The Arab world will always be with India, but it now seems that New Delhi will have to play an active role cautiously in restoring peace in West Asia. Also, India should play an effective role in reducing hostilities between the belligerent Israel and Palestine. This message has been conveyed to India during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recently concluded four-day visit to the UAE, Oman and Palestine.
According to diplomatic sources, the South Asian nation has accepted the proposal after considering its national interest. The Modi government has decided to start the ‘back channel’ diplomacy on this issue.
PM Modi’s recent visit to West Asia is important mainly because of two reasons. Firstly, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) – the state-owned oil company of the UAE – agreed to fill up the 1.5 million tonne strategic petroleum reserve in southern Indian city of Mangalore at its own capital spending. Secondly, ADNOC allowed a consortium of Indian oil companies to pick up 10% stake in Abu Dhabi oil fields. Moreover, India received Oman’s nod to set up a military base in Al Duqm port. That’s why New Delhi has decided to try to ‘normalise’ Palestine-Israel relations.
Just before his visit to West Asia, PM Modi received a phone call from US President Donald Trump. The president informed Modi that Washington would not ‘disturb’ Palestine in near future. The Palestine issue is an important one, as far as the regional geopolitics is concerned. According to diplomatic sources, President Trump discussed the issue with PM Modi as he is well aware of the fact that India is maintaining close ties with Israel (and also with Palestine). The top Indian political leadership knows that New Delhi can cement its ties with the Arab world, if it can encourage Israel to carry on the peace process with Palestine. Palestine is a very sensitive issue for the Arab nations. In exchange, India will not only receive huge benefits from the Arab world, but can also isolate Pakistan in the region.
It may be taken into account that a large portion of the amount of foreign currency India earned in 2017 (USD 69 billion) came from the Arab countries. Currently, India has an estimated 63 days of commercial storage in the country, including crude oil, petroleum products and gas. But, the agreement with ADNOC will help India enjoy 76 days of commercial storage of crude oil. PM Modi knows that the West Asian nations can help India boost its economy.
Moreover, India can counter China’s growing influence in the strategically important Indian Ocean Region by setting up the military base in Oman’s Duqm port. Top Indian diplomats and senior officials of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs are of the opinion that the access to Omani port would help India check China at Pakistan’s Gwadar port. They welcomed the bilateral agreement that would give the Indian Navy access to the Duqm port and it would certainly have far-reaching consequences for India’s strategic reach in the Indian Ocean. As India had signed an agreement with the UAE for joint naval exercises in the Persian Gulf in March 2017, the South Asian country is making a slow, but steady progress in increasing its presence in the area. In January, India signed a revised agreement with Seychelles to set up “military infrastructure” on the island of Assumption. A similar agreement was signed with Mauritius to build a defence infrastructure on Agalega Island.
Meanwhile, experts have admitted that India took time to acknowledge the importance of Duqm, where the US had set up its base in 2013-14 and the UK in 2017. With India having the closest and longest political ties with Oman, the move will help New Delhi utilise the geo-strategic importance of the Omani port to increase its influence in the crucial waterways of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Interestingly, Oman – the “non-aligned” country in West Asia and a part of the Gulf Co-operation Council – also maintains close ties with (India’s friends) Iran and Qatar.
So, one may say it’s advantage India.
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