it has formed a new economic and political partnership group with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
  2. The new committee is assigned to cooperate and coordinate between the UAE and Saudi Arabia in all military, political, economic, trade and cultural fields, as well as others, in the interest of the two countries

Effect of this decision

  1. This move could undermine the council amid a diplomatic crisis with Qatar
  2. Half of the GCC members are boycotting Doha

What is the issue all about?

Read about background of issue and current rift here

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Qatar’s ruler to attend Gulf meeting in Kuwait amid dispute

Note4students

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, location of member countries (map based)

Mains level: Groupings across world and challenges they have been facing in recent times


GCC faces threat of tearing apart

  1. Qatar’s ruling emir will attend a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council this week in Kuwait
  2. Summit comes amid a boycott of the energy-rich country by three of the council’s members
  3. The ongoing dispute has threatened to tear apart the six-member GCC, all U.S. allies who serve in part as a Gulf Arab counterbalance to Shiite power Iran

Reason for the rift

  1. GCC members Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have cut off Doha over allegations that Qatar supports extremists and has too-friendly relations with Iran
  2. Qatar long has denied supporting extremists, while it shares a massive offshore natural gas field with Iran

Crisis is not new

  1. A similar dispute involving Qatar erupted in 2014
  2. The UAE in particular views Islamists as a threat to hereditary rule in its federation of seven sheikhdoms
  3. Egypt, long angered by Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, is also boycotting Doha

Back2Basics

Gulf Cooperation Council

  1. It is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf, except for Iraq
  2. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates
  3. All current member states are monarchies, including three constitutional monarchies (Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain), two absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Oman), and one federal monarchy (the United Arab Emirates, which is composed of seven member states, each of which is an absolute monarchy with its own emir)

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] The new oil game

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca, South China Sea

Mains level: Developments in the geopolitics of the Middle East and its effects on India


Context

China and the middle east

  1. What will China, the “mighty power” of the 21st century, do to mitigate its dependence on oil supplies from the Middle East?
  2. What might be the consequences for India of such actions?

History of oil era

  1. In 1911, the First Lord of the Admiralty (the cabinet member responsible for the navy), Winston Churchill, persuaded his cabinet colleagues to support the recommendation to substitute oil for coal as the fuel for the British Navy
  2. The cabinet was, at first, reluctant because Britain had an abundance of coal and no domestic oil
  3. The switch would expose the navy to the vagaries of international oil supplies
  4. Churchill allayed these concerns with a combination of economic and geopolitical logic
  5. He added, Britain would secure oil supplies from the Middle East through a combination of hard power and political guile
  6. Churchill’s decision marked the beginning of the “oil era” and the start of the Great Game of oil politics that over the years has convulsed the region

US intervention post-WWII

  1. Post World War II, America emerged as the dominant global political, economic and military power
  2. Security of oil supplies was a crucial ingredient of this development
  3. To safeguard this security and in contradistinction to its avowed commitment to democracy and freedom, America offered the region’s autocrats an “implicit” guarantee of protection
  4. And at times, towards fulfillment of this guarantee, they intervened “explicitly”
  5. Today, the Middle East is riven by sectarian tension, civil conflict, and fundamentalism, in no small part due to the fiasco of this “explicit” intervention

How will China protect its energy interests?

  1. The chink in the global aspirations of China, just as it was a chink in imperial Britain and superpower America’s ambitions, is dependency on oil imports
  2. China is the largest importer of crude oil in the world today and will remain so for the foreseeable future
  3. Of total oil consumption of China, 60 percent is imported of which 50 percent is sourced from the Middle East — mainly Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia — through the Straits of Hormuz, the Straits of Malacca and the conflictual South China sea
  4. The Chinese leadership are fully aware of this chink and have for years sought to mitigate the risk by investing in non-oil sources of energy
  5. They are operating 34 nuclear reactors and another 20 are under construction
  6. They have invested in long-term gas supply deals with Russia, Central Asia and Australia

China active in middle east

  1. China has, for years, adopted a low profile in the Middle East
  2. It has proffered economic support but it has not been an active participant in traditional great power politics
  3. Recently, it upped the ante with a slew of ideologically agnostic initiatives
  4. It cast its lot with Iran in support of President Bashar-al-Assad of Syria and carried out a small-scale naval exercise with the Iranian Navy in the Straits of Hormuz
  5. It welcomed Iran’s arch-enemy, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, to Beijing in March 2016 and signed an agreement in April 2017 to manufacture Chinese drones in the kingdom
  6. There has also been speculation that China is interested in picking up a stake in the Saudi national oil company, Aramco
  7. This heightened interest by China is perhaps to fill the space left behind by America

Importance of Middle East for India

  1. India has major strategic interests in the Middle East
  2. Apart from its dependence on the region for oil, it has eight million citizens who remit approximately $70 billion annually
  3. A convulsion in the region would give India a massive logistic and financial headache
  4. India must track China’s moves assiduously to avoid any problems in future

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

[op-ed snap] Gathering clouds over West Asia

source:

Note4students:

Mains Paper 2| Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: JCPOA, Levant region

Mains level: Implications of the Iran-US nuclear deal on India and Indian interests in the West Asia.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about the possibility of US violating the US-Iran nuclear deal and why is it necessary for the US to NOT do so.

 

Current scenario in West Asia-

  1. In the Levant, regional powers are scrambling to fill the vacuum created by the steady dismantling of the Islamic State’s caliphate across Syria and Iraq.
  2. Kurds have held an independence referendum which has drawn ire of their Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian neighbours.
  3. Turkey’s relations with the Europe are growing sourer every day.
  4. Qatar crisis– A crisis within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), pitting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar, has entered its sixth month, with no sign of resolution.
  5. UK, France, Germany and the EU all have expressed their categorical support to the nuclear deal.

The EU-Iran connection-

  1. EU-Iran trade is 30 times larger than US-Iran trade and it has increased by 95% the first half of this year itself.
  2. European banks, manufacturers and energy companies have also signed dozens of major agreements with Iran over the past year.
  3. EU has jurisdiction over the SWIFT network for cross-border banking transactions of which Iran is also a member.

What the US must do-

  1. Under U.S. law, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement. The next deadline is October 15. On this day the US must certify Iran’s compliance. If it refuses to do so then it might pave the way for the US Congress to re-impose sanctions on Iran.

Probable reactions from the world if US re-imposes sanctions-

  1. Europe would most likely take legal and diplomatic steps to protect its substantial commerce with Iran, even at the cost of a transatlantic crisis.
  2. China, Iran’s main trading partner, and Russia, Iran’s military ally in Syria, would defy U.S. sanctions with even greater enthusiasm.

Probable reaction from Iran-

  1. Even if the deal collapses Iran is unlikely to expel inspectors (inspecting its nuclear reactors) entirely, as it did in 1997, or pull out of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This is because such actions would undercut Iran’s profession of peaceful intent and it stands to lose the moral high ground.
  2. The bargaining chip: Iran would try to restart accumulating centrifuges and nuclear fissile material that it had halted owing to an interim deal in 2013.

Uncertainties that could lead to war-

  1. It is difficult to gauge the future path of Iran’s segmented leadership which is divided between an elected president and an autocratic supreme leader.
  2. The erratic and impulsive behaviour of the US President makes things more unpredictable.

In the eventuality of war-

  1. Iran’s Shia militia could unleash war against US troops in Iraq and expand support to Afghan insurgents.
  2. Saudi Arabia-Iran tensions and the probability of US-Russia confrontation in the West Asia would increase dramatically.
  3. Pulling out of the Iran-US nuclear deal would be detrimental to the credibility of future US diplomacy.
  4. Implications for India
    i) India’s ambitious Chabahar project, scheduled for completion next year, could face fresh obstacles.
  5. ii) Iran- Pakistan relations may shift unpredictably.

Conclusion-

  1. Tehran would have to have to balance the support it has garnered from the Europe while bargaining with the US, such that it would not provoke Europeans into siding, reluctantly, with Washington, and that it may push the U.S., Israel, or both, into a preventive war.
  2. In short, it would be virtually impossible to rebuild today the broad, multinational sanctions regime that helped push Iran to the negotiating table during 2013-15. Hence, it is better to persuade Iran that its economic integration into the world economy could continue regardless and therefore it should abide by the deal.
  3. The US must not risk its diplomatic credibility and push the West Asian region into spate of war which is still trying to recover from the gradual fall of the ISIS.

Back2basics:

  1. Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA): This is the technical name for the nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six major powers (US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany).
    i) It recognised Iran’s right to enrich uranium in exchange for a battery of tough, but time-bound, limits on nuclear activity for non-peaceful purposes.
  2. ii) However, critics of the deal said– it did not address Iran’s non-nuclear behaviour, such as support for Hezbollah and other militant organisations, and that the “sunset” clauses, which progressively relax the constraints on Iran over the next three decades, were too generous.
  3. Levant: The term refers to states or parts of states in Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey.
  4. SWIFT Network: The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) provides a network that enables financial institutions worldwide to send and receive information about financial transactions in a secure, standardized and reliable environment. (Headquarters: La Hulpe, Belgium)

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Israel President to visit India II

  1. Warm relations: Recently, in a dramatic turn, India changed its vote at UNESCO on a pro-Palestine resolution
  2. The resolution had questioned Israel’s claim and criticized it for excavations inside the walled city
  3. Although earlier India had voted in favor, in October it changed its vote to an abstention
  4. A visit to Palestine this week by Minister of State M.J. Akbar for the first ever Joint Commission meeting was also seen as a move to smooth ruffled feathers

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Israel President to visit India I

  1. Event: Israel President Reuven Rivlin will visit India from November 15 to 20
  2. His visit is expected to pave the way for PM Modi to become the first Indian PM to visit Israel
  3. In January 2017, India and Israel will mark 25 years since they established full diplomatic relations
  4. The period till then will witness intense diplomatic exchanges between India and Israel

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

R-Day invite for Abu Dhabi Crown Prince

  1. Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is likely to be the chief guest of Republic Day in 2017
  2. The Ministry of External Affairs described him as a dear friend of India and announced invitation extended to him
  3. Background: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed paid a visit earlier in February to Delhi during which both India and the UAE sealed a number of agreements

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Significance of el-Sisi’s visit

  1. Declaration of a robust defence and security partnership is likely to further energise the Joint Defence Cooperation which was set up in 2006 and has held six meetings so far
  2. Mr. el-Sisi’s latest visit to Delhi was part of his second personal engagement with India
  3. Background: His first visit to India was to participate in the India-Africa Forum Summit of October 2015 when the government had invited him for a bilateral visit
  4. His two visits, have been interpreted by experts as a sign of Egypt’s interest to re-invent its friendly ties with India which stretch back to the days of non-alignment and bonhomie between Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President Gamal Abdel Nasser

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Egypt for ‘robust defence, security cooperation’ with India

  1. News: Calling for joint efforts to counter sizable challenge of extremism and terrorism, Egypt and India will build a robust defence and security cooperation
  2. Context: India visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
  3. Maritime transport agreement: Signed between two sides will be an important enabler for increased trade and commerce
  4. Upgrade: Economic and trade ties, increase mutual visits, intensify counter terror cooperation, and work on renewable energy
  5. PM Modi: Announced that both sides will intensify cultural exchanges and appreciated Egypt for its work as a non-permanent member in the UNSC
  6. Welcomed Egypt’s participation as a special invitee at the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India, Qatar to share data on terror financing, hawala

  1. Need: To isolate the sponsors and supporters of terrorism & urgent action against all such entities which support terrorism and use it as an instrument of policy, must be taken
  2. Committee: To constitute an inter-ministerial high-level joint committee to regularly review all bilateral matters, as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest
  3. Hawala: An MoU was signed between the Finance Intelligence Unit-India (FIU) and Qatar Financial Information Unit to share intelligence on illegal movement of money
  4. Info: Also an agreement to exchange financial intelligence to combat terrorism financing and other economic offences
  1. Need: To isolate the sponsors and supporters of terrorism & urgent action against all such entities which support terrorism and use it as an instrument of policy, must be taken
  2. Committee: To constitute an inter-ministerial high-level joint committee to regularly review all bilateral matters, as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest
  3. Hawala: An MoU was signed between the Finance Intelligence Unit-India (FIU) and Qatar Financial Information Unit to share intelligence on illegal movement of money
  4. Info: Also an agreement to exchange financial intelligence to combat terrorism financing and other economic offences

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

After West Asia, PM sets his sights on Israel

  1. Context: PM Modi is expected to visit Israel & Palestein in early 2017
  2. This will be a few months after the visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who is likely to come to Delhi in September 2016
  3. The visit will make Mr. Modi the first Indian Prime Minister to ever visit Israel
  4. This could come close to the 25th anniversary of establishment of full diplomatic ties on January 29
  1. Context: PM Modi is expected to visit Israel & Palestein in early 2017
  2. This will be a few months after the visit of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who is likely to come to Delhi in September 2016
  3. The visit will make Mr. Modi the first Indian Prime Minister to ever visit Israel
  4. This could come close to the 25th anniversary of establishment of full diplomatic ties on January 29

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Gulf remittances fall 2.2%, offset by slide in oil imports

  1. Context: A report on remittances by CRISIL
  2. Remittances from the Gulf nations to India declined for the first time in six years
  3. Fall: By 2.2% in 2015-16
  4. Reason: Falling oil prices have had a sweeping impact on the oil producing economies of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)
  5. This has severely dented their oil revenues and spending by both governments and households
  6. Balance: But the slide had also resulted in a contraction of oil imports, which has offset the drop
  1. Context: A report on remittances by CRISIL
  2. Remittances from the Gulf nations to India declined for the first time in six years
  3. Fall: By 2.2% in 2015-16
  4. Reason: Falling oil prices have had a sweeping impact on the oil producing economies of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)
  5. This has severely dented their oil revenues and spending by both governments and households
  6. Balance: But the slide had also resulted in a contraction of oil imports, which has offset the drop

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India, Saudi Arabia ink pacts

  1. Context: Signing of five pacts between India and Saudi Arabia after talks with King Salman on Modi’s Saudi visit
  2. Pacts: Between the Financial Intelligence Unit of India and its Saudi counterpart
  3. It relates to cooperation in the exchange of information on money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes
  4. On investment promotion
  5. On further strengthening cooperation in combating terrorism, both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system of the UN
  1. Context: Signing of five pacts between India and Saudi Arabia after talks with King Salman on Modi’s Saudi visit
  2. Pacts: Between the Financial Intelligence Unit of India and its Saudi counterpart
  3. It relates to cooperation in the exchange of information on money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes
  4. On investment promotion
  5. On further strengthening cooperation in combating terrorism, both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system of the UN

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India-UAE agreement for $75 billion investment in NIIF gets clearance

  1. News: Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for a MoU between India and the UAE
  2. Context: MoU was signed in February during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to UAE
  3. Objective: To mobilise up to $75 billion long-term investment in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)
  4. Will help establish a transparent and high-level framework and collaboration platform
  5. Under which countries intend to explore ways to facilitate and expand the participation of UAE’s investment institutions in appropriate infra projects in India
  1. News: Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for a MoU between India and the UAE
  2. Context: MoU was signed in February during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to UAE
  3. Objective: To mobilise up to $75 billion long-term investment in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF)
  4. Will help establish a transparent and high-level framework and collaboration platform
  5. Under which countries intend to explore ways to facilitate and expand the participation of UAE’s investment institutions in appropriate infra projects in India

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

UAE calls for more reforms in India

  1. Context: The visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
  2. The News: The MoU between India and the UAE on Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) could not materialise
  3. The Gulf nation has demanded more reforms from India
  4. Challenges: Complex tax policies and cumbersome processes for doing business in India
  5. UAE also wanted the Indian govt to be a “strategic partner for safety” of their investments
  6. Benefits: India’s access to UAE’s Sovereign Wealth Funds will increase investments in India
  1. Context: The visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi
  2. The News: The MoU between India and the UAE on Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWF) could not materialise
  3. The Gulf nation has demanded more reforms from India
  4. Challenges: Complex tax policies and cumbersome processes for doing business in India
  5. UAE also wanted the Indian govt to be a “strategic partner for safety” of their investments
  6. Benefits: India’s access to UAE’s Sovereign Wealth Funds will increase investments in India

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India, UAE sign nine agreements

  1. Agreement in fields: currency swap, culture, investments in infra, renewable energy, space research, insurance supervision, cyber security, skill development and information sharing
  2. Context of Terrorism: We have common interest in fighting terrorism and, therefore, we have an agreement to counter terror in the cyber field.
  3. What’s remain? The much anticipated agreement on India accessing UAE’s Sovereign Fund was not declared
  4. Changes Needed? India should carry out some structural changes in its economy to facilitate such an agreement
  5. FTA Dialogue: India and the UAE had begun a dialogue that would firm up a Free Trade Agreement between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
  1. Agreement in fields: currency swap, culture, investments in infra, renewable energy, space research, insurance supervision, cyber security, skill development and information sharing
  2. Context of Terrorism: We have common interest in fighting terrorism and, therefore, we have an agreement to counter terror in the cyber field.
  3. What’s remain? The much anticipated agreement on India accessing UAE’s Sovereign Fund was not declared
  4. Changes Needed? India should carry out some structural changes in its economy to facilitate such an agreement
  5. FTA Dialogue: India and the UAE had begun a dialogue that would firm up a Free Trade Agreement between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

For A More Fruitful Future

Pranab Mukherjee and Sushma Swaraj visits reflect today’s tighter India-Israel bond.

  1. Though we have made powerful strides in the 24 years since we opened full diplomatic relationship.
  2. We need to truly broadbase our partnership to sectors such as S&T, R&D, innovation, water technology trade etc.
  3. Not just limited to security, counter-terrorism, and agriculture.
  4. Israel is a “start-up nation”, a hub for new technologies, hi-tech and start-ups, and “Startup India” provides opportunities for meaning collaboration.
  5. We are both vibrant democracies, with ancient civilisational histories.
  6. Jews in India never faced persecution or anti-Semitism — indeed, Jews facing persecution around the world often fled to India.
  7. All of this makes the case for a stronger and more fruitful relationship in future.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Owning a friendship

  1. Visit comes on the heels of one by President Pranab Mukherjee last October, and ahead of a speculated visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  2. It signifies that India no longer feels the need to keep its burgeoning ties with Israel discreetly low-profile.
  3. The wish to avoid angering India’s large Muslim minority and concern for the considerable expats working in the Arab Gulf states kept relationship discreet and low profile .
  4. Trade has grown more than 20-fold since formal diplomatic ties were established , $5 billion today.
  5. Barak-8, brimming with cutting-edge technology, is the product of a joint Indo-Israeli development endeavour.
  6. Spectre of a resurgent Iran unencumbered by international sanctions and its coffers replenished by the nuclear deal, the waters of the Indian Ocean have assumed critical significance for Israel’s security.

Swaraj’s Israel visit took place against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean’s growing significance for bilateral security.

  1. Visit comes on the heels of one by President Pranab Mukherjee last October, and ahead of a speculated visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  2. It signifies that India no longer feels the need to keep its burgeoning ties with Israel discreetly low-profile.
  3. The wish to avoid angering India’s large Muslim minority and concern for the considerable expats working in the Arab Gulf states kept relationship discreet and low profile .
  4. Trade has grown more than 20-fold since formal diplomatic ties were established , $5 billion today.
  5. Barak-8, brimming with cutting-edge technology, is the product of a joint Indo-Israeli development endeavour.
  6. Spectre of a resurgent Iran unencumbered by international sanctions and its coffers replenished by the nuclear deal, the waters of the Indian Ocean have assumed critical significance for Israel’s security.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Raja-Mandala: Re-imagining the Middle East

  1. After Independence, India’s mental map of the Middle East had two axes.
  2. One was the conflict between the Arabs and Israelis. The other was anti-imperial solidarity.
  3. Establishment of full diplomatic relations with Israel after the Cold War did not help move Delhi decisively towards an interest-driven regional policy.
  4. India’s interests demand an open and transparent engagement with all sides in the Middle East.
  5. China is moving gingerly on a pivot to the Greater Middle East and is now the biggest oil importer from the region.
  6. The emerging Middle East has little in common with India’s outdated perceptions of the region.*(point no. 2)
  7. To secure India’s vast and vital interests in the Middle East and to prevent the fires there enveloping the subcontinent.
  8. Delhi needs to liberate its policy from narrow domestic political considerations, look beyond oil and diaspora, and embark on a substantive strategic engagement with the region.

Persisting with its traditional political timidity in the region will cost India dearly.

  1. After Independence, India’s mental map of the Middle East had two axes.
  2. One was the conflict between the Arabs and Israelis. The other was anti-imperial solidarity.
  3. Establishment of full diplomatic relations with Israel after the Cold War did not help move Delhi decisively towards an interest-driven regional policy.
  4. India’s interests demand an open and transparent engagement with all sides in the Middle East.
  5. China is moving gingerly on a pivot to the Greater Middle East and is now the biggest oil importer from the region.
  6. The emerging Middle East has little in common with India’s outdated perceptions of the region.*(point no. 2)
  7. To secure India’s vast and vital interests in the Middle East and to prevent the fires there enveloping the subcontinent.
  8. Delhi needs to liberate its policy from narrow domestic political considerations, look beyond oil and diaspora, and embark on a substantive strategic engagement with the region.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Syrian invite for Sushma hints at Delhi’s role in peace talks

  1. Sushma Swaraj, who has visited several Arab countries in the past, has now been invited to war-torn Syria.
  2. It is a clear sign that Syria is eager to include India within the ambit of direct political consultation to help in bringing a closure to the destructive civil war.
  3. Analyst point that it shows the broadening international consultation that can end the international terrorism from Syrian soil.
  1. Sushma Swaraj, who has visited several Arab countries in the past, has now been invited to war-torn Syria.
  2. It is a clear sign that Syria is eager to include India within the ambit of direct political consultation to help in bringing a closure to the destructive civil war.
  3. Analyst point that it shows the broadening international consultation that can end the international terrorism from Syrian soil.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India turns to Israel for armed drones

  1. India has accelerated plans to buy drones from Israel that can be armed, allowing the military to carry out strikes overseas with less risk to personnel.
  2. The plan to acquire Israeli Herons was first conceived three years ago, as Pakistan and China develop their own drone warfare capabilities.
  3. The plan to buy Herons in a deal estimated at $400 million would open the option of covert cross-border strikes.
  1. India has accelerated plans to buy drones from Israel that can be armed, allowing the military to carry out strikes overseas with less risk to personnel.
  2. The plan to acquire Israeli Herons was first conceived three years ago, as Pakistan and China develop their own drone warfare capabilities.
  3. The plan to buy Herons in a deal estimated at $400 million would open the option of covert cross-border strikes.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

India, UAE resolve to combat radicalisation

  1. India and Abu Dhabi discussed steps to check radicalisation and deal with terror threats from transnational organisations.
  2. UAE stressed on adopting India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the UN.
  3. The two sides discussed pending extradition requests.
  4. The countries signed MoUs in the areas of telecommunications, tourism, higher education and scientific research.
  1. India and Abu Dhabi discussed steps to check radicalisation and deal with terror threats from transnational organisations.
  2. UAE stressed on adopting India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the UN.
  3. The two sides discussed pending extradition requests.
  4. The countries signed MoUs in the areas of telecommunications, tourism, higher education and scientific research.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

A New Chapter Could Unfold After Modi’s UAE Visit

  1. Two countries have agreed to cooperate against terrorism, radicalism and organised crime, and to promote maritime security and “inter-operability” in regard to “humanitarian assistance, natural disasters and conflict situations”, strengthen defence ties through exercises, training and in coastal defence and a high-level “Strategic Security Dialogue”.
  2. It is important to widen our perspective beyond South Asia and recognise that the forces of extremism and violence have become much more broad-based since the Mumbai attacks.
  3. Blue-print for action makes UAE side to the setting up of a $75 billion bilateral infrastructure fund.
  4. India’s economic well-being and the resilience of its political order and institutions is closely linked to continued stability in West Asia.

Now,India faces the challenge of shaping and pursuing a diplomatic initiative to promote dialogue and enhance confidence between the various estranged powers in West Asia so that the regions’ resources can be used for national development and to combat jihad.

WEST ASIA

India’s relations with the West Asian countries are historical since the independence. India has interests in economic, political, security and strategic fields with the West Asian nations.

India’s west Asia policy

For decades, India was a passive player in West Asia-a beneficiary of good relationships with multiple actors. Historically, India’s West Asia policy has been multi-directional.

  • During the Cold War years, India maintained close economic cooperation with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, the rival poles in regional geopolitics.
  • In the post-Soviet world: The bi-directional approach has been expanded to a tri-directional foreign policy to accommodate the three key pillars of West Asia — Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel.

Importance of west Asia for India

India has huge stakes involved in the region such as energy, trade and safety of Indian community in the region.

  • Energy security: 70 per cent of India’s imported energy needs come from West Asia and this dependence will only increase as the Indian economy continues to grow at 8 per cent or more.
  • Security of Indian community :
  •  India is the largest recipient of foreign remittances from west Asia.
  •  11 million Indians working in West Asia. Therefore, stability in the region is high on India’s core agenda.
  • To counter radicalization: close cooperation is essential to counter radicalization in India.
  • Gate way to central Asia : West Asia is gate way to land locked and energy rich central Asia .
  • Geostrategic importance: To reduce the influence of china in west Asia and in Arabian Sea. China is continuously making in road to west Asia through OBOR initiative.

Challenges in west Asia

Political instability

The security situation in West Asia has been continuously deteriorating ever since the onset of the Arab Spring in December 2010.

  • The internal security situation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen has gone from bad to worse. The regional powers continue to fight proxy wars on sectarian lines, pumping huge amount of money and weapons to bolster their favoured groups.
  • The involvement of extra-regional players such as the USA and Russia in the internal conflicts in West Asia has further aggravated the situation.
  • The GCC-Iran rivalry, Shia-Sunni conflict, external intervention in the region, the fear of rise of religious radicalism etc have further contributed to instability in West Asia .
  • Terrorism: Terrorism has emerged as the biggest security threat to the region. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the most disturbing trend.
  • Saudi-Iran rivalry: destabilizing West Asia and influencing West Asian geopolitics.
  • Pakistan factor : Pakistan is very close ally of many west Asian countries especially with GCC.
  • Shia- Sunni divide may impact internal security of India.

India’s close relation with Israel is another sore point with west Asia.

  • India’s close relation with Iran may antagonize Saudi Arabia. India has to balance its ties with all three regional power in west Asia-Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

India’s “Look West” policy

India adopted look west policy in 2005. However, the policy did not get much attention since 2005. Recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to number of west Asia countries has the potential to transform our engagement with West Asia.

Change in West Asian strategic thinking

Several factors have contributed to this fundamental shift in West Asian strategic thinking.

  • First, the structural change in the global energy market with West Asian oil and gas increasingly heading to South and East Asian markets rather than to the Trans-Atlantic markets.
  • Second, partly as a consequence of this change in flows and partly owing to the fiscal stress faced by the trans-Atlantic economies, West Asia is looking to India and other Asian powers to step in and offer security guarantees to the region. Many GCC states have welcomed defence cooperation agreements with India.
  • Third, in the wake of the Arab Spring and the mess in Egypt and Iraq, the Gulf states find India and China to be more reliable interlocutors than many western states.
  • Fourth, under pressure from radical and extremist political forces within West Asia, most states in the region have come to value the Indian principle of seeking and securing regional stability as an over-riding principle of regional security.

Analysis

  • “Look East” Policy succeeded because South-East Asia began to “look West” to India, seeking a balancer to China.
  • “Look West” Policy will succeed because West Asia is “looking East” worried about the emerging strategic instability in its own neighbourhood and the structural shift in the global energy market.
  • India-West Asia relation is the assertion of not just a “shared” past but of shared challenges in the present and a shared future.

FIRST INDIA ARAB MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE

  • The 1st Ministerial Meeting of Arab-India Cooperation Forum was held on 24 January 2016 in the Bahraini capital Manama.
  • From Indian side meeting was attended by Minister of External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs and foreign ministers of Arab States also participated in this meet.
  • In meeting, leaders reviewed the achievements of the Arab- Indian cooperation and adopted the Manama Declaration.
  • The Arab-Indian Co-operation Forum was launched in New Delhi in 2008.

 

Key Highlights

 Regional Issues

  • Arab Israel Conflict – A comprehensive and permanent solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict should be achieved on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions, Madrid Peace conference of 1991 and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut.
  • Syria Issue – There is need to preserve the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability of Syria and the importance to reach a political solution to the crisis that preserves the lives of Syrians.

Israel – Palestine Conflict

  • Israel should end its occupation of the Palestinian “Arab” territories it seized in 1967 and dismantle all the settlements.

Global Issues

  • UNSC Reforms – There is a need for urgent reform of the United Nations Security Council through expansion in both permanent and non-permanent membership to reflect contemporary reality.
  • Terrorism – They emphasized the need for concerted regional and international efforts to combat terrorism and to develop a strategy to eliminate the sources of terrorism and extremism including its funding, and combating organized cross-border crime.

INDIA-SAUDI ARABIA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid first official visit to Saudi Arabia. He is the fourth Indian Prime Minister to visit Saudi Arabia after Dr. Singh in 2010, Indira Gandhi in 1982 and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1956.

  • Prime Minister presented a gold-plated replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid to King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
  • Prime Minister was conferred the Arabian country’s highest civilian honour — the King Abdulaziz Sash.

Significance of visit

Following are the areas in which Prime Minister visit will have significant impact:

  • The first is the elevation of ties between the two countries. This involves upgrading three key agreements-the energy security partnership of 2008, the strategic partnership of 2010 (which has included robust anti-terror cooperation), and the defence partnership of 2014.
  • The second possibility is improving the trade and investment relationship. Bilateral trade at about $40 billion must be built beyond its current oil dependence.
  • Investment opportunities for India: The Saudi government is pitching its mega project, the King Abdullah Economic City, with a deep-sea port as a connector between the East and the West, and wants India to see it as a gateway to its new forays into Africa.

Importance of Saudi Arabia:

Maintaining vibrant ties with Saudi Arabia is imperative for India’s energy security as well as for national security.

  • Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude oil.
  • India is the largest recipient of foreign remittances from the kingdom.
  • Of the 11 million Indians working in West Asia, nearly three million are in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, stability in the region, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, is high on India’s core agenda.
  • In recent years, bilateral ties had acquired a security dimension with both countries stepping up cooperation in counter-terrorism and intelligence-sharing.
  • Riyadh also extradited several terror suspects to India.
  • Saudi Arabia can force Pakistan to abandon its anti-India foreign policy.

Importance of India for Saudi Arabia

  • Economic Strain: Due to persistently weak oil prices. Also competition in oil market due to a sanctions-free Iran entering the global economic mainstream. In this context, India is a vital market for Saudi Arabia.
  • Change in US policy: The US is no longer as dependent on the region for energy as it used to be. Also, US is more accommodative towards Iran to bring peace in west Asia.
  • Friction with Pakistan: Islamabad renewing its ties with Tehran. Pakistan also refused to join Saudi Arabia’s war coalition against the Iran-backed Shia rebels (Houthi) in Yemen.

Critical Issues with Saudi Arabia

Saudi – Pakistan relation: Pakistan is a “Historic ally” of the Saudis.

Saudi-Iran rivalry: destabilizing West Asia and influencing West Asian geopolitics.

Ideological problem:

  • While Saudi Arabia denounces all forms of terrorism, Saudi money is funding Wahhabi Islamic groups around the world.
  • Many extremist outfits are inspired by the Wahhabi branch of Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s aggressive foreign policy in West Asia: foreign policy is doing great damage to regional stability, which is India’s most important goal in the region.

  •  In Syria, the Saudi support for the rebels has played a key role in destabilising the regime, leading to the rise of the Islamic State.
  • In Yemen, the war has unleashed chaos and a humanitarian catastrophe, creating conditions for radicalism to flourish.

India’s west Asia policy

  • Despite the growing economic ties, political contacts between Saudi Arabia and India were at minimum till the Manmohan Singh government took office in 2004.
  • In 2010, India and Saudi Arabia signed the Riyadh Declaration, which set the framework for enhanced cooperation in the security, defence and economic spheres. Since then, there has been marked improvement in security cooperation and intelligence sharing.
  • Prime Minister visit to Riyadh reflects a resolve to deepen India’s engagement in West Asia.

 

INDIA AND IRAN

Prime Minister paid his first official visit to Iran. During the visit, the two sides signed a total of 12 of agreements on economy, trade, transportation, port development, culture, science and academic cooperation.

Chabahar port agreement

India and Iran signed the “historic” Chabahar port agreement, which has the potential of becoming India’s gateway to Afghanistan, Central Asia and Europe.

  • A contract for the development and operation for 10 years of two terminals and five berths;
  • The extension of credit lines of $500 million for the port and of Rs.3,000 crore for importing steel rails and implementation of the port;
  • Memorandums of understanding on provision of services by Indian Railways, including financing to the tune of $1.6 billion, for the Chabahar-Zahedan railway line — a line that is also part of the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan on a transit and trade corridor.
  • India will invest billions of dollars in setting up industries — ranging from aluminium smelter to urea plants in Iran’s Chabahar free trade zone after it signed a pact to operate a strategic port on the Persian Gulf nation’s southern coast New Delhi and Tehran had agreed in 2003 to develop the port, near the Iran-Pakistan border. But the project did not take off, mainly owing to international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme, but also on account of inertia in Delhi.

Economic significance of Port

  • Once the Chabahar port is developed, Indian ships will get direct access to the Iranian coast; a rail line to the Afghan border town of Zaranj will allow India a route around Pakistan.
  • The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan — Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif. This will surely boost trade with Iran and Afghanistan.
  • Once the Chabahar port is developed, goods from India will not only travel up to Afghanistan, but beyond, along the yet-to-be developed International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) to Central Asia.
  • The road, rail and port development projects, once implemented, will change the way India, Afghanistan and Iran do business.

Strategic significance

  • Chabahar is situated just 100 km from Pakistan’s Gwadar port, the centrepiece of a $46 billion economic corridor that China is building.
  • The Chabahar port will act as a gateway for India to Central Asia bypassing the China-Pakistan arc.
  • India’s presence in Chabahar will offset the Chinese presence in Pakistan port of Gwadar.

The trilateral trade treaty

  • India, Afghanistan and Iran signed the trilateral trade treaty for developing the Chabahar port.
  • The signing of the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan has been described as a “game changer”. A trilateral transport corridor project has the potential to alter the geopolitical map of South and Central Asia.

INDIA-UAE

  • Prime Minister made his first visit to the Gulf region and West Asia with a trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), marking the first visit by Indian PM to the UAE in more than three decades. In 2014-2015, trade between India and the UAE crossed $59 billion with the balance of trade in favour of India, making the UAE one of India’s biggest trading partners.
  • India and UAE elevated the relationship between the two countries to a comprehensive strategic partnership.That is being seen as a significant elevation of ties as well as a sign of India’s shift in the region.
  • Both the countries agreed to “co-ordinate efforts to fight radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims.” It is seen as a shift in foreign policy where security and terrorism take precedence over diplomacy in driving India’s interests.
  • The joint statement was also significant in the way it indicted Pakistan and state sponsored terror without naming the country.
  • The two countries would also work towards the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations.
  • In real terms, the strategic relationship will entail regular meeting (at least every six months) between national security advisors of both countries, and improve points of contact between their security agencies to improve operational cooperation.
  • The UAE will also support India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC).

Transformational visit

  • The Joint Statement between the United Arab Emirates and India is an important articulation of a significant shift in the Arab world’s view of India.
  • It talks of historic ties of “commerce, culture and kinship”, drawing attention to the unique history of Arab interaction with Indian communities of the west coast, from Gujarat to Kerala.
  • The joint statement, outlining closer government-to-government (G2G) relations, draws attention to the vibrant business-to-business (B2B) and people-to-people (P2P) relationships and commits the UAE to a sharp increase in its investment in India.
  • The new strategic partnership outlined by the UAE and India is not just defined by India’s “Look West” policy but that it is equally defined by the GCC’s “Look East” policy.

INDIA-QATAR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his first official visit to gas-rich Qatar. During the visit following seven agreements were signed.

  • MoU between National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).The MoU aims at establishing framework for facilitating participation of Qatari institutional investors in Infrastructure projects in India under NIIF
  • Agreement on Cooperation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters.
  • MoU between Financial Intelligence Unit – India (FIU-IND) and the Qatar Financial Information Unit (QFIU) concerning cooperation in the exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, terrorism financing and related crimes.
  • MoU for Cooperation in Skill Development and Recognition of Qualifications.
  • MoU on cooperation in Tourism.
  • The First Executive Programme for MoU in the field of Youth and Sports.
  • MOU for Cooperation in the field of Health.

Importance of Qatar

  • Qatar is an important trading partner for India in the Gulf region with bilateral trade in 2014-15 standing at $15.67 billion of which India’s exports accounted for nearly $1 billion.
  • It is also one of India’s key sources of crude oil.
  • India is the third largest export destination for Qatar after Japan and South Korea, with LNG being the major item of trade.
  • Indians comprise the single largest group of migrants in Qatar.
  • The Prime Minister has been focusing on improving ties with the Gulf region which is crucial for India’s energy security. He has already visited United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Qatar is member of Gulf cooperation council (GCC).

India Israel Relations

An overview

India formally recognised Israel on September 17, 1950. Relations between India and Israel were not always warm. The two countries found themselves at loggerheads for almost 4 decades. India was the leader of NAM, and tilted towards Soviet and Arab world, where as Israel was out and out an US ally. India’s large muslim population was also a hurdle in establishing good bilateral relations.

Since firmly establishing ties, both countries have benefitted immensely.

Since the upgradation of relations in 1992, defence and agriculture have been the main pillars of bilateral engagement. In recent years, ties have expanded to areas such as S&T, education and homeland security. The future vision of the cooperation is of a strong hi-tech partnership as befits two leading knowledge economies.

India-Israel Interaction
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President Pranab Mukherjee visited Israel in October, 2015. From Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Ezer Weizmann visited India in 2003 and 1997 respectively . There have been frequent Ministerial level exchanges in the recent past.

India has benefited from Israeli expertise and technologies in horticulture mechanization, protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro-irrigation and post-harvest management particularly in Haryana and Maharashtra. Israeli drip irrigation technologies and products are now widely used in India. Some Israeli companies and experts are providing expertise to manage and improve dairy farming in India through their expertise in high milk yield.

India imports critical defence technologies from Israel. There are regular exchanges between the armed forces and defence personnel.

India is known in Israel as an ancient nation with strong cultural traditions.

Why India and Israel are bringing their relation out of the carpet?

Since 1992, the relations between the countries has developed steadily. Shared concerns regarding terrorism, have been  key drivers. In fact, The President of India recently stated that Israel has come through for India, when needed the most.

The president referred to the assistance given during the Kargil crisis in 1999 in particular, but there has also been less publicly-acknowledged help in the past. India, for its part, has felt that the closer relationship with Israel has created a constituency for it in the United States.

The governments have also been trying to increase people-to-people interaction through educational exchanges and tourism, with some success.

Israel has talked about the relationship being held under the carpet.” More bluntly, happy to engage intimately in private, but hesitant to acknowledge the relationship in public. The explanations for this have ranged from Indian domestic political sensitivities to its relations with the Arab countries.

In 2014, India had expressed concern about loss of life in Gaza strip, as well as provocations against Israel, and called both sides to deescalate. Yet, it then voted in support of the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that condemned Israel, a move that left observers wondering why didn’t India abstain. Since then, however, the government has moved toward the expected approach.

The first sign of this was PM Modi’s decision to meet with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in 2014. Since then, there have been a number of high-level visits and interactions, including a few “firsts.  Last year, Pranab Mukherjee, for example, became the first Indian president to travel to Israel. The Israeli ambassador to India has observed the “high visibility” the relationship now enjoys.

 

 

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The deepening and more open relationship with Israel, however, hasn’t been accompanied by a U-turn on the Indian government’s policy toward Palestine. Government seems to be doing is trying to de-hyphenate its ties with Israel and PalestineThe de-hyphenated approach, in turn, potentially gives Indian policymakers more space to take India’s relationship with Israel further.

The government has reiterated India’s traditional position on a two-state solutionas  an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The continuity on this front is not just driven by historic and domestic political factors, but also by India’s broader balancing act in the region. Even as India’s relations with Israel have deepened, it has maintained and even enhanced its relations with Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Main areas of cooperation

There is a lot of complementarity between both nations’ economic interests.

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  • In the defense space, cooperation is only growing. India has recently bought spike anti tank missiles, and Barak Missiles, for navy, and also tested the Barak 8 missile system.
  • Cooperation is also continuing in the agricultural sector, with 30 centers of excellence either established or planned across 10 Indian states.
  • More broadly, the two governments are seeking to facilitate greater economic ties, as well as science and technology collaboration. 
  • Israel is one of the first country which is implementing the ‘Make In India’ vision.There are already plans for joint ventures for making for India by Israeli company with the support of the Israeli government.
  • There are vibrant people-to-people interactions, strategic dialogues between the security forces and strategic establishments, among other on-going exchanges between the two countries.
  • India has been a favourite tourist destination, especially for Israeli youth. In 2010, nearly 50,000 Israeli tourists had come to India.

Israeli President’s visit to India

  • Mr Reuven Rivlin met both the President and the Prime Minister, and discussed working together to combat terrorism and extremism. He  is  the first Israeli president to travel to India since 1996
  • Memoranda of understanding,  in agriculture and the management of water resources, were signed.
  • Israel and India already cooperate closely in the areas of defense and combating terrorism, but in talks between Rivlin and Modi, it was agreed to strengthen this cooperation even further.
  • PM  and Mr Rivlin said that they deeply value the strong and growing partnership between their countries to secure their respective societies.

What challenges remain?

  • One area that needs attention is coproduction in order to produce cheaper products and to reduce dependency on third actors. Military exercises should be incorporated into defence cooperation since Israel has a growing interest in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • In the area of academics, one issue constraining better relations between Indian and Israeli academics is money.
  • Foreign policy concerns for the two countries are dominated by third party issues such as Iran and the Palestinian issue.

Asian alliance comprising India, Israel, South Korea, Japan and Australia could work together to deal with issues including missile defence and piracy. At the global level, the differences in outlook of both nations are evident. India seems more in favour of a multi-polar world while Israel prefers a uni-polar one. But both nations do not want to see a weakened US.

Conclusion

Over the past 60 years, India’s Israel policy has been rooted in pragmatism.  Although India initially opposed the creation of Israel, strategic cooperation caused Indo-Israeli relations to warm from the 1960s onward without alienating the Arab World.

Today India maintains close relationships with both Israel and Arab nations.  Due to its close ties with both parties, India has the potential to play a major role in the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis.  India is in a position to serve as an honest, unbiased broker, a role that the United States has struggled to fill.

The India-Israel relationship provides a valuable lesson in international politics, especially for states whose ideological alliances prevent them from forging solely pragmatic ties.  India has shown that the even-handed pursuit of diplomatic, military, and economic interests is the way to garner diplomatic credibility and popular good will without damaging other strategic relationships.

Important Contemporary issues related to West Asia

IRAQ CRISIS

A civil war is raging in Iraq. There is a deadlock between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and abbreviated as ISIL or ISIS an unrecognized state and active Jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria influenced by the Wahhabi movement). It is operating in Iraq and Syria.

Here we are analyzing the situation of IRAQ in FAQ form:

 What was Operation Iraqi Freedom?

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, and the overthrow of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States Government turned its attention to Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein. Citing intelligence information that Iraq had stockpiled and continued to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) such as poison gas, biological agents, and nuclear weapons, as well as harboring and supporting members of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, the United States and Great Britain led a coalition to topple Hussein’s regime in March 2003.

Since the end of the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991, the United States Air Force had maintained a continuous presence in the Middle East, enforcing no-fly zones in the northern and southern portions of Iraq, termed Operation NORTHERN WATCH, based out of Turkey, and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, based out of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the U.S.-led coalition military operation in Iraq, was launched on March 20, 2003, with the immediate stated goal of removing Saddam Hussein’s regime and destroying its ability to use weapons of mass destruction or to make them available to terrorists. Over time, the focus of OIF shifted from regime removal to the more open-ended mission of helping the Government of Iraq (GoI) improve security, establish a system of governance, and foster economic development.

What were the outcomes of Operation Iraqi Freedom?

The outcomes were:

a) End the regime of Saddam Hussein.

b) Elimination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

c) Destruction of terrorist infrastructure in Iraq.2

d) Coalition military forces secured Iraq’s southern oil fields

e) Sanctions on Iraq were imposed by the United Nations Security Council as a result of the Hussein regime’s unwillingness to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and terrorist programs, account for individuals missing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and stop its repression of the Iraqi civilian population. With the military action to remove the Hussein regime a success, U.N. sanctions against Iraq come to an end.

f) Estimates on the number of casualties during the invasion in Iraq vary widely. Estimates on civilian casualties are more variable than those for military personnel. According to Iraq Body Count, a group that relies on press reports, NGO-based reports and official figures to measure civilian casualties, approximately 7,500 civilians were killed during the invasion phase. The Project on Defense Alternatives study estimated that 3,200–4,300 civilians died during the invasion.

What was Operation New Dawn?

The transition to Operation New Dawn, Sept. 1, marks the official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom and combat operations by United States forces in Iraq.

During Operation New Dawn, the remaining 50,000 U.S. service members serving in Iraq will conduct stability operations, focusing on advising, assisting and training Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Operation New Dawn also represents a shift from a predominantly military U.S. presence to one that is predominantly civilian, as the Departments of Defense and State work together with governmental and non-governmental agencies to help build Iraq’s civil capacity.

The transition to Operation New Dawn represents the U.S. commitment to the government and people of Iraq as a sovereign, stable country that will be an enduring strategic partner with the United States. This has been made possible by the improved capability of the ISF to take the lead in securing their country.

New Dawn also signifies the success of the responsible drawdown of forces and the redeployment of thousands of U.S. Soldiers, as well as the return or transfer of war fighting equipment to the U.S. or to combat troops fighting in Afghanistan.

What happened after withdrawal of US forces in 2011?

The withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq began in June 2009 and was completed by December 2011, bringing an end to the Iraq War.

Despite the elimination of a repressive single-party cult of personality state, the invasion and occupation led to sectarian violence which caused widespread displacement among Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi Red Crescent organization estimated the total internal displacement was around 2.3 million in 2008, and as many as 2 million Iraqis leaving the country. Poverty led many Iraqi women to turn to prostitution to support themselves and their families, attracting sex tourists from regional lands. The invasion led to a constitution which supported democracy as long as laws did not violate traditional Islamic principles, and a parliamentary election was held in 2005.

In addition the invasion preserved the autonomy of the Kurdish region, and stability brought new economic prosperity. Because the Kurdish region is historically the most democratic area of Iraq, many Iraqi refugees from other territories fled into the Kurdish land.

What was the Economic and Political Situation of Iraq after withdrawal?

Iraq’s political and economic challenges dominated both its internal politics and relations with the US, Iran, and Iraq’s other neighbors. To improve economic situation Iraq needs trade and cross-border support from Iran, just as it needs aid, diplomatic, and military support from the US. Iraq’s much-reduced military capabilities make it dependent on aid, military sales, and training from the United States, and Iraq still lacks the resources and cohesion to resist against Iranian coercion and to defend against Iranian aggression.

A budget crisis that lasted from 2008 to 2010, and a political crisis that began long before the March 2010 election that produced a de facto stalemate in many aspects of governance, have added to these economic problems as well as sharply delayed critical qualitative improvements in every branch of Iraq’s national security forces.

Iraq has not been able to absorb and support many of the aid projects funded during the US occupation, and its problems in national governance have been compounded by corruption, political infighting, and sectarian and ethnic struggles at the provincial and local levels.

While the existence of vast oil reserves in Iraq are not in question, the country’s petroleum sector faces many challenges that have limited its ability to produce, export, and deliver this valuable natural resource.

Battle over Iraq’s natural resources has a significant impact on its domestic politics and divisions. Iraq faces political fallout between the central government and the Kurdish regional government (KRG) over energy contracts and the right to invite and award lucrative contracts to international companies.

In April 2012, the KRG halted its supply of oil for export through Iraq’s national pipeline, claiming that the central government owed over $1.5 billion in operating costs to companies in the Kurdish region.

For its part, the government in Baghdad has threatened to simply deduct that lost oil revenue from what the KRG’s portion of the Iraqi budget. At the same time, Iraq’s oil-rich Shi’ite provinces want a larger share of the country’s export earnings while other Arab Shi’ite and Sunni provinces want the distribution of these shares based on need of their portion of Iraq’s total population.

Internal disputes between the central government and Iraq’s oil rich regions, as well as poor infrastructure, political uncertainty, sabotage, and internal demand will further limit Iraq’s ability to produce and export oil.

What were the Criticisms for the USA Invasion on Iraq?

The Bush Administration’s rationale for the Iraq War has faced heavy criticism from an array of popular and official sources both inside and outside the United States, with many U.S. citizens finding many parallels with the Vietnam War. For example a former CIA officer who described the Office of Special Plans as a group of ideologues who were dangerous to U.S. national security and a threat to world peace, and that the group lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. The Center for Public Integrity alleges that the Bush administration made a total of 935 false statements between 2001 and 2003 about Iraq’s alleged threat to the United States.

Criticisms include:

  • Legality of the invasion
  • Human casualties
  • Insufficient post-invasion plans, in particular inadequate troop levels (a RAND Corporation study stated that 500,000 troops would be required for success)
  • Financial costs with approximately $612 billion spent as of 4/09 the CBO has estimated the total cost of the war in Iraq to US taxpayers will be around$1.9 trillion.
  • Adverse effect on US-led global “war on terror”
  • Damage to U.S.’ traditional alliances and influence in the region, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. Endangerment and ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities by insurgent.
  • Disruption of Iraqi oil production and related energy security concerns (the price of oil has quadrupled since 2002)
  • After President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, some anti-war groups decided to stop protesting even though the war was still going on. Some of them decided to stop because they felt they should give the new President time to establish his administration, and others stopped because they believed that Obama would end the war.

The financial cost of the war has been more than £4.55 billion ($9 billion) to the UK, and over $845 billion to the US government. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes it costs the United States $720 million a day to wage the Iraq war. This number takes into account the long-term health care for veterans, interest on debt and replacement of military hardware.

In March 2013, the total cost of the Iraq War was estimated to have been $1.7 trillion by the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University. Critics have argued that the total cost of the war to the US economy is estimated to be from $3 trillion to $6 trillion, including interest rates, by 2053.

What are the Reasons for Current Crisis?

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, took power in 2006 and largely left out many Sunnis from ascending in the political ranks, leaving religious strife as the centerpiece of this disagreement. In the past, al- Maliki has also been criticized for his alleged “spoils system” approach in promoting his political allies to posts in the military.

Earlier Shiite militants had encouraged by the government to conduct sectarian cleansing in mixed areas around Baghdad, particularly in Diyala province between Baghdad and the Iranian border. These events contributed to the motivation of Sunnis who have taken up arms or acquiesced in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s offensive.

Even as the ISIS tide rolls southward down the Tigris, there is probably little danger of Baghdad and other Shiite areas falling into Sunni insurgent hands.

Who are the major Players in the Iraq crisis?

The major players and groups in the crisis:

Insurgents

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a Sunni jihadist group that has its roots in the al-Qaeda linked insurgents that formed the backbone of the resistance against U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

It has since expanded operations into Syria, where it is fighting the regime of Bashar Assad, and has broken formal ties with al-Qaeda. It embraces a radical form of Islam and consists of battle-hardened fighters.

Earlier this year, the group ransacked Fallujah and Ramadi, two influential Sunni cities in western Iraq. It has managed to hold much of Fallujah and portions of Ramadi. More recently it seized parts of Mosul and was positioned to edge toward Baghdad.

ISIL is also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Nouri al-Maliki

The prime minister of Iraq leads a Shiite dominated government that has alienated many of the Sunnis in Iraq over the past several years. Maliki has been criticized for not taking more steps to include rival Sunni leaders in his government.

Shiites are the majority sect in Iraq, but for most of Iraq’s history they were oppressed by the Sunnis, who dominated the government. Saddam Hussein and his key leaders were all Sunnis. Shiite leaders during that time were driven into exile.

Iraq’s Armed Forces

Organized, trained and, to some extent, equipped by the United States, the Iraqi military was a competent force when the United States pulled all its forces out in 2011.

But over the past several years Maliki has been accused of appointing political cronies to key leadership positions and the military has ceased to conduct regular training. Sunnis have said the army is little more than another Shiite militia and have little confidence in its ability to protect them. Many units simply collapsed when insurgents attacked Mosul and other cities in Iraq.

 Shiite militias

During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Shiite militias, some of which were backed by Iran, grew to become powerful forces. Among the strongest such militias is the Mahdi Army, a group loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Shiite militias at various times attacked U.S. forces and also participated in sectarian warfare in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites, which peaked in 2006. Most of the insurgent gains were in Sunni or mixed areas. Shiite militias will likely try to protect Shiite neighborhoods if insurgents attempt to move into Baghdad.

Who are ISIS?

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (alternatively translated as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham abbreviated ISIL and ISIS, is an unrecognized state and active Jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria. In its unrecognized self-proclaimed status as an independent state, it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant including Lebanon, Israel, Jordan,Cyprus and Southern Turkey.

It was established in the early years of the Iraq War and has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2004. The group was composed of and supported by a variety of insurgent groups, including its predecessor organisation, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al- Tawhid wal Sunnah, Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura etc., and other clans whose population profess Sunni Islam. Its aim was to establish acaliphate in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq, later expanding this to include Syria. In February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with ISIS.

In addition to attacks on government and military targets, the group has claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. Despite significant setbacks for the group during the latter stages of the Coalition’s presence in Iraq, by late 2012 the group was thought to have renewed its strength and more than doubled the number of its members to about 2,500.

In early June 2014, following its large-scale offensives in Iraq, ISIS have seized control of most of Mosul, the second most populous city in Iraq, its surrounding Nineveh province, and the city of Fallujah. ISIS has also taken control of Tikrit, the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate, with the ultimate goal of capturing Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. ISIS was believed to have only 2,000–3,000 fighters up until the Mosul campaign, but during that campaign it became evident that this number was a gross underestimate

What steps can be taken to control the problem?

The problem will only get worse in the coming months. Now that the Iraqi government’s weakness in Sunni territories has been exposed, other Sunni extremist groups are joining forces with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to exploit the opening. The Baathist-affiliated Naqshbandi Army and the Salafist Ansar al-Sunna Army are reportedly taking part in the offensive as well, and they are drawing support from a Sunni population that believes itself persecuted and disenfranchised by al-Maliki’s government and threatened by Shiite militias that are his political allies.

The problem at its core is not just a matter of security, but politics. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its allies would not have had the opportunity to seize ground in the Sunni Arab-dominated provinces of Salaheddin, Nineveh and Anbar if there had been more inclusive and sincere political outreach to the mainstream Sunni Arab community.

In the end, the solution to the ISIS threat is a fundamental change in Iraq’s political discourse, which has become dominated by one sect and one man, and the inclusion of mainstream Sunni Arabs and Kurds as full partners in the state.

If al-Maliki truly wishes to restore government control to the Sunni provinces, he must reach out to Sunni and Kurdish leaders and ask for their help, and he must re-enlist former Sons of Iraq leaders, purged military commanders and Kurdish Peshmerga to help regain the territory they once helped the Iraqi government defend. But these are steps a-Maliki has shown himself unwilling and unlikely to take.

Recommendations for a path forward

In this complicated and quickly evolving situation, the steps that can be taken are:

  • To weaken ISIS to prevent it from controlling substantial territory in Iraq from which it can become a threat to the region.
  • To reduce threats of growing sectarian conflict sparking a wider regional war
  • To safeguard reliable and capable partners such as Jordan, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Regional Government.
  • The nations should engage in a regional full-court press involving top military, intelligence, and diplomatic officials to persuade relevant regional stakeholders—Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran—to step back from actions in Iraq and Syria that could lead to a wider regional war.
  • Additional security and intelligence coordination and operations with Jordan, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Regional Government are essential, along with humanitarian assistance to help care for those displaced by the crisis. These partners have intelligence and capabilities that should leverage to degrade the threat from ISIS.
  • Action against ISIS in Iraq alone will likely push the problem back across the border into Syria, where ISIS controls large swaths of ungoverned territory. This possibility requires more robust efforts to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition forces that have shown a willingness and ability to fight ISIS and Assad, something CAP has called for previously. The administration and Congress should make this the first test of President Obama’s Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, using resources already dedicated to Overseas Contingency Operations. Details about vetting, the location for training, and the types of equipment necessary should be worked out rapidly.

ARAB SPRING: 

The Arab Spring, a term given to the Arab Revolution. In almost all of the Arabian and African countries they are either ruled by the autocratic Kings or by the Military Rulers who had overthrown the earlier government and established an autocratic regime.

As you know in autocratic regimes it become very difficult for the citizens of the country to be heard as per Rule of Law. In most of the Arabian countries still all the Laws are as per the orthodox Sunni Rules. But now it is very true to say that : “the longer an autocrat stays in power the shorter time it takes for his regime’s ouster” upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen, as well as the violent uprising and foreign military intervention in Libya and now the ongoing tension in Syria is the best example of that.

The main reasons for the civil uprising was:
1.Double digit Inflation Rates
2.UNEMPLOYMENT/UNDEREMPLOYMENT:

Mohammed Bouazizi

eg. The very first instance which sparked the whole Arab Spring in Tunisia is only due to Mohammed Bouazizi from Tunisia is a prime example of how unemployment can prove deadly for a regime and how the government’s indifference proves fatal for the whole country. Instead of helping out the 26-year-old who tried his best to seek a job including his attempt to get drafted into the military and applying for jobs in both public and private sectors, the government officials confiscated his vegetables kiosk and effectively barred him from feeding his family and paying for his sister’s university fees.

With no way out, he set himself on fire in front of the government building where his confiscated kiosk rested and registered his extreme condemnation of Ben Ali’s 23-year-old regime and its economic policies. He immolated himself but also burnt the outlandish castles of the ruling elite, spinning the wheel of a massive revolution that changed everything in the country.

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POLITICAL/RELIGIOUS OPPRESSION

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it is independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty

The most apt example of this is :
The civil war in Algeria is a prime example of how political or religious or both forms of oppression can lead a country to civil war. The Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS) won the first round of elections with a heavy mandate in December 1991. Then president Chadli Bendjedid invited the Algerian military to take control of the situation. The army removed the president from power and installed a military-backed government.

The FIS was banned and the army put a squeeze on religious activities across the country. A military operation was started against the armed supporters of the FIS, which then splintered into smaller militant groups that attacked the security forces, police and civilians. The army also staged bloody attacks against suspected Islamists, which ensued a full-fledged civil war, leaving at least 200,000 Algerians dead and approximately 15,000 forcibly disappeared.

The conflict continued till 2002 when the armed militants laid down the arms and accepted the new civilian government’s amnesty. By then the damage was done and the socio-economic fabric of the country was ripped apart.
Following a wave of protests in the wake of popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libiya and Yemen, Algeria officially lifted its 19-year-old state of emergency on 24 February 2011. The country’s Council of Ministers approved the repeal two days prior.

ABSENCE OF POLITICAL DISSENT/LACK OF PARTICIPATION

Political dissent refers to any expression which conveys public dissatisfaction over the policies of the government. It may come in both violent and nonviolent forms – including protests, civil disobedience, strike, lobbying. The violent expressions may include self-immolation, rioting, arson, bombings, assassinations and armed revolution.

The lack of political dissent is the hallmark of any repressive government. Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes tend to punish any form of political dissent and are quick to quell it effectively. The suppression of freedom of speech is the first target of such government that denies an individual or group of individuals to speak freely without censorship, limitation or punishment.
Similarly, the freedom of assembly and association is the individual’s right to come together with the others to express, promote, pursue and defend common interests collectively. Any given authoritarian regime would deny this basic right to its citizens and violators would be punished sternly by employing the services of the notorious secret services and police forces. Jails and prisons in authoritarian states are full of political prisoners at any given time. Also, there is no existence of a viable political opposition group or movement.

Suppression of political dissent is very common in the Middle East and Central Asia. The Libyan example is a classic case study.

The arrest of Fathi Terbil, a human rights activist arrested in Benghazi by the security services, triggered massive anti-government protests in cities across Libya on 16 February.Instead of addressing the concerns of the general public and allowing them to peacefully air their views, the Libyan authorities commanded by Moammar Gaddafi, the 68-year-old dictator who has been in the power since the 1969 coup, opened fire on the protestors and used disproportionate force to disperse them. Initially, the masses withdrew from the streets but came back with vengeance after arming themselves with crude weapons and ammunitions.

Gaddafi source

The result was a large scale revolt that engulfed whole of Libya with large urban centres expelling the pro-Gaddafi regime elements and declaring the cities ‘free’. Though, the Gaddafi regime has mounted unprecedented attacks on the rebels controlled the cities in both east and west of Libya, the rage and determination to break away from the clutches of the authoritarianism and tyranny of the Libyan despot rages stronger than ever.

The Gaddafi regime denied the masses their right to govern themselves and address their problems. The Libyan system of the ‘People’s Committees’ was never reformed and crumbled under the weight of cronyism and nepotism. This injustice and repression turned into an insurmountable rebellion for Gaddafi’s loyal forces and mercenaries to crush.

FOREIGN INTERFERENCE

Acts of foreign interference can be described as activities carried by or on behalf of, are directed or subsidised by or are undertaken in active collaboration with, a foreign power. Such activities are usually clandestine or deceptive and are carried on for intelligence purposes. They are also carried on for the purpose of affecting political or governmental processes. Such activities are detrimental to the interests of a nation and involve threat to a person, group of people or the nation as a whole.
Middle East stands to be one of the most active regions of foreign interference. From meddling into the affairs of the state by regional players to direct/indirect interference by US and other western powers, this region has seen more than its share of foreign interference.

Lebanon is a hapless victim of foreign intervention in the Middle East region that faced brutal invasions and braved civil wars incited by regional powers. The country’s fragmented socio-political scenario provided ideal conditions to the outsiders who furthered their interests at the expense of Lebanese national interests.

Iran and Syria armed and aided Shia militants and named them Hezbollah whereas Israel propped up the Christian Phalange militias that went on to massacre thousands of people from rival sectarian groups.

On the top sat powers like US, France and Russia that benefitted from the arms trade while the country was being reduced to ashes. The situation is so grim in Lebanon today that governments in Beirut are formed or toppled on the directives coming from either Tehran, Damascus, Riyadh, Tel Aviv or Washington DC.

KLEPTOCRACY: 

A group of people that engages itself in thievery to govern is known as kleptocracy. It consolidates the tyrannical powers by practicing transfer of money and power from the many to the few. The kleptocratic ruling class consists of moneyed elite that usurps justice, liberty, equality, sovereignty, and other democratic rights from the people.

Just as the Middle East and North African nations are flush with oil wealth, the region is also a haven of kleptocratic rulers from the shores of the Atlantic to the warm waters of Persian Gulf. Kingdoms upon kingdoms are ruled by dynasties that are at least a few centuries old and owe their existence to the 19th century imperial powers. In fact it was the very imperial system that not only gave birth to them but also propped and saved them from the adverse winds of political change and democracy

The 7,000-strong House of Saud is the most powerful kleptocracy in the Middle East with most power resides in the hands of 200 or so descendants of Ibne Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the tapping of the world’s largest proven oil reserves, the Sheikhs of the Al Saud family have enriched themselves to astronomical proportions.

With all the accumulated wealth, the richest ruling family on the planet aids and abets other dictatorships in the region and provides a safe haven after their removal. In stark contrast to their mega-rich lifestyle, thousands of Saudi families live in dire conditions and are mired in poverty and unemployment.

The Saudi government is also actively accused of supporting neo-Wahhabi Islamic extremists in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Central Asia and elsewhere by funding religious seminaries (madarsas) and providing arms and weapons.

On the other hand, the very same rulers have massive stakes in US and European businesses, spread from California to French Riviera. This bizarre mix of religion and hedonism has contributed to numerous conflicts, human rights abuses and environmental disasters across the region and have resulted into the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

POLICE STATE

Police state can be described as a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls with the help of secret police forces and agencies over the social, economic and political life of the nation.

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Syria is one such state in the Middle East where the dynastic Al-Assad regime represses people with the help of the secret services and other state apparatus. The country is void of any form of political freedoms and the decades long arbitrary laws forbid any form of demonstration, activism or dissent.

Despite poverty, unemployment and harsh economic conditions, the masses are afraid of any kind of opposition to the Bashar Al-Assad regime fearing massive reprisals by the state. Many opposition political activists say the Syrian military and intelligence services were behind the 1982 Hama massacre that claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people believed to be supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, an arch rival of the ruling secular nationalist Baath party.

The Human Rights Watch, along with Syrian Human Rights Committee, maintains that thousands of political prisoners, including bloggers and journalists critical of the Baathist regime, remain imprisoned in Syrian jails without any trials.

The country remains under a state of emergency when the Baath Party seized power in 1963. The four major organs of security forces are the air force intelligence, general intelligence directorate, military intelligence and the political security directorate. These agencies, known as Mukhabarat (intelligence), enjoy wide ranging powers including the right to detain any person on suspicion for longer periods without any arrest warrant.

Syria is one of the most repressive countries in the world in terms of freedom of expression and information. Criticism of the president, ruling Baath party or discussions on the ethno-religious issues in Syria remain particularly sensitive and are often punished.

The repression comes despite the fact that Syrian constitution enshrines the right of every citizen “to freely and openly express his/her views in words, in writing, and through all other means of expression,” while also guaranteeing “the freedom of the press, of printing, and publication in accordance with the law.”
AUTOCRACY

Autocracy comes from the Greek words: “autos” meaning “self” and “kratos” meaning “power.” In an autocratic system, one person or group holds all the power, without the participation, or sometimes even the consent, of the people. It is considered as the opposite of democracy.

An autocracy lacks political competition, transparency, freedom of expression, right to have a different opinion, human rights framework, and accountability of state institutions. The autocrat of a country will definitely claim, in theory, the existence of such rights and will ask the state institutions to observe them. However, in practice, there won’t be any checks and balances or the precedent of such rights existing and laws observed by the state.

Egypt under the reign of Hosni Mubarak could be termed as a classical autocratic state where any form of dissent was not tolerated. The state was put under the firm control of the security apparatus that kept a lid on political activities, muzzled the press, and tortured opponents of the regime. Everything revolved around the policies of his cronies, known as the National Democratic Party.

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Mubarak, who came in power in October 1981, stayed clung onto it by “winning” four presidential elections – three of which were not contested by any candidate and the other by a landslide. The existence of the parliament was nothing more than a sham, which acted as a rubberstamp and approved Mubarak’s authoritarian policies without any debate. The formation of political parties was technically impossible if not constitutionally restricted.

The presence of the Egyptian autocrat was overwhelming. His portraits were hung in the government offices, the parliament, courts and public places. The intention of such imposing existence was to make sure that Mubarak is present on the public psyche all around the clock with absolute control. A whole generation grew up watching him in power, who always asked the people to cooperate with the government and help him defeat the imaginary ‘enemies of the state’.

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

A landmark Iran nuclear agreement was reached between Iran and six world powers is a historic step forward that solves an over-a-decade-long stand-off between Iran and the West. The agreement looks like a “win-win deal” for all sides.

  • Under its terms, sanctions imposed by the U.S., the European Union and the UN would be lifted, in return for Iran agreeing to long-term curbs on its nuclear programme.
  • All of Iran’s nuclear facilities would be allowed to continue operations. This provision will let the Iranian government sell the deal to its public, pointing out that its right to generate nuclear energy stays intact.
  • Tehran has also agreed to a “snapback” mechanism, under which some sanctions could be reinstated after 65 days if it violated the deal.
  • A UN weapons embargo would remain for five years and a ban on buying missile technology for eight years.

Global implications

  • It sets the stage for a radical realignment of equations in West Asia, and has the potential to transform the conflict-ridden region in the long term.
  • The U.S. would like Iran to no longer be a spoiler power and instead play a stabilising role in West Asia, suited to its interests. On the other hand, before effecting any structural change in its foreign policy orientation, Iran would seek strategic assurance from Washington that it would not return to anti-Iranism.

Cooperation between US-Iran: Tehran and Washington are engaged in Syria and Iraq. They share common interests in Afghanistan.

Opposition to deal

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he and his Cabinet are united in “strongly opposing” an emerging framework agreement on curbing.
  • Powerful sections, including the Republicans in the U.S., hardliners in Iran, and the Israelis and Saudis, remain steadfastly opposed to a U.S.-Iran rapprochement.

India’s benefit

  • A peaceful, stable Iran is vital for its interests, particularly for energy security and connectivity.
  • India has tried hard to maintain its civilizational ties with Teheran in the face of international sanctions, and pressure from the US. However bilateral trade with Iran has suffered because of banking and insurance strictures. India and Iran have an annual bilateral trade of about $14 billion, with an extremely high balance of trade problem.
  • The big advantage for India could be a further reduction in the price of oil that India used to source at a much higher quantity pre-2012, when Iran was India’s second biggest supplier.
  • An important benefit of a peace agreement will also be a renewed push to complete the Chabahar port route to Afghanistan, which for India could mean the opening up of Iran-Afghanistan trade and also a route to Central Asia.
  • Many people in India perceive the Mausam Project and the Spice Route as rivals to the Maritime Silk Road.

YEMEN CRISIS

A United Nations-backed ceasefire between the Saudi-allied forces and Shia Houthi rebels took effect in Yemen.

Yemen Conflict time line

  • September 21, 2014: Houthi rebels seize government and military sites in Sana’a. Rival groups sign a U.N.- brokered peace deal stipulating a Houthi withdrawal from the capital and formation of a new government.
  • October 14, 2014: The Houthis seize the Red Sea port of Hodeida, 230 km west of Sana’a, then move toward the centre without opposition from government forces but face fierce resistance from AQAP and its tribal allies.
  • January 20, 2015: Houthis attack Mr. Hadi’s residence and seize the presidential palace, and the President and Prime Minister resign two days later.
  • February 6, 2015: The rebels announce they have dissolved Parliament and installed a presidential council to run the country. The United States and Gulf monarchies accuse Iran of backing the Houthis. In the south and southeast, authorities reject what they brand a coup attempt.
  • February 21, 2015: Mr. Hadi flees south to Aden after escaping from weeksunder house arrest and urges the international community to “reject the coup,” rescinding his resignation and subsequently declaring Aden the temporary capital.

Saudi Arabia led air strikes

  • The advance of the Houthis raised Saudi fears that the Shia minority rebels would seize control of the whole of its Sunni majority neighbour and take it into the orbit of Shia Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia, spearheaded a coalition of nine Arab states, began carrying out airstrikes in neighbouring Yemen on 25 March 2015, heralding the start of a military intervention in Yemen,codenamed Operation Decisive Storm.
  • The airstrikes that followed have transformed Yemen into another arena for the regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
  • But after a year of relentless bombing by Riyadh, the Houthis still hold the capital city and control much of western Yemen.
  • The stateless chaos amid a disastrous war has helped al-Qaeda expand its footprint steadily in the country and also country is facing serious humanitarian crisis.
  • Observers say the fighting in the strategic Mideast nation is taking on the appearance of a proxy war between Iran, the Shiite powerhouse backing the Houthis, and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.
  • Saudi Arabia, the main Sunni power, believes that the rebels are backed militarily, financially and politically by its Shia regional arch-rival.
  • The real reason for the conflict lies in the complex geopolitics of the region. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthis as a front for Iran and does not want a Shia-dominated government in its backyard.

Impact of conflict on Yemen

The conflict has ruined large parts of the country and raised tensions in West Asia, with Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies backing the government and Shia powerhouse Iran supporting the rebels.

Rise of extremist

  •  The stateless chaos amid a disastrous war has helped al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) expand its footprint steadily in the country, and it now runs a mini state from southeastern Yemen.

Humanitarian catastrophe

  • The war has turned Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe.
  •  More than 6,000 people, half of them civilians, have been killed since the Saudi bombing started, and about two million have been displaced.
  •  An estimated 80 per cent of the population needs humanitarian assistance, while millions of children face malnutrition.

Way forward

Three previous attempts to reach a ceasefire had collapsed mainly due to difference between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

  • The ceasefire to succeed, the regional powers should set aside their geopolitical games and come together to address the humanitarian problem pragmatically.
  • Any practical solution will require an end to external military intervention and a cessation of violence, followed by the formation of a government of national unity. These cannot be achieved unless Iran and Saudi Arabia cooperate, and in a manner that puts their selfish interests aside.

Who are the Houthis?

  • The Houthis are followers of the Shia Zaidi sect, the faith of around a third of Yemen’s population. Officially known as Ansarallah (the partisans of God), the group began as a movement preaching tolerance and peace in the Zaidi stronghold of North Yemen in the early 1990s. The group takes its name from Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, who launched an insurgency in 2004.
  • The group launched an insurgency in 2004 against the then ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh that lasted till 2010. They participated in the 2011 Arab Spring inspired revolution in Yemen that replaced Saleh with Abdrahbu Mansour Hadi.
  • They subsequently participated in a National Dialogue Conference (NDC), which led to President Hadi announcing plans in February 2014 for Yemen to become a federation of six regions.

 Syrian Crisis

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Current military situation: RedSyrian GovernmentGreenSyrian OppositionYellowFederation of Northern Syria (SDF), GreyIslamic State of Iraq and the LevantWhiteAl-Nusra Front

Background

2011 March – Security forces shoot dead protestors in southern city of Deraa demanding release of political prisoners, triggering violent unrest that steadily spread nationwide over the following months.

Anti-government protesters chant in the northern Syrian city of Idlib

2011 protests

Pro-democracy protests erupted in 2011; the government responded with violence

President Assad announces conciliatory measures, releasing dozens of political prisoners, dismissing government, lifting 48-year-old state of emergency.

2011 May – Army tanks enter Deraa, Banyas, Homs and suburbs of Damascus in an effort to crush anti-regime protests. US and European Union tighten sanctions. President Assad announces amnesty for political prisoners.

2011 June – The government says that 120 members of the security forces have been killed by “armed gangs” in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour. Troops besiege the town and more than 10,000 people flee to Turkey. President Assad pledges to start a “national dialogue” on reform.

2011 June – The IAEA nuclear watchdog decides to report Syria to the UN Security Council over its alleged covert nuclear programme reactor programme. The structure housing the alleged reactor was destroyed in an Israeli air raid in 2007.

Opposition organises

2011 July – President Assad sacks the governor of the northern province of Hama after mass demonstration there, eventually sending in troops to restore order at the cost of scores of lives.

2011 October – New Syrian National Council says it has forged a common front of internal and exiled opposition activists.

2011 November – Arab League votes to suspend Syria, accusing it of failing to implement an Arab peace plan, and imposes sanctions.

Civil war

The uprising against President Assad gradually turned into a full-scale civil war

2011 December – Twin suicide bombs outside security buildings in Damascus kill 44, the first in a series of large blasts in the the capital that continue into the following summer.

2012 February – Government steps up the bombardment of Homs and other cities.

International pressure:

2012 March – UN Security Council endorses non-binding peace plan drafted by UN envoy Kofi Annan. China and Russia agree to support the plan after an earlier, tougher draft is modified.

2012 May – France, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada and Australia expel senior Syrian diplomats in protest at killing of more than a hundred civilians in Houla, near Homs.

Opposition rifts

Divisions and concern about the role of Islamists have bedevilled the opposition

Guide to the Syrian opposition

2012 June – Turkey changes rules of engagement after Syria shoots down a Turkish plane, declaring that if Syrian troops approach Turkey’s borders they will be seen as a military threat.

2012 July – Free Syria Army blows up three security chiefs in Damascus and seizes Aleppo in the north.

2012 August – Prime Minister Riad Hijab defects, US President Obama warns that use of chemical weapons would tilt the US towards intervention.

2012 October – Syria-Turkish tension rises when Syrian mortar fire on a Turkish border town kills five civilians. Turkey returns fire and intercepts a Syrian plane allegedly carrying arms from Russia.

Fire in Aleppo destroys much of the historic market as fighting and bomb attacks continue in various cities.

2012 November – National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces formed in Qatar, excludes Islamist militias. Arab League stops short of full recognition.

Israeli military fire on Syrian artillery units after several months of occasional shelling from Syrian positions across the Golan Heights, the first such return of fire since the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

2012 December – US, Britain, France, Turkey and Gulf states formally recognise opposition National Coalition as “legitimate representative” of Syrian people.

2013 January – Syria accuses Israeli jets of attacking a military research centre near Damascus, but denies reports that lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit. Unverified reports say Israel had targeted an Iranian commander charged with moving weapons of mass destruction to Lebanon.

International donors pledge more than $1.5bn (£950m) to help civilians affected by the conflict in Syria.

2013 March – Syrian warplanes bomb the northern city of Raqqa after rebels seize control. US and Britain pledge non-military aid to rebels.

Chemical arms claims

Government forces have faced – and denied – repeated allegations of chemical weapons use

Rise of Islamists

2013 June – Government and allied Lebanese Hezbollah forces recapture strategically-important town of Qusair between Homs and Lebanese border.

2013 July – Saudi-backed Ahmed Jarba becomes leader of opposition National Coalition, defeating Qatar-backed rival.

2013 September – UN weapons inspectors conclude that chemical weapons were used in an attack on the Ghouta area of Damascus in August that killed about 300 people, but do not explicitly allocate responsibility.

2013 October – President Assad allows international inspectors to begin destroying Syria’s chemical weapons on the basis of a US-Russian agreement.

2013 December – US and Britain suspend “non-lethal” support for rebels in northern Syria after reports that Islamist rebels seized bases of Western-backed Free Syrian Army.

2014 January-February – UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva fail, largely because Syrian authorities refuse to discuss a transitional government.

2014 March – Syrian Army and Hezbollah forces recapture Yabroud, the last rebel stronghold near the Lebanese border.

2014 May – Hundreds of rebels are evacuated from their last stronghold in the central city of Homs. The withdrawal marks the end of three years of resistance in the city.

‘Caliphate’ in east

2014 June – UN announces removal of Syria’s chemical weapons material complete.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants declare “caliphate” in territory from Aleppo to eastern Iraqi province of Diyala.

2014 August – Tabqa airbase, near the northern city of Raqqa, falls to Islamic State militants, who now control all of Raqqa province.

2014 September – US and five Arab countries launch air strikes against Islamic State around Aleppo and Raqqa.

2015 January – Kurdish forces push Islamic State out of Kobane on Turkish border after four months of fighting.

2015 March -Opposition offensives push back government forces. New Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest) Islamist rebel alliance, backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, captures provincial capital of Idlib.

2015 May – Islamic State fighters seize the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria and proceed to destroy many monuments at pre-Islamic World Heritage site.

Jaish al-Fatah takes control of Idlib Province, putting pressure on government’s coastal stronghold of Latakia.

2015 June – Kurds take Ain Issa and border town of Tal Abyad, Islamic State attacks Kobane and seizes part of Hassakeh, the main city in north-eastern Syria.

Russian intervention

2015 September – Russia carries out its first air strikes in Syria, saying they target the Islamic State group, but the West and Syrian opposition say it overwhelmingly targets anti-Assad rebels.

2015 December – Britain joins US-led bombing raids against Islamic State in wake of Paris suicide bombing attacks.

Syrian Army allows rebels to evacuate remaining area of Homs, returning Syria’s third-largest city to government control after four years.

2016 February – A US-Russian-brokered partial ceasefire is agreed but fails to stick, as do repeated subsequent attempts.

2016 March – Syrian government forces retake Palmyra from Islamic State, with Russian air assistance.

2016 August – Turkish troops cross into Syria to help rebel groups push back so-called Islamic State militants and Kurdish-led rebels from a section of the two countries’ border.

2016 December – Government troops, backed by Russian air power and Iranian-sponsored militas, recaptures Aleppo, the country’s largest city, depriving the rebels of their last major urban stronghold.

Palestine-Israel issue

Introduction

Image result for israel palestine conflict

Few international disputes have generated as much emotion, passion, anguish, and diplomatic gridlock as∙ the Israeli‐Palestinian conflict. Rooted in decades of clashes over religion, borders, and territory, the dispute between Israelis and∙ Palestinians has engulfed scores of politicians, diplomats, and others in a peace process in which the ultimate goal has been tantalizingly close on numerous occasions only to be dismantled at the 11th hour. While the tortured history of the conflict dates back more than a century.

 Historical Background

  • In the aftermath of WWI, the Holocaust in which six million Jewish people were killed, more Jewish peoplewanted their own country.
  • The European powers awarded Britain the right to determine Palestine’s fate. In 1937, desperate to separate∙ the feuding Jewish and Arab communities, Britain recommended partition of Palestine into two sovereign states, Arab and Jewish.
  • The Arabs rejected this proposal, unwilling to cede what they felt was Arab land to yet another colonial∙ power.
  • Following the Holocaust, Jewish refugees from Europe and Arab lands streamed into Palestine, and Jewish‐∙ Arab conflicts intensified. When partition was suggested a second time in 1947, and Israeli statehood was declared in 1948 with the support of a United Nations vote, Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations were ready to go to war for complete control of the territory. Jews, by now almost a third of its population, were prepared to defend their embryonic state.
  • The ensuing∙ War of Independence saw more than 700,000 Arabs fleeing the territory, becoming refugees under Israeli, Egyptian, or Jordanian rule. In 1948, the two sides went to war.
  • When it ended, Gaza was controlled by Egypt and another area, the West Bank, by Jordan. They contained∙ thousands of Palestinians who fled what was now the new Jewish home, Israel.
  • While the traditional Zionist narrative asserted that Arab leaders encouraged their constituents to flee (with∙ the promise of eventual victory and return), recent scholarship has shown that Jewish fighters did, at times, forcefully evict Arabs.
  • Eventually, the area designated for Palestinian sovereignty was conquered by Jordan’s Arabian monarchy.∙ Jerusalem was left a war zone, and an independent Palestinian state never emerged.
  • During the 1948 and 1967 wars hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left, or were forced out of, their∙ homes and moved to neighboring countries to become refugees. More than 4.6 million Palestinians are refugees and their descendants, many living in camps in the West∙ Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
  • They get help from the United Nations. Though the Palestinians don’t have an army, rockets are regularly fired from Gaza into Israel. Israelis living in∙ border towns are used to having to take shelter and adapting their lives to deal with the rockets.

UN Partition Plan

Finally, in 1947 the United Nations decided to intervene. However, rather than adhering to the principle of “self‐determination of peoples,” in which the people themselves create their own state and system of government, the UN chose to revert to the medieval strategy whereby an outside power divides up other people’s land.

Under considerable Zionist pressure, the UN recommended giving away 55% of Palestine to a Jewish state‐ despite the fact that this group represented only about 30% of the total population, and owned fewer than 7% of the land

1947-1949 War

  • While it is widely reported that the resulting war eventually included five Arab armies, less well known is the∙ fact that throughout this war Zionist forces outnumbered all Arab and Palestinian combatants combined – often by a factor of two to three. Moreover, Arab armies did not invade Israel – virtually all battles were fought on land that was to have been the Palestinian state.
  • Finally, it is significant to note that Arab armies entered the conflict only after Zionist forces had committed∙ 16 massacres, including the grisly massacre of over 100 men, women, and children at Deir Yassin. Future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, head of one of the Jewish terrorist groups, described this as “splendid,” and stated: “As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest.” Zionist forces committed 33 massacres altogether.
  • By the end of the war, Israel had conquered 78 percent of Palestine; three‐quarters of a million Palestinians had been made refugees; over 500 towns and villages had been obliterated; and a new map was drawn up, in which every city, river and hillock received a new, Hebrew name, as all vestiges of the Palestinian culture were to be erased. For decades Israel denied the existence of this population, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir once saying: “There was no such thing as Palestinians.

1967 War & USS Liberty

In 1967, Israel conquered still more land. Following the “Six Day War,” in which Israeli forces launched a highly successful surprise attack on Egypt, Israel occupied the final 22% of Palestine that had eluded it in 1948 – the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Since, according to international law it is inadmissible to acquire territory by war, these are occupied territories and do not belong to Israel. It also occupied parts of Egypt (since returned) and Syria (which remain under occupation).

Also during the Six Day War, Israel attacked a US Navy ship, the USS Liberty, killing and injuring over 200 American servicemen. President Lyndon Johnson recalled rescue flights, saying that he did not want to “embarrass an ally.” (In 2004 a high‐level commission chaired by Admiral Thomas Moorer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, found this attack to be “an act of war against the United States,” a fact few news.

UN Security Council

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, which called for peace between Israel and its neighbors in exchange for Israel giving back the land it had acquired during the Six Day War. Negotiations about how to implement it went nowhere. The Sinai was returned to Egypt under a separate peace deal in 1979, but the Golan Heights and the Palestinian territories remain under occupation.

The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza were not given citizenship in Israel or equal protection or benefits under the law. The Israeli government also violated the Geneva Conventions by confiscating Palestinian land and water resources and building settlements on the West Bank and Gaza. For twenty years, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza were a traumatized, defeated, docile population, routinely humiliated by soldiers and used as cheap labor in the Israeli economy.

First Intifada

  • Then in 1987, the Palestinian population collectively rose up against Israel’s repressive policies. The uprising, which became known as the first Intifada, was characterized by mass civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts, refusals to pay taxes, and Palestinian youths throwing stones at Israeli tanks and soldiers. The word intifada means ‘shaking off,’ and this was the Palestinians first attempt to assert their own national identity rather than waiting for Arab armies or the UN to do it for them.
  • More than 1,100 Palestinians and 150 Israelis were killed in the ensuing five years, and tens of thousands more Palestinians were injured or arrested. The conflict was a public relations disaster for Israel. Videos were shown around the world of Palestinians armed only with flags and slingshots facing down tanks, and of Israeli soldiers beating terrified Palestinian children.
  • Israel began to lose its cherished image as the David against the Arab Goliath. Instead it began to be seen as the Goliath against the Palestinian David. Israelis also began to realize that the occupation could not be maintained indefinitely without cost. Many on the Israeli left began to oppose the occupation.
  • The Intifada also worried Yasser Arafat, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a coalition of Palestinian nationalist resistance groups with Fatah at its center. Founded in 1964, it was admitted to the UN with observer status in 1974 and was regarded as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
  • It initially operated out of Jordan and Lebanon, engaging in guerrilla tactics in an attempt to regain Palestine by force of arms. It was expelled from Jordan in 1971 by King Hussein, then expelled from Lebanon in 1982 by Israel, at which point it fled to Tunisia.
  • By the time the Intifada broke out, the PLO was largely out of touch with life in the Palestinian territories. It had played no part in leading or organizing the Intifada. In 1988, in order to gain recognition for the PLO and save himself from irrelevance, Arafat agreed to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism. It was a historic compromise. He unilaterally surrendered Palestinian claims to 78% of historic Palestine and agreed to focus aspirations for Palestinian statehood solely on the remaining 22% ‐ the West Bank and Gaza. Five years later, in 1993, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords, hailed as a blueprint for peace between the two peoples.
  • It was the first time Israelis and Palestinians publicly recognized each other as partners for negotiations toward peace rather than enemies who might be defeated by force of arms. (In October 1994, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan, leaving Syria and Lebanon the only countries bordering Israel still in a state of conflict with it.) After that, the ‘two‐state solution’ became the mantra of the mainstream.
  • The Accords created the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Arafat and his associates and based in Ramallah. It had limited administrative and security duties in the West Bank and Gaza while Israel retained control of water, airspace, borders, imports, exports, residency, travel, taxation, currency, etc.
  • This arrangement was supposed to last for a five‐year period during which Israel and the PA would engage in trust‐building measures and negotiate final‐status issues such as East Jerusalem, refugees, borders, and settlements. It was hoped that an independent Palestinian state‐and peace‐would follow.

 Second Intifada

The explosive atmosphere reached a flashpoint in September of 2000, when the second Intifada erupted.Soon afterwards, Israelis voted in a new Prime Minister ‐‐ Ariel Sharon of the right‐wing Likud party. The unrest spiraled from Palestinian protests and deadly Israeli repression into riots, assassinations, suicide bombings, and massive Israeli military incursions. The conflict became known as the second Intifada.

 India’s balanced attitude since past

  • India’s balancing act between its Israeli and Palestinian friends is a relatively recent phenomenon. For most of its pre and post‐independence history, New Delhi viewed the Israeli‐Palestinian conflict through an ideological lens and in zero‐sum terms, pursuing a foreign policy antagonistic towards the Jewish state.
  • India was one of the first nations to recognise Palestine’s cause and it was the first non‐Arab state to∙ recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974.
  • In fact, India refused to grant Israel full diplomatic recognition until 1992, the last major non‐Muslim country to do so. Such hostility towards Israel is surprising given the similarities the two countries share.
  • Both nations are former members of the British colonial system, are surrounded by traditionally hostile states, are islands of democracy in the middle of generally undemocratic regions, and are constant victims of Islamic extremism. Despite these similarities, New Delhi maintained an unsympathetic posture towards Israel from its earliest days.
  • Several factors, including a fear of alienating its large Muslim population, Cold War politics, a desire to counter Pakistan’s influence in the Muslim world, and a need to garner Arab support for its position over the Kashmir issue compelled New Delhi to pursue an exclusively pro‐Arab and thus pro‐Palestinian foreign policy for more than forty years. Such a policy translated into India reflexively condemning Jewish aspirations in Palestine and later the Jewish∙ state itself while instinctively supporting the Palestinian position.
  • After more than four decades of such policy imbalance, however, a host of developments, notably the end of Cold War, exposed the discredited and anachronistic assumptions underlying India’s Middle East policy, and forced New Delhi to recalibrate its approach towards the region to reflect new international realities. India’s cherished Non‐Aligned Movement (NAM) lost its validity following the end of the Cold War and with it, New Delhi’s ideological justification for its staunchly pro‐Palestinian and anti‐Israeli position.
  • Additionally, the 1991 Madrid Peace Process prompted India to conclude that if the Arab world and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) were now willing to negotiate with Israel, New Delhi had no reason to maintain the status quo. India also realized by this time that its longstanding and unqualified support for the Palestinians had reaped few, if any, dividends for New Delhi over the Kashmir issue or any other dispute involving Pakistan for that matter. New Delhi has continued to deepen its relations with Israel while simultaneously showcasing its ties to the Palestinians, deftly pursuing both bilateral relationships in tandem. That neither side sees any inconsistency in India doing so is a testament to New Delhi’s newfound diplomatic dexterity.
  • India’s skillful balancing act between its Israeli and Palestinian counterparts is an enlightening illustration of the transformation Indian foreign policy has experienced since the end of the Cold War.
  • Although India has not entirely jettisoned some of its outdated instincts that previously shaped its approach to the region, it is no longer guided by zero‐sum calculations or held hostage by outdated ideologies.

Present India-Israel relations

  • Abandoning ideology for pragmatism and zero‐sum calculations for a more fair balanced approach, India finally extended full diplomatic recognition to Israel in 1992. Ties between the two countries have flourished since then with India and Israel sharing a congruence of interests in several areas and embarking on a multidimensional “strategic partnership” as a result.
  • The two natural allies have made counter terrorism and military cooperation the center piece of their bilateral relations, which is unsurprising considering both countries share similar strategic outlooks and face constant assault from Islamic terrorism.
  • New Delhi has benefited from Israel’s expertise in counterterrorism training and border security, while Israel has emerged as one of India’s most important sources of sophisticated military equipment and weapons systems. Economic cooperation as well as collaboration in space research, trade, science and technology, and education is also thriving between India and Israel.
  • Although India’s dynamic relationship with Israel advances a series of critically important Indian interests, New Delhi has not allowed its robust ties with the Jewish state to dilute its historic bonds with the Palestinian people. Whether India can sustain the success it has achieved is yet to be seen, but so far, India’s new foreign policy calculus towards the Middle East is a welcome departure from decades past.

 India-Palestine relations

India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and its attitude to the Palestinian question was given voice through our freedom struggle by Mahatma Gandhi. India’s empathy with the Palestinian cause and its friendship with the people of Palestine have become an integral part of its time‐tested foreign policy.

In 1947, India voted against the partition of Palestine at the United Nations General Assembly. India was the first Non‐Arab State to recognize PLO as sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1974. India was one of the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine in 1988. In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the Palestine Authority in Gaza, which later was shifted to Ramallah in 2003.

Apart from the strong political support to the Palestinian cause at international and bilateral levels, India has been contributing, since long time, material and technical assistance to the Palestinian people. With the Government of India’s aid, two projects were completed in the field of higher education i.e. Jawaharlal Nehru Library at the Al Azhar University in Gaza city and the Mahatma Gandhi Library‐cum‐Student Activity Centre at the Palestine Technical College at Deir Al Balah in the Gaza Strip.

Under India‐Brazil‐South Africa (IBSA) Forum’s assistance, an Indoor Multi‐purpose Sports Complex has been constructed in Ramallah Al Quds hospital in Gaza is in the process of reconstruction and the process of building a rehabilitation centre in Nablus has started. Trade between India and Palestine has shown steady improvement.

Products imported from India include fabrics, yarns, readymade garments, household appliances, stationery products, leather products, industrial tools and accessories, basmati rice, spices, vaccines and pharmaceutical products, sanitary wares, marble and granites.

India’s recent steps towards Israel and Palestine

Belief that is growing as India’s tilt towards the Israel is shown by following incidence:

  • Increase in burgeoning military relationship of India with Israel.
  • India refused to vote against Israel in a resolution related to strikes in Gaza over a period of two months in 2014 that left more than 2,200 dead, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians. The vote was on a report, submitted during the UNHRC’s summer session in Geneva a year later that blamed Israel for what it called “extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius.
  • India’s abstention from voting can be termed as a departure from India’s traditional position on Palestine∙ that has remained unwavering since the last seven decades.
  • India’s engagement with Israel has grown substantially in the last two decades on military, scientific, commercial and agricultural matters.
  • The affinity has been less ideological than pragmatic, each side understanding the other’s needs. Israel remains uncomfortable about India’s close ties with Iran, just as India looks warily at Israel’s relationship with China.
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