India, the UAE, the US, and Israel held a virtual meeting late Monday. The meeting is now being regarded as the precursor of a “new Quad”. In the meeting, the four countries “decided to establish an international forum for economic cooperation” with the Foreign Ministers of the four countries convening soon for an in-person meeting in Dubai.
The four countries have listed maritime security, global public health, and joint infrastructure projects in transportation and technology, as the areas of cooperation. On paper, it seems like an economic alliance. However, there is more to this alliance. There are other dimensions at play here that include common geopolitical goals and countering common security threats in the Middle East shared by India, the UAE, and Israel.
Ensuring greater recognition for Israel
Last year, Israel got some precious gifts from former US President Donald Trump- the normalisation agreements dubbed Abraham Accords between Israel and several Arab countries. The UAE and Bahrain were the first ones to normalise their relations with the Jewish nation, which has ramped up Israel’s influence in the entire region.
However, the process of enhancing Israel’s acceptability in the Islamic world is not yet complete. While more powerful countries like the UAE have already accepted Israel as an ally, smaller countries outside the Arab world are yet to embrace it. In this case, India can push several Islamic countries to recognise Israel. India has good ties with many Muslim-majority countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia that can be effectively used to push for Israel’s recognition.
Pushing back against Turkey
Turkey is the biggest threat that the UAE, India, and Israel continue to face from within the Middle East. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a radical Islamist and wants to push Islamism across the world.
- Erdoğan keeps peddling Pakistan’s Kashmir agenda at the UN General Assembly.
- Erdoğan is accused of preparing mercenaries to help Pakistan in its proxy war against India in Kashmir.
- The Turkish President promotes the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist organisation designated as a terror group by the United Arab Emirates.
- Turkey is one of the biggest sponsors of Hamas, which runs Gaza.
- Turkey is trying to steal energy resources of the entire Eastern Mediterranean region by making advances against Greece and Cyprus.
- Erdoğan talks about the “liberation” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, while Al-Aqsa (or Temple Mount) compound remains an emotive issue for Jews, as it is the site of the two historic Temples in Jewish tradition.
So, the UAE, Israel, and India have their individual reasons for hating Turkey. And as a part of a “new Quad” alliance, there are several ways in which they can hurt Ankara. Take the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) for instance that includes Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. The UAE has joined it as an observer.
While anyone can join the EMGF, Abu Dhabi’s decision to join it was seen as an attempt to exclude Turkey from the Mediterranean hydrocarbons market. Israel is leading the EastMed pipeline project that would transfer gas to Europe via Greece from Cyprus and Israel. Turkey again would get excluded from the Eastern Mediterranean hydrocarbons supply market.
This is primarily a matter of India’s interest. However, even Israel and the UAE have had their own share of fallouts with Pakistan. Pakistan is as Islamist a regime as Turkey’s. In fact, last year, an American journalist claimed 100 Pakistani mercenaries had landed in wartorn Syria to fight on Turkey’s behalf. The development wouldn’t have gone down well with the UAE which is uniting with other Arab nations to support the Syrian regime against Turkey.
Similarly, Israel understands that Pakistan is a die heart supporter of the Palestinian cause and supports Hamas. Last year, a Pakistani Minister went as far as making a nuclear threat against Israel.
Meanwhile, India wants to ensure that Pakistan is significantly sidelined in the Middle East. Traditionally, Islamabad has used the Saudi Arabia-led Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to peddle falsehoods and lies about Kashmir. Of late, Pakistan has been dumped by Saudi Arabia and the UAE has led the charge in sidelining Islamabad.
Now, India wants to become a part of a strategic alliance with the UAE to ensure that Pakistan’s influence is totally diminished inside the OIC so that it can never use the alliance of the Muslim world as a platform for driving the anti-India narrative.
The “new Quad” is a strategic, diplomatic, economic, and security alliance. It is a realisation of the fact that though China may be the main threat, the Middle East is riddled with many minor issues that China can exploit whenever it wants. Therefore, the UAE, Israel, and India are looking to finally resolve those issues and improve the security environment within the volatile region.