Reactions from the six oil-rich Gulf countries and adjoining states against the remarks made by two erstwhile BJP spokespersons about the prophet Muhammad have dominated the headlines for the past few days, but what has been missing in this cacophony is the internal dynamics within the Arab world and each of their ties with India.

This has played a big part in the way each of these countries reacted against India. Qatar, keen to emerge as the leader of the OrganAttemptisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) riding on its massive energy resources, has been desiring a larger share of India’s attention amid phenomenal growth in India’s ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The biggest success story of the India-Gulf ties during the past eight years has been the transformation of partnerships with the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Areas which were hitherto not explored have come to focus and the UAE is today the only country that has a free-trade agreement with India. The UAE and Saudi Arabia, which is modernising itself breaking decades-old norms, have emerged as big investors in India. The focus areas for the future include robust defence partnership and joint production.

The UAE and Saudi have the potential to also emerge as India’s strategic partners in the Western Indian Ocean Region as both have strong ties with some Eastern African states.

Ties with Oman, India’s oldest strategic partner, have remained steady. Since February, India has not only hosted Oman’s foreign and trade ministers but also defence secretary and navy chief besides hosting a joint air exercise. Oman is a key pillar in India’s outreach in the Western Indian Ocean. All three – the UAE, Saudi and Oman – are key counter terror partners for New Delhi and the India-Israel-UAE-US Quad has a significant economic future. Ties with Bahrain and Jordan have also been expanded and PM Narendra Modi has developed a personal equation with top leaders of each of these countries. It was in this context that India was invited for the OIC meet in 2019 under UAE’s chair. Last few years have also witnessed Gulf’s support against cross-border terror. Interestingly, governments in Egypt and Morocco have not reacted over the comments of the two former BJP officials.

Source link