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Friday, September 18, 2020

Explained Ideas: Why New Delhi must stand up for Arab sovereignty

India’s geopolitical interests are in close alignment with moderate Arab centre, writes C Raja Mohan.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 19, 2020 2:06:48 pm
India Arab Gulf, India UAE ties, India Saudi Arabia ties, Indian ExpressPrime Minister Narendra Modi with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Hyderabad House in New Delhi in February 2019. (Express Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

The geopolitical realignment in the Middle East, marked by last week’s agreement on the normalisation of relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, intersects with the equally significant reorientation of the Subcontinent’s relationship with the region.

“As Pakistan rediscovers its tradition of aligning with non-Arab powers, India must renew its defence of Arab sovereignty,” argues C Raja Mohan, Director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. Read in Tamil

(Illustration by C R Sasikumar)

In his latest column in The Indian Express, Mohan states that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the engagement with the Arab Gulf has become deeper. The last six years have also coincided with a significant deterioration of Pakistan’s relations with the region, especially with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Here is the essence of the emerging contradiction between Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the one hand and Pakistan on the other. Saudis and Emiratis see sharpening existential threats to their kingdoms from both the Sunni Muslim brotherhood backed by Turkey and Shiite Iran’s regional expansionism.

On the other hand, Imran Khan appears to be dreaming of a new regional alliance with Turkey and Iran. Pakistan is also betting that a rising China and an assertive Russia will both support this new geopolitical formation as part of their own efforts to oust America from the Middle East.

For Turkey and Iran, the new non-Arab alliance backed by Russia and China is an instrument to advance their role in the Arab world at the expense of the Saudis.

It is no secret that Russians would like to bring the US down a notch or two in the Middle East. Beijing will be happy to let the Russians, Turks, and Iranians be the anti-American vanguard, while consolidating China’s economic influence in the region.

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Islamabad is probably betting that America is on its way out of the Middle East, and that its all-weather strategic partnership with a rising China would give Pakistan new leverage in the changing Middle East.

That is why, Mohan believes, that “standing up for Arab sovereignty and opposing the forces of regional destabilisation must be at the very heart of India’s new engagement with the Middle East”.

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