India seems to be at the centre of major global developments. And now the US and West Asia are looking up to India for their regional aspirations. Already a part of the Quad, India is now being invited to play a central role in the formation of the West Asian Quad.
Formation of the West Asian Quad
US President Joe Biden is going to visit the Middle East next month. It is during this tour that the leaders of India, Israel, the US and the UAE will hold a virtual dialogue. A US official said that the new grouping will be called I2U2 where I2 is a reference to India and Israel, and U2 is a reference the US and the UAE.
Food security likely to be on agenda of I2U2
A senior Biden administration official said, “The summit called I2U2 will discuss the food security crisis and other areas of cooperation across hemispheres where the UAE and Israel serve as important innovation hubs.”
The meeting is being notably held at a time when the Russia-Ukraine war has led to an unprecedented surge in prices of critical commodities like foodgrains and oil.The official added that Biden’s visit will focus on “Israel’s increasing integration into the region, both through the Abraham Accords with UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain; through deepening ties between Israel, Jordan and Egypt; and also an entirely new grouping of partners, including Israel, India, UAE, and the United States — what we call I2U2.”
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India leading from the front
The virtual meeting of the leaders of the four countries (I2U2) will be held during Biden’s Middle East tour. However, the roots of I2U2 go back to October 2021 when the Foreign Ministers of the four countries had held a meeting. At that time, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had visited Israel and other Foreign Ministers had joined him virtually. The four Ministers had discussed issues surrounding trade, climate and maritime security.
The way all major powers in the Middle East are looking up to India shows that the country has made deep strategic gains in the region over the past few years. New Delhi already has unparalleled trade ties in the region and a large diaspora to project its soft power. Moreover, New Delhi’s economic heft and geopolitical significance, along with its growing military power is making India indispensable for the region.
From the perspective of the Gulf countries, India plays the role of a major oil purchaser to start with. Beyond oil, countries like the UAE look towards India as a source of diversification and modernisation. India with its massive IT industry and a vibrant space programme can help the UAE modernise its economy and expand itself into other sectors.
Similarly, Israel looks towards India as a major partner. India with all its soft power can also help Israel settle its decades-old territorial disputes in the region. At a pragmatic level, Israel finds a lot of semblance with the Indian State in terms of counter-terrorism and battling radicalism.
And finally, the US too shares a unique relationship with India. Despite all the differences of opinion that the Biden administration might share with India, the US does understand that it has way too much in common with India in terms of security, economy and diplomatic interests in the Indo-Pacific.
Under PM Modi, India is thus leading the region from the front.