India’s ties with West Asia to get a boost

  • Shishir Gupta and Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 26, 2015 00:13 IST
PM Narendra Modi and the Emir of the State of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. (PIB File Photo)

The NDA government is poised to launch its high-level engagements with West Asia, which is in the throes of changing political dynamics in the wake of growing threat from Islamic State (IS) and Iran nuclear deal.

Modi government is looking at leveraging the position India enjoys as a country with world’s second largest Muslim population and which has robust ties with key players in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran, to play a befitting role.

While President Pranab Mukherjee is set to travel to Jordan, Palestine and Israel from October 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Saudi Arabia, the country with the largest Indian passport holders outside India and UAE. The last visit by an Indian PM to UAE was in 1981.

The region is home to over six million Indians and also accounts for 60% of New Delhi’s oil import.

Driven by security cooperation, investment ties, diaspora engagements, the two visits are expected to see New Delhi delicately balancing its interests there in the backdrop of Iran nuclear deal. The Iran nuclear deal is set to change the dynamics of the region as unlikely allies Israel and Saudi Arabia are opposing the pact on restricting Tehran’s nuclear weapon ambition.

Significantly, Modi is set to travel to Israel only after visiting Gulf starting from Saudi Arabia, which HT had first reported on June 19.

“There is nothing called an either-or situation in diplomacy. This region is crucial to us, and we have good ties with every country in the region. Our security concerns match and our mutual interests converge,” says a government official as New Delhi is readying to send a special interlocutor to Saudi Arabia shortly to lay the ground for the PM visit.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is also expected to visit Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude, accounting for almost 20% of its crude imports.

India and Saudi Arabia have been stepping up security ties. The growing threat from Islamic State (IS) is an issue two countries will be discussing a great about.

Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest trading partner for India. The value of two-way trade between the two countries in 2013-14 exceeded $48.62 billion. Two sides are set to step up the investment and trade ties further.

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