Q. What are the measures India could adopt to expand its presence in the West Asian region?
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Replied by Hirak J Das

India’s places high strategic value to the West Asian region. The level of engagement has heightened under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act West Policy. The application of ‘Look and Act West Policy’ to strategically engage and expand the collaborative matrix with the region especially with the GCC states and Israel has been quite effective. India has preserved the special relationship with Iran despite its warm ties with Saudi Arabia. Currently, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are among the largest trade partners for India.

  • India should increase engagement with regional organisations.
  • India should develop strategic understanding with informal coalitions such as Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and Russia as well as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, and Egypt coalition.
  • India’s sphere of engagement should encompass political, economic, academic, cultural, trade, defence, and cyber-security.
  • India should appoint a special envoy as well as build a team of imminent personalities comprising of security experts and diplomats that could engage in informal engagement to set the priorities and address its interests to the West Asian states. On multilateral level, India-West Asia summits could be organised to deepen engagement and it could participate in multi-lateral peace initiatives and offer its expertise in conflict resolution.
  • The government should generate expertise and create specialists with in-depth knowledge of the region which could be appointed in the External Affairs Ministry and research think-tanks.
  • India has successfully managed to de-hyphenate Israel-Palestine issue and maintains cordial ties with both Israel and Palestinian Authority. Similarly, India needs to detach dealing with the region through a Pakistan prism.
  • India must also grab the opportunity to participate in post-war reconstruction in Syria, Libya and Yemen and engage in capacity-building exercises in training civil servants, imparting knowledge on the electoral process and parliamentary procedure and infrastructure development.
  • The government should also take advantage of India’s cultural assets which could be used as soft power including joint production of movies. Indian movies have very high viewership in the region.
  • India should optimise its firm ties with oil rich states in the region to develop strategic petroleum reserve.
  • India needs to articulate its own extended boundary from South East Asia to East Africa and redefine its regional strategic architecture. In its efforts, the cooperation in maritime domain needs to be intensified to assert itself as regional power and counter China’s overtures.
Date : 19/03/2021
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