QUAD in West Asia - A New Beginning - Daily Current Affair Article

Why in news?

Recently, the virtual meet of the foreign ministers of India, the US, Israel and the UAE is a strong manifestation of the changes in West Asian geopolitics. A year ago, Israel and UAE did not have formal diplomatic relations but their growing cooperation is opening up opportunities for countries like India.

Reasons of establishment of QUAD in West Asia:

  • In Israel, the 12 year reign of Benjamin Netanyahu was replaced by a new government led by Naftali Bennett.
  • He promised to narrow the conflict with the Palestinians that was widened by Netanyahu.
  • Israel and UAE went to conduct talks to enhance economic and technological cooperation.
  • West Asian countries are looking forward to engage into trade relations by entering into various free trade agreements.
  • From past many years, India has built vibrant bilateral ties with all the countries like with Israel in defence area, with UAE for oil but now, the West Asian region is opening doors for a multilateral engagement on the grounds of QUAD of US, Australia, Japan, India which have common concerns and shared interests.

Reasons for India's participation:

  • The meeting of four nations, points to India's strategic desire to adopt a regional foreign policy strategy towards West Asia.
  • India already has its soft power maintained in West Asia and with the new alliance, India is looking forward to engage on various fields of technology like AI, Big data, Quantum computing.
  • The new QUAD of West Asia will certainly make India to adopt wide ranging minilateral partnerships in the region benefitting trade and commerce.
  • The gulf country UAE hosts millions of Indian workers and around 8 million Indian diaspora is living out there in middle east, so, India has obviously some valid strong reasons to play an active role in the region to increase people to people engagement more culturally which will eventually affect the geo-politics of the region.

India-Israel relations:

  • India-Israel relations began way back in 1950 when India recognized the country of Israel and fully diplomatic relations established in 1992.
  • Israel is one of India's top defense suppliers.
  • Israel was one of the few countries that did not condemn India's Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998 and also supported India by supplying mortar ammunition to India in the war against Pakistan in 1965.
  • Economic collaboration:

  1. India is Israel's third largest trade partner in Asia.
  2. India-Israel bilateral trade constitutes 40% of trade in diamonds.
  3. Israel also invested in India's energy, telecom, water technology sectors.

Defense collaboration:

  1. For India, Israel has always been top four arms suppliers with around sale of military weapons and equipments of worth USD 1 billion every year.
  2. Some of the defense equipments equipped by India from Israel are Phalcon Airborne warning and control system, Heron, Searcher-11 and harop drones, crystal maze and spice-2000 bombs, barak anti-missile defense systems.

Agricultural collaboration:

  1. India and Israel constituted the Indo-Israel Agricultural Project that focussed on dairy farming techniques and micro-irrigation.
  2. Israel offered training to Indian farmers on various fields of vertical farming, drip irrigation, soil solarisation by using Israeli technologies.

India-UAE relations:

  • The bilateral relations between India and UAE are much strong since 1966 after the accession of HH Shaikh Zayad Bin Sultan At Nahyan as the ruler of Abu Dhabi.
  • The relationship among the two countries is strongly based on age-old cultural, religious and economic engagements.

Economic relations:

  1. UAE has been one of the India's leading sources of FDI and also remittances.
  2. UAE has always been vital for India's energy security. UAE accounts for 8 percent of India's oil imports and was fifth largest supplier of crude oil to India.
  3. And UAE is India's third largest trading partner after China and the US.

Security and Defense relations:

  1. India-UAE has growing cooperation and engagement in security and defense areas.
  2. Desert Eagle-II is a 10 day air combat exercise which was hold between air forces of UAE and India.
  3. India and UAE are engaging on areas of combating terrorism and radicalization and enhancing security in the region.

Cultural relations:

  1. The two countries share people to people engagement and historical ties as well. They also signed a cultural agreement in 1975 to organise various cultural activities among them.

Traditional pillars to India's West Asia Policy:

  • The three pillars to India's West Asian Policy in the past included – the Sunni Gulf monarchies, Israel and Iran.
  • Now, as the gap between the Sunni Kingdoms and Israel is being narrowed, especially after the signing of Abraham Accord, which provides a new platform for cooperation and engagement for India.
  • India's foreign policy should be based on non-ideological engagement with middle-east countries but India should be careful not to get sucked in to the many conflicts of West Asia because the issues between Arabs and Iran remains as intense as ever.

Abraham Accords:

  • It is a joint statement made between the US, Israel, UAE on 13, August 2020.
  • The agreement took place between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE to normalise their relations and began cooperation.
  • It is first Arab-Israeli peace deal in 26 years. The agreement includes- establishment of embassies and information and ambassadors exchange between UAE, Bahrain and Israel, working in the areas of tourism, health, security.
  • Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel in 1979 and then Jordan in 1994.

Area of cooperation in the new QUAD:

  • The areas in which deep engagement can be done are energy, trade and commerce, climate change challenges, maritime security.
  • The nations should work upon strengthening religious tolerance and solve conflicts more peacefully and strategically.
  • The new QUAD should engage talks on issues of water and environment protection as these are some critical areas that need to work upon in a holistic way.
  • Along with above cooperation, nations should work towards free-trade agreements and preferential trade agreements to increase flow of trade between them.

Challenges in the region:

  • Although with the signing of the Abraham Accord, it became easier for India to find a common ground of cooperation between the Israelis and the emirates but here, the contradiction between the Iran and the new QUAD emerging is still a very crucial point that need to be address more strategically.
  • The US is seeing this an opportunity to engage the West Asia into more diplomatic way and tackle the rise of China in the region but India needs to very careful to not involve in any kind of overt engagement which is against China and Iran.

Suggestions and way forward:

  • India needs an art of balancing in the Middle East and West Asia to secure its long term strategic interests of enhancing cooperation and emerging as a regional player.
  • India will have to work closely with countries such as Iran to deal with the challenges that rose from a post- American Afghanistan.
  • To emerge more strong in the region, India has to build and retain a healthy relationship with Iran and parallely cooperate in regional partnership with the US-Israel-UAE bloc.
General Studies Paper 2
  • International Relation