The operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are over and it appears that the US is losing interest in West Asia. China is now trying to emerge as a major player in the Arab world. Be it as it may be India’s relations with the Arab world are civilizational and historically too strong to be affected in any way. Prophet Mohammad had a liking for the Indian region.
He is believed to have said that he felt a cool breeze coming from the direction of the Indian region. This belief makes India and the Arab relationship very special.
Irrespective of the seasons, whatever is said and done Indians are warm people in comparison with any other in the region. India’s Presidency of the G 20 brings another opportunity to strengthen the ties. Saudi Arabia is a member.
Also, India’s invitation to Egypt’s President to become the Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebrations is being seen as a recovery of old relations and a recognition of the changing world political order.
Chinese President Xi-Zinping’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia attracted many eye-balls, he met top leaders of the Arab world. And announced billions of dollars of business joint ventures in the region.
Dr Waiel Awwad, a senior journalist and political analyst from West Asia says nothing can change the goodness of India-Arab relations. Their relations are too strong to be affected in any way. It involves oil security, expatriates, and future stability in the region.
Top diplomats say we are living in a world where no diplomatic relations cannot be a zero-sum game. All nations are engaging in multiple relations. Every country brings its values to diplomacy and not necessarily at the expense of another country.
No nation can afford to have a monopoly over relations with the rest of the world. So, we should have little concern regarding China engaging with the Arab world.
Ambassador Pankaj Saran says Indian outreach has always been strong in the entire Arab world. Today we are better placed with the Arab world than in the past.
Prime Minister Modi paved the way for a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with the Arab region between 2015-19. This drift was ably followed up by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jai Shankar. The outreach has led to a series of positive dialogues in the region.NSA Doval has been highly proactive in his approach towards the Arab world and has successfully controlled the situation whenever aberrations were reported.
It's a fact that India has had uninterrupted relations with the Arab world for more than 4000 years even before Islam was recognized in its full daylight. The commercial intercourse between Arabia and India is ancient. The Arabs transmitted the numeral system developed by the Indians to West Asia and Europe.
Arab traders would come to India every spring to the shores of India to sell dates and aromatic herbs were well received by South Indian rulers. Some Arabs settled for good in that area. The first mosque in India came into existence in South India. India is today the third largest Muslim population country in the world. Indian Muslims follow Islam, a religion which was born in Arab.
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over, the Arab world reciprocated India's multi-religious culture. Dr. S Jaishankar visited the Swaminarayan Mandir that came up recently in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Yoga has become extremely popular in the Arab world.
One of the most unique expressions of Indian influence in the Arab setting is its 8.5 million expatriates in Arab, Gulf, Maghrib, and Iran. In countries like UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain Indian expatriates are the majority population.
All of them have become ambassadors of India in their own right through their outstanding work, discipline, and respect for the rule of law. So much so that they are preferred as professionals even more than those belonging to Pakistan, which also has its military presence in the region in a limited way.
The growth of Wahabism in the region and Pakistan’s tryst with terrorism had also been a cause of concern for both the Arab world and India. Diplomatically India has had an edge over Pakistan. More so as there is a realization that Pakistan as a nation has miserably failed to achieve the desired results.
Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad says Indians are not confined to employment in the Arab region merely as blue-coloured skilled workers anymore. This was the scenario when the Arab world initially saw the inflow of oil revenues.
These days almost 60 percent of Indians have taken over as white-collared employees and are placed right across the board. In UAE 50 percent of enterprises are run by Indians who are doing business for billions of dollars.
M A YusuffAli and Mohammad Ali are two business tycoons, who are not just employing Indians but foreigners as well in their business conglomerates. Besides one can these days find the huge presence of Infosys, Wipro, and TCS in the region.
If we look at the estimates of remittances to India from the Arab world, they account for something between $35-40 Billion. Almost 40 million Indian people are directly connected with these economic activities.
When India recognized Israel as a nation the relations with the Arab world were slightly affected but with the change in world political thought that feeling too has subsided. India has also always stood by the Arab world and has provided for its requirement of agricultural products, textiles, and jewellery.
China may try to engage the Arab world with business outreach but it cannot substitute India for its political and strategic support to the Arab region. But as they say, any relationship needs nurturing. The politicians and strategic advisors could only pave the way.
Indian diplomats must continue to explore the opportunities to expand our relations with the Arab world and make them deeper. They must ensure that along with the economic ties our cultural relations are also strengthened and the young Arab generation is involved in the process.