New Delhi: The recent incidents, including an explosion near the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi yesterday and attacks on merchant vessels in crucial waterways, underscore India's intricate involvement in the regional dynamics and highlight the challenges of maintaining a delicate balance in a fractured global order.
The attacks on the Merchant Vessel (MV) Chem Pluto in the Arabian Sea and 'MV Sai Baba' in the Red Sea have direct implications for India's economy and socio-political landscape, prompting a stern response from the government.
The defence minister, Rajnath Singh, addressing the suspected drone attacks on the Merchant Vessel Chem Pluto in the Arabian Sea and the 'MV Sai Baba' in the Red Sea, emphasized that India's ascension to economic and strategic power has triggered envy and animosity.
The Defence Minister assured the nation that the government takes these attacks seriously, with heightened naval surveillance and a commitment to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Despite adopting a neutral stance in the Israel-Hamas conflict, India is finding itself entangled in the complex web of regional fissures, where millions of its citizens reside.
Rajnath Singh's assurance of a robust response to the suspected drone attacks on merchant vessels reflects India's commitment to safeguarding its interests in the Indian Ocean Region.
The role of India as a Net Security Provider in the region is underscored, emphasizing the government's determination to ensure the security of maritime trade. The blast near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi adds a layer of complexity, reminiscent of a similar incident in January 2021, demanding heightened security measures and thorough investigations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's telephonic conversation with the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia yesterday further underscores India's proactive engagement in the region. The shared concerns about terrorism, violence, and civilian casualties in West Asia reflect a commitment to stability. The conversation also highlighted India's unwavering stance on the Israel-Palestine matter, urging sustained humanitarian aid to support affected populations.
Economically, the tensions between Israel and Gaza are causing a ripple effect that extends beyond the immediate conflict zone. The strained relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and Houthi attacks on merchant cargo ships in the Red Sea are disrupting shipping routes, impacting oil production and transportation in West Asia.
Indian exporters are bracing for a potential 25% increase in freight rates and higher insurance premiums, signalling a potential threat to trade if disruptions persist.
India's diplomatic landscape in the Middle East has undergone significant shifts, navigating the delicate balance between the "new" Middle East, characterized by closer ties with the United States, and its traditional relationships with Israel, Iran, and the Arab world.
Recent collaborations such as the I2U2 (India, Israel, UAE, USA) and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) highlight India's pragmatic approach to a rapidly changing global order.
The normalization of ties with Israel has positioned the country as a critical technology and defence partner, while the Arab world hosts over 7 million Indian workers contributing billions of dollars to the Indian economy as remittances.
Iran's strategic location remains crucial for promoting Indian interests in Central Asia and the volatile Afghanistan under a Taliban regime.
As of 2023, India's foreign policy in the Middle East reflects a pragmatic design, balancing opportunities and challenges in an age marked by great-power distraction.
The country's economic growth ambitions, aiming to become the third-largest economy by 2030, are intrinsically linked to its influence in the Middle East. The region has become a testing ground for India's diplomatic prowess, where it seeks to assert itself amid the complexities of a fractured global order.
A notable example of India's diplomatic agility is the recent spat with Qatar, where the announcement of death sentences for former Indian Navy officials accused of spying on behalf of Israel tested the resilience of bilateral relations. Prime Minister’s direct involvement and bilateral talks have brought some relief even though the legal proceedings continue in the Qatari court in a strategically important region.
This is not the first time India has grappled with the Middle East's regional fissures. In 2012 and 2021, Israeli diplomats were targeted in bombings in New Delhi prompting India to delicately manage the situation behind closed doors. These incidents underscore the delicate balance India maintains to prevent the spread of external conflicts onto its soil.
As India continues to navigate the complexities of the Middle East, its foreign policy increasingly reflects a pragmatic approach. The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict serves as a litmus test for India's diplomatic acumen, requiring adept manoeuvring between the Arab world, Israel, and Iran.
The Indian government's focus on economic diplomacy, evidenced by initiatives like I2U2 and IMEEC, aligns with a burgeoning consensus between New Delhi and Washington to counter an assertive China.
In conclusion, India's role in the Israel-Hamas conflict transcends mere neutrality. The evolving dynamics in the Middle East are shaping India's foreign policy in a region of paramount significance. As the country aims for economic prominence on the global stage, the delicate dance between tradition and modernity, between old alliances and new partnerships, defines India's journey through the shifting sands of the Middle East's geopolitical landscape.
Even though presently in the ever-evolving landscape of global geopolitics, India finds itself at a critical juncture grappling with the far-reaching consequences that extend from the shores of the Arabian Sea to the diplomatic corridors of the Middle East.