Oct 03, 2019

India West Asia Relations, a success story.

On the 3rd October 2019 the Department of National Security studies in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs (External Publicity and Public Diplomacy Division) organised Distinguished Lecture on India West Asia Relations: A Success Story delivered by Amb. Talmiz Ahmad, Former Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the Ram Sathe Chair Professor for International Studies Symbiosis International University Pune.
While welcoming the chief guest, Prof Brijmohan Bhau highlighted the various activities of the department and emphasised the relevance of topic to the Jammu region since most of the flora and horticultural practices were imported from West Asia regions. Prof. Dipankar Sengupta, Professor of International Trade and Economics in Jammu University introduced the speaker to the audience.
Amb. Talmiz Ahmad presented the historical perspectives of India-West Asia relations touching upon the civilisation and cultural exchange between the two as observed by James Onley in his famous book, The Arabian Frontier of the British Raj. There is an interesting anecdote that could help us to trace the genealogy of our relationship with the West Asia. The coconut was introduced to the West Asia region in Salala by a Chera ruler from down south of India during his visit to meet the prophet. His tomb is still there in Salala as famous place of workship. Moreover, the remains of Harappan civilisation can be found in the West Asian region which includes textiles, food and ivory comb. As India was at the heart of global trade, the items like teak, coir from Malabar have reached west Asia. Sindhis, Kitchis and the Malabaris are the three major Indian origin trading communities who have established their footprint in West Asia. Arabian nights and Panchatantra stories have transcended boundaries and enriched the cultural ties between India and West Asia. The boats acted as the macrocosm of cultural and literature exchange as traders of both these lands has been in constant touch during voyages. Until the arrival of the imperialism the sea routes were largely peaceful. The British understood the strategic importance of West Asia to India and have increased their naval presence in the region preventing Indian presence during the colonial rule. The speaker referred
to the book ‘Anarchy’ authored by William Dalrymple which narrates the impacts of British colonial rule in the Indian subcontinent.
The Indian mathematicians in Samaria and the presence of Indian intellectuals in the courts of Egyptian kings are historical evidences suggesting the depth in the India –West Asia relations. The Arab traders have settled in the Malabar region of Kerala. The ruler of Oman uses a head dress made from India and the brave Indian soldiers have sacrificed themselves fighting for the British in West Asia.
The significance of chokepoints in the region has attracted British presence in the region. The entry of America as a new hegemonic power in West Asia and the use of Bush doctrine were explained. The creation of Taliban extended terrorism beyond the borders of Afghanistan to Chechnya, Bosnia and Kashmir.
The expansion of Indian Diaspora in the West Asia is deeply significant, with 8.5 million Indians living and working in the region. The nature of workforce have undergone a transition from 90% engaged in blue collar jobs in 1990s to the present day 60 % doing blue colour jobs and 20% professionally qualified Indians settled in the region. The trustworthiness of Indians has helped Indians to enter into the financial sector of West Asia. The 2001 visit of Jaswant Singh to West Asia revived the Indian political relations.
Post Mumbai terror attacks the GCC nations started feeling the heat of transnational terrorism since they felt insecure without strong Navy. The UAE intelligence team visited Taj Hotel. Saudi-India relations fundamentally changed in the year 2010 paving way for a new era of strategic energy partnership. The collective security of South Asia and West Asia is interconnected. India is now a valued partner for West Asian nations. The 2017 Indian Republic day celebrations had a UAE Military contingent.
A new opportunity for India to initiate a peace process between Saudi and Iran is an ambitious dream shared by the speaker during the course of the lecture. India should take leadership and take a bold step in this regard. The speaker has put forward a peace process in West Asia and he recollected publishing an article titled A Westphalia for West Asia. Keeping the core interests of the nations and creating mutual trust is the vision put forward by the speaker. More than 50% of India’s oil requirement and 8 million Indians are living in West Asia.
Oil was the key reason for the increased military presence in West Asia observed the speaker. 40%-50% global oil reserves are still in West Asia. The Saudi –American oil cooperation resulted in Saudi ARAMCO.As British became a declining power USA emerged as the key player. The extreme right wing Jewish groups in the US are a spoiler and are constantly provoking the US president to wage a war destabilising West Asia. The instinctual use of violence by US has seriously damaged Iraq.
Intervene, devastate and go away is the US approach opined the speaker referring to the atrocities in Iraq. The recent visit of Indian NSA Ajit Doval to Saudi gave a broad framework on the future of J&K. The joint statements of India and West Asian nations are having continuity and vision. Indian and West Asian ties are moving ahead incrementally and the relations are multi-dimensional in nature. To conclude, India should be innovative and realistic in dealing with the West Asian countries.
Prof. Dipankar has moderated the discussion and gave his remarks highlighting the need to engage with West Asia by reviving our old cultural and trade linkages rather than looking at the region in binaries. Of course, India’s quest for energy security dominates the discourse or our West Asia policy but at the same time there is huge potential for trade and investment opportunities. J&K, in present scenario opens up lot of opportunity to attract Saudi investments to boost tourism and hotel industries in the state. Our relationship with Israel is unique and delinked from our engagement with the gulf countries.
Students and scholars asked questions during the discussion related to Saudi’s stand in favouring India’s decision to abrogate Article 370. How gulf countries are cooperating in our counter-terrorism efforts? How do they see Pakistan in the region?
Prof. Ashok Aima, Vice Chancellor has fecilitated the Ambassdor and our special guest to the occasion, Dr. S.D.Singh Jamwal, Director, SKPA, Udhampur.
The event was concluded with the formal vote of thanks by Dr. J.Jeganaathan, coordinator of the lecture. He expressed gratitude to the XPD division of MEA for supporting the university to organising distinguished lectures successfully for the past four years. Also, he thanked the Chancellor, Amb. G. Parthasarathy and the Vice Chancellor for their guidance and support.