October 14, 2008

ALL ALONG THE AXIS:

India redefines ties in West Asia (Harsh V Pant, October 14, 2008, Rediff)

At a time when that region is passing through a phase of unparalleled political, economic, and social churning, India is being called upon by the international community to play a larger role in West Asian affairs. This is evident in the pressure on India to adopt a more visible role in Iraq and to use its leverage on Iran to curtail its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In a first of its kind, India was invited by the US to participate in the West Asian peace conference at Annapolis in November 2007 as a recognition of India's growing stature in the international system.

The loosening of the structural constraints imposed by the Cold War has given India greater flexibility in carving its foreign policy in West Asia. The most notable change has been India's attempts to enhance its ties with Israel on the one hand and with its traditional antagonists such as Iran and Saudi Arabia on the other.

India is no longer coy about proclaiming its gradually strengthening ties with Israel despite apprehensions in some quarters that the Arab world will not very take very kindly to these developments. On the contrary, it seems that the Arab world has reacted cautiously so far and has deepened its engagement with India for fear of losing India wholly to Israel. But the biggest test of this balancing act remains in India's management of its relations with Iran that remains the most openly hostile neighbour of Israel.

There is also a realisation in India that India's largely pro-Arab stance in the Middle East has not been adequately rewarded by the Arab world. India has received no worthwhile backing from the Arab countries in the resolution of problems it faces in its neighborhood, especially Kashmir. There have been no serious attempts by the Arab world to put pressure on Pakistan to reign in the cross-border insurgency in Kashmir. On the contrary, the Arab world has firmly stood by Pakistan using the Organisation of Islamic Conference to build support for Islamabad and the jihadi groups in Kashmir.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 14, 2008 7:57 AM
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