GAD

Global Affairs Desk

Tue Jun 18 2024

India and the Abraham Accords

~ By Aarush J on 7/18/2022

India and the Abraham Accords

On September 15, 2020, US President Donald Trump hosted the erstwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for the signing of the historic Abraham Accords. The deal laid out the roadmap for the UAE to formally recognise the State of Israel. Israel also halted its plans to annex parts of the West Bank of Palestine. Israel inaugurated its first diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi and direct flights, tourism and business picked up between the two countries in 2021.

India had welcomed the Abraham Accords, extending support to the mechanisms that brought peace and stability to the region. India now has stronger multifaceted and growing socioeconomic engagements with Israel and the Gulf countries than before. With over 8 million diasporas living in the Gulf remitting annually nearly $50 billion, annual merchandise trade of over $150 billion and sourcing of nearly two-thirds of India’s hydrocarbon imports and major investments. India is the preferred source of manpower, food products, pharmaceuticals, gems, jewellery and light engineering items. Indians are also the biggest stakeholders in Dubai’s real estate, tourism and Free Economic Zones.

India has been looking to expand its footprint in West Asia for quite some time now. Due to the Abraham Accords, the defence sector has seen several developments between India and West Asia. Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal R.K. Bhadauria visited Israel in August 2021. According to reports, an Indian contingent of the Indian Air Force will now visit Israel in October to take part in multilateral military exercises in the same week as ACM Bhadauria’s visit. India also conducted the ‘Zayed Talwar’ naval exercises with the UAE off the coast of Abu Dhabi. In December 2020, Former Indian Army chief, General M.M. Naravane visited the UAE and Saudi Arabia, becoming the first chief of the Indian Army to do so. The foundation of these was set by the former chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Sunil Lamba who visited the UAE and Oman in 2017. New Delhi signed a deal with Muscat for access to the Duqm Port, including dry stock use for the Indian Navy.

India’s cooperation with the Gulf States has been steadily increasing. Starting from the relatively low-key staging visit to Saudi Arabia conducted by the IAF in 2015, to hosting visiting Iranian naval warships in 2018, defence of the critical waterways in and around the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the extended Indian Ocean Region (IOR) has taken a driving seat in Indian strategic thinking. Recently, when tensions between Israel, Iran and the United States were on an upswing, the Indian Navy orchestrated Operation Sankalp, which saw Indian warships escort an average of 16 Indian-flagged vessels a day.

However, not all Arab states have been on the same page regarding geopolitical shifts the Accords have pushed through. Despite consistent and constant efforts from Israel, Saudi Arabia has distanced itself from this arrangement. More recently, Riyadh has praised the Accords but said that the resolution of the Palestinian State remains at the forefront of its requirements.

Iran will also play a critical role in India’s West Asia orientation as the crisis in Afghanistan deepens. New Delhi’s use of Iranian airspace and facilities while evacuating its diplomatic staff from Kandahar in July showcases a level of strategic commonality. Recent multiple visits by India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh followed by Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami’s visit to India highlight revitalised strategic cooperation between the two countries despite multiple obstacles in the bilateral relations, led by U.S. sanctions against Tehran and the general tensions between Israel, the Gulf and Iran via proxy battles in theatres such as Yemen, Syria and beyond.

India has often walked a diplomatic tightrope with respect to the Gulf region trying to balance between Israel and the Gulf states over the decades. The signing of the Abraham Accords has removed this significant strategic obstacle. Besides, India’s strategic play in West Asia will add to the country’s economic growth and help assert an increasingly important place in the global order.

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