Context: The meeting in Riyadh between Saudi Arabia and the US, UAE, and India underlines the growing strategic convergence between Delhi and Washington in the Gulf.
What is unique about this meeting?
A major departure from the traditional approaches to the Middle East in both India and US.
In India, the Nehruvian foreign policy either opposed Washington or kept its distance from the US in the Middle East.
|Recent changes in India’s foreign policy||Impact|
|Shedding its “anti-Western” lens in the Middle East. Joining hands with the US (in the Middle East), openly showcased its friendly relations to Israel.||Transformed India’s relations with the two Arabian kingdoms – Saudi Arabia and the UAE, into solid strategic partnerships.|
|France has emerged as an important partner in the Gulf and the Western Indian Ocean. India now has a trilateral dialogue with Abu Dhabi and Paris.||The formation of a four-nation grouping (in October 2021) called I2U2 brought the US, India, Israel, and the UAE together.|
|Delhi and London are expected to work together in the Gulf soon. Britain enjoys much residual influence in the Gulf.||A new quadrilateral with the US, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. |
Recent changes in USA’s foreign policy:
- Pakistan was a key part of the Baghdad Pact (1955), Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the Regional Cooperation for Development (1964) to counter the Communist threat to the region.
- However, it does not figure in the current strategy to connect the Gulf with the Subcontinent.
- This means the US is discarding its pro-Pakistan bias in thinking about the relationship between the Subcontinent and the Gulf and building new partnerships, including with Delhi.
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What led to the changes in the foreign policies of India and the US?
- The decline in the Role of Pakistan in the Middle East:
- Pakistan’s continuing strategic decline, and socio-economic-political challenges.
- Pakistan has drifted too close to China (all-weather partnership), tempted to align with China and Russia in the region.
- The rising power of the Arabian Peninsula:
- The Gulf kingdoms (especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE) have accumulated massive financial capital and economic transformation will reduce their dependence on oil.
- They have also begun to diversify their strategic partnerships, develop nationalism, promote religious tolerance and initiate social reform.
India’s new possibilities in the Arabian Peninsula:
- Regional partnership with the US is seen in terms of geopolitical competition with China, elevating its own standing in the region.
- Economic growth and productive involvement in promoting connectivity and security.
- Overcoming violent religious extremism within the Subcontinent.
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Beijing is the second most important power in the world now, and its diplomatic and political influence in the Gulf region will continue to rise.
Seizing the new strategic opportunities in the Gulf would involve the long overdue modernisation of Delhi’s strategic discourse on the Gulf.
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Strategic convergence between the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia,Strategic convergence between the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia