The agreement between Jewish Israel and the United Arab Emirates, known as the ‘Abraham Accord’ that has been brokered by the Christian US, holds little hope for the divided Middle East unless a true change of heart occurs among the followers of the three Abrahamic faiths. This uncertainty offers India a window of opportunity to not only participate in the common business platforms but also widen the scope and scale of the emerging security arrangements in the Middle East, which can have far-reaching and positive significance concerning any action plan on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
But even before the ink could dry, the UAE-Israel agreement has run into controversy on the Palestinian issue. The UAE has interpreted the reference in the relevant clause to mean an “immediate end” to Israeli plans to annex areas in the West Bank under its control. The Israeli officials have stuck to the word “suspend” to suggest negotiations with Palestine would continue.
Naturally then, New Delhi will have to study the accord, go into the background details and deeply ruminate over the likely fallout of the agreement in the Indian and regional context, especially in the emerging post-Covid-19 world order. The Palestinian cause has been relegated to the background in the wake of economic meltdown, falling demand for oil, and rising joblessness due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Moreover, this emerging non-Arab coalition would like to see the back of the US in the Arab world. But the Arab solidarity is not yet a thing of the past and it is too early to conclude that the US has vacated the Middle East.
The post-Covid-19 world order is likely to be very different from what it appears to be now. New Delhi should prepare itself for an enhanced and more active role in the new and emerging geopolitical architecture.
So far so good
It helps that when the Trump administration was moving its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, India was continuing with its “neutral posturing” with a view to balance its strategic engagement with the US and Israel and the economic and energy security pacts with the Arab World.
China, meanwhile, formalised its ‘four-point’ position on the Israel-Palestine conflict as enumerated by President Xi Jinping in his July 2017 speech with a close resemblance to India’s position of calibrated balancing with a realist approach to national interest. Interestingly, Pakistan has refused to toe the Arab big brother’s line in recognising Israel.
Invoking Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan Prime Minister, in a veiled reference to the UAE, has said that “whatever any country does we cannot ever accept Israel as long as Palestinians are not given their rights”. What is important to note is his reasoning that (if Pakistan accepted Israel and ignored the oppression of the Palestinians), “we will have to give up Kashmir as well then”.
Seen in this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made all the right moves so far.
Breaking all taboo, Modi in 2017 became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel. India-Israel defence trade is likely to touch the $20-billion mark with India becoming one of the core countries to be dealing with the high-powered defence ministry department SIBAT in Israel. The best part of Modi’s balancing act was revealed when the Arab world took notice of the immense opportunities in India and signalled its readiness to work on trade and investments. More importantly, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)’s refusal to allow a stand-alone meeting on Kashmir issue signals a new era of understanding of New Delhi’s position.
But Delhi needs to watch out
One significant subject in the Abraham Accord is the increased security cooperation between Israel and the UAE against regional threats. Needless to say, the three parties to the accord have a common adversary in Iran. The Trump administration recently seized three Venezuela-bound Iranian oil tankers, with both countries facing heavily punitive sanctions by the US.
Given the effect of US sanctions and its strict implementation, the increased clout of the new partners in the Middle East and elsewhere and the emerging new alliances between China and Iran and Iran-Turkey-Malaysia, New Delhi has to go back to the drawing board for a fresh policy formulation.
China is deeply entrenched in Gwadar and the Indian Ocean region. Tehran is having serious rethink over India’s role in the Chabahar Port project. Turkey, which has threatened to recall its ambassador from Abu Dhabi, is busy forging a new non-Arab Islamic alliance to include Pakistan and Malaysia to achieve its dream of reviving the Khilafat-2, especially at a time when a section of the Arab world seems to be distancing itself from the Palestinian cause while cosying up to Israel. In the event of this non-Arab Islamic coalition gaining ground, it would be interesting to see which way Beijing tilts and what this portends for New Delhi and the region.
The economic catastrophe brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic is probably posing a real challenge and forcing new and hitherto unexpected alignments that will impact India seriously.
The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.