Opinion

Modi’s India can do its bit for Middle East and Gulf stability

Modi’s India can do its bit for Middle East and Gulf stability

Author

Following Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extraordinary electoral triumph, he will be showered with advice from numerous sources about his new administration’s priorities, particularly regarding economic matters pertaining to growth, infrastructure, industrial production and employment. All these challenges are linked to India’s ties with the Gulf.

India’s energy security, the driver of national growth, is crucially tied to oil and gas supplies from the Gulf, with the country’s import dependence expected to exceed 80 percent. 

Gulf investors are central to the development of India’s infrastructure.

The Gulf corporate sector is also a valued partner in upgrading and boosting manufacturing in India, while the latter’s companies and professionals based in the region are a distinguished presence in the industrial and services sectors.

Gulf states’ partnerships with India’s economy will be an important source of employment in the country — an urgent concern for the new government, which has to ensure the productive utilization of the several million nationals who enter the job market annually.

Unsurprisingly, Modi attached the highest importance to ties with the Middle East during his first term as prime minister. He visited all the major regional capitals and warmly hosted their leaders at home. 

The leaders of the UAE and Saudi Arabia committed their nations to being partners in India’s economic renaissance, with investments of billions of dollars.

These robust engagements were built on civilizational links between India and the Middle East that go back several millennia, and have now imparted to them the valuable contemporary content of information, space and biotechnology, and the upgrading of human resources to meet modern-day challenges.

Making a robust intervention to promote peace and stability in the Middle East and the Arab Gulf should be the immediate responsibility of the Modi government

Talmiz Ahmad

A new area of considerable importance to both sides is that of food security — a marriage of Gulf technology and experience, and India’s agricultural production that goes to waste due to inadequate storage, transportation and preservation facilities.

The agreements that Modi entered into with his Middle East partners also put in place “strategic partnerships” — expressions of shared visions of security and high levels of mutual confidence in addressing common concerns, particularly regarding counterterrorism. 

Here, the shared agenda has gone beyond immediate security concerns to the cultivation of belief systems that promote moderation and accommodation.

Thus, the agreements concluded over the last few years already provide a blueprint to take relations forward in the political, economic and cultural spheres. 

But there is one subject that has been included in all joint statements that India has signed with Middle East nations but has not yet been addressed: Regional security.

Regional competitions have evolved into bloody conflicts that have broken nations and created opportunities for extremist elements to pursue murderous agendas founded on intolerance, hate and revenge. 

Diverse regional and extra-regional entities have intervened in these conflicts to pursue their own short-term interests, making the regional scenario even more murky and destructive. What is missing in the Middle East landscape is any attempt at a viable peace process. It is here that India can and should play an effective role. 

India has longstanding political and economic ties with all the countries of the Middle East, and enjoys high status and credibility due to its non-intrusive and non-prescriptive approach to international relations.

It also has an abiding interest in regional stability due to its energy security and economic interests, its proposed logistical connectivity projects, and the presence in the region of its 8 million-strong expat community, whose welfare is of deep concern to the central and state governments. 

Modi also has warm personal ties with major regional leaders based on mutual respect and trust.

Making a robust intervention to promote peace and stability in the Middle East and the Arab Gulf should be the immediate responsibility of the Modi government. For this, it has both the ability and the credibility.

 

Talmiz Ahmad is an author and former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE. He holds the Ram Sathe Chair for International Studies at Symbiosis International University in Pune, India.

 

 

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Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters celebrate in Kolkata on Thursday as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is re-elected and will form a government. (Getty Images)
Updated 24 May 2019
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Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

  • Narendra Modi becomes first Indian prime minister in 40 years to return to power with a majority
  • Election results are a big blow to Rahul Gandhi-led opposition Congress party

NEW DELHI: India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday scored a landslide election victory, increasing its seats in Parliament after a bitter and divisive campaign.

The results amount to a massive blow for the 133-year-old Congress Party, which dominated India’s political life for more than 50 years after the country gained independence in 1947. Narendra Modi has made history by becoming India’s first prime minister in the last 40 years to be re-elected with a parliamentary majority.

The BJP on its own is expected to have a little over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house), more than it had in the outgoing chamber. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the BJP is a part, will have nearly 350 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress Party is expected to finish with just 55 seats, albeit 11 more than its 2014 election tally. By most projections, the Congress-led opposition alliance will not even have 100 seats. Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi suffered a major personal setback in the family borough, the constituency of Amethi in northern India, where he lost to a Modi Cabinet minister. But Gandhi won his second seat in Wayanad in the south by a big margin. 

“I concede defeat and congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for winning the elections,” Gandhi said on Thursday. He has offered to resign from his post in his party’s most powerful organizational body, the Congress Working Committee, but political analysts say it is highly unlikely that his resignation will be accepted.

The margin of the BJP’s victory has come as a surprise to many, with the party not only retaining its seats in the battleground states of northern and western India, but also expanding its footprint in two eastern states: West Bengal and Odisha. “Together, we’ll build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!” Modi tweeted after the results showed the BJP sweeping to victory.

Shashi Shekhar, a New Delhi-based political analyst, told Arab News: “This is a phenomenal election victory that has stumped all the pollsters. The BJP was expected to face a big challenge from the opposition alliance in some of the crucial states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which together account for 128 seats. But it seems the narrative of muscular nationalism propagated by the BJP overcame all challenges. There’s a now a genuine fear that if the BJP continues with its old policy of marginalizing religious minorities, India might turn into a majoritarian state. However, I hope Modi’s second term turns out to be more inclusive.”

Modi’s India can do its bit for Middle East and Gulf stability

Opinion

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Sudheendra Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based political commentator, said: “The Congress Party failed to capture the imagination of the people. The party’s slogans didn’t click with voters the way the BJP’s did.”

Against this backdrop of an imminent decisive win, Modi began to receive messages of congratulations from world leaders on Thursday. Among them was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan tweeted.

In his second term, in addition to addressing economic problems at home, Modi will need to keep a close eye on relations with neighboring Pakistan. Bilateral relations remain tense months after they came close to war following a deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir on paramilitary soldiers, and an Indian air raid deep inside Pakistan.

“There’s no alternative to dialogue,” said Kulkarni. “We should expect that with a renewed mandate (for Modi’s government), there should be a fresh attempt to engage with Islamabad.”


‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

Updated 8 min 13 sec ago
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‘They have crushed our voices’, Kashmiris on not being allowed to pray

  • More than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley, media reports
  • Most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation

SRINAGAR, Kashmir: A strange silence engulfs Kashmir valley three weeks after the abrogation of the Article 370 that ensured a special autonomous status for Jammu and Kashmir in the Indian union.
This is the silence enforced by the fear of the gun after arrests of a large number of politicians, activists, lawyers, businessmen, and commoners.
“I have been summoned at least four times by the Indian troops and harassed, barring me from offering my prayers. I requested them, explaining that no one indulges in agitation in this area...” Hafiz Altaf Ahmed Shah, an imam at the local mosque told Arab News.
Media reports suggest that more than 3,000 people have been arrested from different parts of the valley and put in special detention centers in the semi-autonomous state or outside.
For those spared or lucky to avoid arrest, a lurking danger looms if they resist – be it a cleric or a professor, male or female, exercising restraint is the only option left.
In Srinagar and outside, most of the big mosques have been shutdown to avoid people amassing for a large congregation – a potential recipe for resistance.
“Our three story mosque is usually at full capacity but today, only 10 to 12 people offered Friday prayers because of the curfew,” Shah said.
Small and medium-sized mosques are under constant vigil. The clerics of these mosques have been ordered to lie low and not lead prayers in their mosques.
“We are being subjected to injustice by the Indian government and the world is aware. But no one is speaking on these issues. They have shut down our communication. They have silenced and crushed our voices,” Shah said.
Watch this exclusive video by Arab News to get a sense of what’s happening in the area.