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  • American Activism on Religious Freedom in the Middle East: A Critique

    Since its enactment in October 1998, the International Religious Freedom Act has become a major instrument to further the American foreign policy agenda in the Middle East and elsewhere. While the annual reports are a great source of information on lesser-known facts and shifts concerning religious minorities, they also underscore an inherent bias in favour of Christian missionaries, politicization of the minority question and American exceptionalism.

    May 2021

    Venu Srivastava asked: What is the US interest in the Middle East even though it possesses more oil (shale gas) reserves?

    Adil Rasheed replies: Although the US has recently become the largest oil and natural gas producing country in the world, the OPEC states still produce about 40 per cent of the world’s crude oil with Middle East (or West Asian) states producing about a third of the global output. The global oil market is seamless and any disruption in supplies by one supplier impacts global oil prices simultaneously. As the adage goes, “We all sip from the same cup”.

    Modi’s Agenda 2.0 for the Middle East

    During his first term, Modi had invested considerable political capital in cultivating critical players. The second term should enable him to reap the fruits of his political investments and elevate his engagements to a higher level.

    May 24, 2019

    Suchak Patel asked: What is the difference between ‘West Asia’ and ‘Middle East’ from the Indian perspective?

    Adil Rasheed replies: Indian academicians prefer to use the term West Asia and not the Middle East. The term Middle East may have made some geographical sense for British colonialists ruling from London, but that has lost relevance following the disappearance of the British empire after World War II. In fact, the term Middle East outside its vague colonial context does not specify the geographical region it refers to.

    China’s Mediation Efforts in the Middle East and North Africa: Constructive Conflict Management

    Mediation diplomacy has emerged as one of the central pillars of China’s foreign policy objectives and practice, with Beijing deliberately positioning itself as a peacemaker in the MENA region. This study evaluates China’s role as a regional peacemaker by examining Beijing’s growing engagement with bringing about a peaceful resolution to the MENA disputes. Specifically, this study seeks to examine whether or not China’s mediation efforts in the MENA region augur a shift in China’s non-intervention principle and practice.

    January 2018

    What does Modi’s Israel visit mean to the Palestinians?

    Modi is merely responding to the changing Middle Eastern situation. A few hours of stay in Ramallah will not gain him any political dividends in the region or in India.

    July 03, 2017

    Trends and Prospects for Cooperation with the Middle East

    Trends and Prospects for Cooperation with the Middle East

    It is too early for India to get involved in any regional security arrangement as it would have to answer two basic questions; security for whom? And against whom? Most regimes feel threatened internally and any involvement would entail India taking sides between rival factions.

    January 21, 2016

    Jamil Zaid asked: Will the continued political turmoil in Middle East and North Africa affect the US rebalance policy to the Asia-Pacific region?

    Gulshan Dietl replies: Since late 2011, the Obama Administration has been making a series of pronouncements on a pivot to Asia-Pacific, which has now been moderated to a rebalance to Asia-Pacific. As the global power equations evolve, so do the strategic choices of the states. For example, the US policies were focussed on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It is now China that is at the epicentre of the US worldview; and it is this worldview that advises and influences the US foreign policy.

    Digvijay Singh asked: What are the implications of the Syrian civil war on the Middle East and particularly for India?

    Gulshan Dietl replies: The Syrian Civil War can be traced back to the Arab Spring that has led to popular uprisings in most of the Arab countries. What began as protests in March 2011 has now become an armed rebellion. About 100,000 people are estimated to have died in the conflagration; half of them civilians. Four million people are internally displaced and a million and a half have sought refuge in neighbouring states, mainly Turkey and Jordan.

    The civil war has not remained confined to Syria alone. The entire region has been actively involved in varying degrees. There have been military encounters on the Syrian borders with Israel, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. The presence of Kurds and Palestinians inside the country has had obvious linkages to the Kurds and Palestinians outside.

    Turkey has given asylum to roughly 400,000 Syrians, provided the rebels among them with weapons and a safe zone to launch offensive operations against the Syrian Government. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have poured in financial, humanitarian and military assistance. In recent months, a second front has been opened in Jordan. The Syrian armed groups can now take the southern route which is closer to the Syrian capital Damascus. In this turbulence, foreign fighters have entered in a big way. Some five thousand foreign fighters are said to have come from countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Azerbaijan, Australia, Britain, Spain, Denmark, the United States, and so on. Some analysts have called the situation in Syria a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The facts on the ground are much more complicated involving many state and non-state actors.

    Beyond the West Asian region, the Russians and Chinese have been supporting the Syrian regime whereas the West has been with the rebels. In February last year, a group of 11 states – the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates - formed the “Friends of Syria” with an explicit aim of regime change in Syria. In June this year, they resolved to provide all necessary material and equipment to the opposition. Thus, the Syrian civil war has grave implication at the regional and global levels.

    India has deep concerns about the worsening situation in Syria itself, its spill over effect in the neighbourhood and the consequent instability in the wider West Asian region. India has already assured the UN that it has no plans to pull out its 190 strong troops monitoring demilitarised zone between Syria and the Golan Heights. If the conflict spills over, India would be directly affected in several ways. Some nine million Indians working in the Gulf States would be in harm’s way and many may need to be evacuated from the zones of active conflict. Their remittances would be severely curtailed in the circumstances. The sectarian aspects of the conflict may also find an unhealthy resonance in our country.

    FOREIGN POLICY AFTER TAHRIR REVOLUTION: (Re)-Defining the Role of Egypt in the Middle East

    Recently, we have witnessed an unprecedented series of political events in the Middle East and North Africa after a young man from Tunisia had his vegetables confiscated by the police. In retaliation, the young man set himself on fire, which initiated inextinguishable flames of protests and demonstrations demanding a more humane world for everyone. Protests and strikes driven by everyday people continued to sweep across the tightly controlled North African states. However, not everybody treated these unrests as a deep, socially rooted problem in society.

    September 2012