Experts Urge India to Play Greater Role in Promoting Stability in West Asia

March 30, 2022

New Delhi: The fifth edition of the two-day West Asia Conference on ‘India’s Approach to West Asia: Trends, Challenges and Possibilities’, organised by The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) concluded today, with the experts and scholars from different parts of the world unanimously agreeing that India, with its stakes in West Asia, is well positioned to contribute to the stability of the region.

Speaking at the session on ‘Strategic and Security Cooperation’, chaired by Prof Shamir Hasan of Aligarh Muslim University, Dr Hasan Al Hasan, Research Fellow for Middle East Policy, The International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, stated that India’s strategic cooperation with West Asia has grown in tandem with New Delhi’s growing air and naval capabilities. He also remarked that to counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the security of energy trade that led to Indian naval deployment in the Indian Ocean, is also helping counter the Chinese string of Pearls.

Highlighting Tehran’s point of view, Dr. Mandana Tisheyar, from Allameh Tabataba'i University, urged India and Iran to renew their engagements to achieve broader bilateral objectives. Prof PR Kumaraswamy of Jawaharlal Nehru University, however insisted that India should deviate from bilateralism and that New Delhi should project itself as a dependable partner to key states.

The participants of the session on ‘Energy and Diaspora’, chaired by Dr. Meena Singh Roy, Senior Fellow and Head, West Asia and Eurasia, Tillotoma Foundation, and Distinguished Fellow, Middle East Institute, New Delhi, emphasised on the need for India to invest in migration surveys and to create a comprehensive database. Highlighting the issue of migration, Prof S Irudaya Rajan, Chairman, International Institute of Migration and Development, Thiruvananthapuram, observed that COVID-specific distress migration has resulted in ‘re-migration’, where migrants try to return back to their place of origin. Dr N Janardhan, Senior Research Fellow, Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy, Abu Dhabi, expressed hope that despite the combination of economic slowdown, oil-market fluctuations and the pandemic that have compounded the problems of the expatriates, the post-pandemic economic recovery of the GCC countries would result in reverse migration.

Sharing his views on the Indian diaspora in the Gulf during the pandemic, Dr PK Pradhan, Associate Fellow, MP-IDSA, observed that cooperation in the health sector during the pandemic has emerged as a key aspect of India's engagement with the Gulf region. Exploring the future of India-Gulf ties in the power sector, Dr Abdulla Al Abbasi, Research Fellow, Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat), Manama, pointed out that both GCC and India share favorable view on cross-border electrical interconnection. He cited the grid integration between the two regions as a cost-effective and optimal solution for renewable energy. Dr Vrushal Ghoble of Jawaharlal Nehru University, while commenting on the geopolitical shifts and West Asia’s energy equation with India, said India's hydrocarbon policy is premised on three factors - to develop indigenous sources; to increase storage capacity to cater to any supply deficit; and to enhance stakes in the overseas energy markets.

Deputy Director General, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Maj Gen (Dr) Bipin Bakshi (Retd) delivered the Vote of Thanks. The biennial Conference saw participation from countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UK, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Russia and Turkey.