Quad West to test India’s foreign and economic policy

This ‘Quad West’ came out of nowhere. He promises to transform our perception of the Middle East and of India’s place in this country. It is also much more difficult than the “Quad Est” and will test India’s foreign and economic policy.

On October 19, the foreign ministers of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and the United States met to form what they call an “international forum for economic cooperation” – a fairly innocuous name. – to pool resources, technology and skills to build infrastructures, collaborate on maritime safety.

Yair Lapid, Israeli Foreign Minister, the only one to share physical space with Foreign Minister S Jaishankar – United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken joined virtually – Summarized the program of the new group.

“I think the word we’re looking for here is synergy, because that’s what we’re going to try to create from this meeting. A synergy that will help us to work together on infrastructure, digital infrastructure, transport, maritime safety and other things that concern us all, ”said Lapid.

“The key to success is how quickly can we go from ‘government to government’ to ‘business to business’? How quickly can we turn this into a working process that will put boots on the ground, changing infrastructure around the world. “

Jaishankar made a brief but revealing comment: “You are one of the closest relationships we have, if not the closest.”

There seem to be different things at play here.

The quartet / quartet makes proper use of the Abrahamic Accords (2020), which saw Israel sign peace treaties with key Arab states, most notably the United Arab Emirates, followed by Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

India has strong ties to Israel and the United Arab Emirates, so the “Quad West” (for lack of a more imaginative nickname) is essentially a natural progression. This is essentially a trilateral one, as the United States arrives with a lighter footprint, but as an essential glue and enabler to access key technologies and add to the comfort level of each of the other three.

The interesting part is that it was an idea of ​​all three of them – as one source explained, “we all invested a little bit” in creating this group. However, Israel’s new ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, attributed the idea to the United States, saying they played an important role in its creation. The group’s detailed agenda has not yet been developed, but the first indicators are available.

India and the United Arab Emirates have come a long way in recent years, linked by common economic and security interests. Israel is arguably India’s most reliable partner in the world, sometimes even closer than the United States. Using commerce, connectivity, technology and education as new engines of influence, the new initiative aims to put a non-political and independent presence of religion in an otherwise volatile and violent region.

As Israel’s foreign minister, Alon Ushpiz told me in an interview: “… all these relations and the new peace treaties that we have, they are based on what Israel and India are doing together. for 30 years. But what we’ve done together is make deliveries to people, to the economy, to prosperity, to technology, to education… If we can combine or if we can mix in the cocktail, what we’ve done between ourselves and what we’re doing with these countries now – the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, maybe with an American pitch. I think it will be a strong booster, as they say today. Technology, production, supply chains, communication, transport, direct flights. These are things that are extremely important from the point of view of what we can do together from an Indian point of view in this new regional context. From an Israeli point of view, this is truly a strategic earthquake.

Read the interview: “Indo-Israel cooperation during the pandemic, a shining example of strategic partnership”

While ‘Quad East’ aims to balance China’s rise and expansionism, ‘Quad West’ ticks other related boxes. He also opens new ones, not all of them pleasant.

India is in advanced trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Israel. The new grouping opens the door to a coordinated economic engagement with the region, between the three main actors. Over time and hopefully increased levels of trade this can be extended further west.

It could advance India’s strategic playing field beyond the Gulf to the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean, when the new group includes Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in its scope. The Gulf is a huge export market for India, and during the pandemic India kept its supply chains in this region open, maintaining food exports while many supply chains were in disarray.

Also, UAE is definitely a trade hub for India – their easy trade rules are much friendlier than India’s. But if India is to tap into new markets, especially after turning its back on RCEP, there is a feeling that Dubai, for example, can be that hub. Even Pakistan, with which India has little formal bilateral trade, can theoretically benefit from India’s commercial presence in the Gulf.

Second, the “West Quad” has the opportunity to advance a similar technology, healthcare and infrastructure agenda that is taking off with the “East Quad”. From education to space cooperation, there is a whole new arena. India and the United Arab Emirates are already collaborating in the space field. Israel’s technological advantages are obvious, but Israel has very low acceptability in its own region. India, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, however, have and value brand equity in the region, which could make things easier in other countries.

Third, it gives the United States a qualitatively different point of return in the region. For more than half a century, the US presence in the Gulf / Middle East was based on its dependence on oil, the strategic strengthening of Israel and separately, Saudi Arabia against Iran, engaging in the sectarian quarrels of the region. He wasted blood and treasures in what turned out to be unnecessary wars: Iraq and Afghanistan.

He has overseen the growth of murderous terrorist groups emanating from the region, including al-Qaeda and ISIS. But the United States’ appetite for Middle Eastern oil is not what it used to be. Their involvement in the region’s sectarian rifts is waning, as the United States pivots east toward China. But this remains a very important region, geopolitically and geo-economically, so expect the US presence to remain active.

So far there is not much in the area of ​​security other than a promise to work together on maritime security. This is likely the area that will require careful work out of the four, as it also involves areas that India has traditionally been left out of, including Iran playing a key role here.
The “Quad West” group is limited by two regional powers that could make it or mess it up – Saudi Arabia and Iran. Then there are others who could play a counter game in different ways – China, Turkey, Qatar and even Pakistan.

Frankly, the only other country that could have been part of this group is Saudi Arabia – but Riyadh is still a long way from a peace deal with Israel, and the Biden administration doesn’t care much about the crown prince. Riyadh could be persuaded to endorse him, even silently, as he too seeks a new role that goes beyond oil and religion.

But Iran is an unknown element at the moment. Tehran cannot be happy with the new regrouping, that goes without saying. He has three of his worst enemies linked to a close friend. Many in Iran have watched with dismay India’s growing closeness to the United States and Israel, therefore India may have to work harder to appease Iranian sensitivities. Iran remains important to India. India continues to be concerned about the terrorism spilling out of Afghanistan, and after the recent spate of Shiite killings in the Taliban-ruled state, so is Iran. Chahbahar is an important warehouse for India in Central Asia.

However, in the new era of geopolitical resets, Iran is carrying out its own reset, along with Saudi Arabia, as the two countries hold icebreaker talks in Baghdad, important in their own way. Yes India has an important relationship with Iran, but there are other interests India is pursuing with this new group. Iran is unlikely to become the deal breaker.

On the other hand, the day after the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban, we saw a new regional axis emerge: China, Pakistan, Iran, Qatar and Turkey, under the benevolent gaze of the Russia. Could the new Quad be an answer to this axis?

India’s balance will have to become more precise – Qatar, for example, has close relations with India and the United States, but remains at odds with the United Arab Emirates and Israel. In fact, this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Qatari leaders in Doha and offered to advance the Belt and Road Initiative in that region, to the applause of the Qataris.

Then there is China, which plays a huge role in this region. Like India, it cuts across the gaps and operates closely across the region, with deeper pockets and a broader strategic vision. If, in the end, the Quad West is there to expand its influence, they will collide with China sooner rather than later. This will test the grouping.



The opinions expressed above are those of the author.


Source link

Comments are closed.