Thr third round of the India-Arab League bilateral dialogue ended on Thursday with the Arab side pressing India to urge Israel and other parties in the West Asian crisis to work towards a peaceful settlement.
Heshm Yousef, chief of the cabinet of the Arab League secretary general, who led the Arab League delegation, told reporters later that India had reaffirmed its support for the “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people”. However, he said, while the Arab people appreciate this support, Arab public opinion is against India’s military cooperation with Israel, which it considers an occupying force.
India did not normalise its relations with Israel until 1992 in deference to its ties with the Arab world. However, bilateral ties have grown significantly since then, and Israel is today India’s second largest arms supplier.
India’s relations with Israel, however, have not had any adverse impact on relations with Arab countries. Trade between India and the 22 Arab League states grew from $7.5bn in 2000-01 to $24bn in 2005-06. While a significant portion of this is oil trade, the balance of non-oil trade is in India’s favour.
Unlike the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the Arab League has stayed clear of the Kashmir issue, and has been nominally supportive of India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council provided an Arab state also gets a seat.
Trade and investment were also high on the agenda of the two-day India-Arab League dialogue. An MEA statement said both sides had agreed to probe possibilities of strengthening economic and commercial relations, especially in the field of human resource development, ICT, S&T and tourism. The idea of establishing an India-Arab Cooperation Forum was also mooted.
Yousef also called on Minister of State for External Affairs, E Ahamed, besides holding discussions with industry bodies including ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI.