There had been many rumours running thick in and out of the country, pitching against Modi and BJP especially on the foreign policy front. Some of them raised the doubts that the Prime Minister, who is a bogey of Hindu Rashtra, will mess up with West Asian region. The grand welcome of Modi in United Arab Emirates (UAE) where the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahayan and his five brothers went to the airport, breaking the established diplomatic protocol to welcome the Bharatiya Prime Minister. This shows the value of Bharat in the Gulf.
He is the first Prime Minister who visited the region after 34 years. The Congress regime had neglected and ignored this region for almost five decades. Modi as the Prime Minister has realised that changing geopolitical currents in the West Asia are more important for Bharat. Moreover, the foreign policy of the country about the Islamic countries was driven by ideological prism and factors of domestic vote bank. Modi liberated the foreign policy from such stratification.
PM Modi’s two day trip has elevated Bharat’s position in the UAE which is strategically very important for the country. The oil-rich Gulf remains the main source of Bharat’s growing hydrocarbon imports. It is home to more than six million Indian expatriate workers. They send remittance worth nearly 50 $ billion every year. With its large foreign currency reserves, the Gulf kingdoms are also potentially a big source of investment in Bharat’s infrastructure. The UAE is Bharat’s third largest trading partner after the US and China.
Crusader against Global Terrorism
The PM Narendra Modi’s address to 70,000 strong Indian Community at Dubai by declaring an open challenge to terrorism and his Call of Unity amongst the World Countries against it and questioning the United Nations about its failure to decide about the definition of Terrorism in clear terms has further unfolded his brave face in front of World Powers. Further, by having a Joint declaration with UAE for collective fight against terrorism by denouncing, opposing it in all forms and manifestation by including sharing of intelligence information and bringing the culprits to book, he has unnerved Pakistan to a great extent and has clearly exposed Pakistan by spelling out about good terrorism and bad terrorism and explained further that India has been victim of terrorism for the last 40 years and is fighting a relent less War against it. Not only this, link of ISI with Dawood Ibrahim has also been unearthed in front of Emirates Authorities and handing over of dossier to them will enable India to succeed in its efforts in confiscation of his property and big empire in UAE. He could also receive UAE’s clear cut support on Bharat’s claim for permanent seat in UN Security Council.
The emergence of UAE as a city state, luring many big countries not merely for oil and energy but for greater investment; Bharat and China are two major countries where surplus labour and crisis of employment is a national issue. Gulf countries provide an opportunity to accommodate large chunk of labour forces from Bharat and other south Asian countries. The security concern for Arab countries is the most important. The traditional security provider to the region is the US. Earlier Iran’s Islamic revolution and later on Saddam’s despotic approach challenged their security. Now the simmering IS structures are posing serious threat. That is why country like Bharat which promotes the political modernisation and religious tolerance is well taken by UAE. The role of US is synchronising gradually in the region, therefore the alternative for UAE is between Bharat and China. The track record of Bharatiya foreign policy is of conciliation and cooperation suits more to the interests of the Gulf Countries. Recently Chinese official newspapers portrayed negative image of Islam and categorised it as the most dangerous religion of the world. China did prohibit the Uyghur Muslim from taking fast during Ramjan period whereas Bharat having the second largest Muslim population in the world, never posed threat to other countries.
The Worst Carnage
Intro: On August 16, a bomb exploded outside the temple in central Bangkok killing more than 20 people is being seen as the worst carnage in any single attack in Thailand.
Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, known for its ornate shrines and vibrant street life was shaken by the bomb blast close to Erawan Temple killing more than 20 people and injuring more than 120. The perpetrators behind the explosions wanted heavy casualties as revealed in the modus operandi. The Erawan Temple is a major tourist attraction in Bangkok dedicated to the Hindu god Brahma. Although Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, it has enormous Hindu influence on its religious practices and language.
UAE is the third largest trading partner of Bharat and the sixth biggest exporter of oil to Bharat, UAE is religiously less conservative and more open compared to other Gulf monarchies. These factors have been magnets for Bharatiya migrants, who now number a whopping 30 per cent of the UAE’s population and contribute 20 per cent of Bharat’s total remittance.
PM Modi intelligently targeted Pakistan and made it clear to Arab world how it has been becoming epicenter of Islamic terrorism. A joint statement, issued after talks between Prime Minister Modi and UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, asked countries to abandon the use of terrorism against others and dismantle terror infrastructures on their soil. In a veiled message to Pakistan, the statement made it clear: The two nations reject extremism and any link between religion and terrorism. They condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries. They also deplore efforts by countries, calling on all states to reject to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and disputes, including in West and South Asia, and use of terrorism to pursue their aims. It said the two countries denounce and oppose terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever.
The UAE has been seeking international support to counter IS propaganda and activities. New Delhi, on its part, agreed to coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religions by groups and countries. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said: The growth of terrorism and the fact that radicalisation and misuse of religion has contributed to it is something which both countries share. We both see manifestations of it around us and clearly that is one source of concern. Enhancing cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and capacity building, the two countries decided to “work together to control, regulate and share information on flow of funds that could have a bearing on radicalisation activities and cooperate in interdicting illegal flows and take action against concerned individuals and organisations” and establishes points of contact between their security agencies.
UAE-Bharat signed Infrastructure Investment Fund. The UAE will cooperate in the manufacture of defence equipment in Bharat and “encourage the investment institutions of UAE to raise their investments in Bharat, including through the establishment of UAE-Bharat Infrastructure Investment Fund, with the aim of reaching a target of USD 75 billion to support investment in Bharat’s plans for rapid expansion of next generation infrastructure, especially in railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors and parks.” The target is to increase trade between the two countries by 60 per cent in the next five years. New Delhi also got the UAE to back its bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, and push for adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The joint statement paved the way for promotion of a strategic partnership in the energy sector, including through UAE’s participation in Bharat in the development of strategic petroleum reserves, upstream and downstream petroleum sectors, and collaboration in third countries. There will be enhanced cooperation to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean region and promote collaboration and inter-operability for humanitarian assistance and evacuation in natural disasters and conflict situations.
Modi used two cards namely Bharat’s image and Diaspora. The economics of Bharat and many West Asia countries are complimentary to each other. Modi has been trying to create a strong structural bondage with Arab countries. That is why Bharat hosted the Bharat-Arab Cooperation Forum in November 2014, promoting existing Indo-Arab engagements and annual ministerial exchanges. In cooperation with the league of Arab States, Delhi held the fourth India-Arab Partnership Conference as part of an effort to elevate relations. Soon after his elections, Modi organised the first session of the India-Arab League Media Symposium. Bharat’s relations with the West Asia were, for many years, driven purely by economics. But now, new strategic factors are at play. The West Asia is located on the Western edge of what Bharat sees as its sphere of influence- the Indian Ocean. The nation has historic trade roots sweeping as far as the Mediterranean. Better ties with the Arab states could help Bharat weaken Pakistan’s global influence. The Gulf Cooperation Council has already shifted away from Pakistani claims of its own relevance in the perpetual standoff against Iran for West Asian hegemony, opening the doors for potentially stronger ties with Bharat.
Bharat has greater dependence on Gulf States than China does, due to its reliance on both energy and remittance from the region. Bharat’s relations with countries in the region are relatively stable. Delhi rarely reacts to major world events through military threat or sanctions. Global power is shifting eastward, and Bharat is poised to expand its strategic ties with the West Asia. Modi has also made it clear that this region is very important for Bharat. Delhi has planned out long term visions in the Gulf. The Chinese made their way in the Gulf and definitely much ahead to Bharat. But Bharat has many edges over China. Not merely the Bharatiya Diaspora but US backing of Bharat is equally important. The diminishing image of Pakistan through the organisation of Islamic state is positive signal for Bharat. Bharat must translate these agreements into actions. Modi is making Bharat a friend of all, not swayed by religion nor by any ideology. It is nation supreme.
Dr Satish Kumar (The writer is Head of Centre for International Relations Central University of Jharkhand, Ranchi)