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Changing Dynamics of India’s Middle East Policy

Modi government condemned the Hamas attack but the opposition did not.

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Gain insights into the changing alliances, trade relations, and diplomatic engagements that are redefining India’s role in this crucial region.

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India’s Response to the Hamas Attack

It’s no surprise that the recent Hamas attack on Israel has sparked a political debate in India. While the Congress Party has struggled to react, the ruling BJP has been clear in condemning the attack and showing support for Israel. This has added a new dimension to the ongoing political rivalry between the two parties during election season.

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The Evolving Relationship Between India and the Middle East

The relationship between India and the Middle East has always been influenced by geopolitics. However, in recent years, there have been significant changes in Indian policy, especially under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Five Key Changes

There are five major changes that stand out in India’s approach to the Middle East:

1. Acknowledging the Relationship with Israel

Prime Minister Modi made the decision to openly acknowledge India’s relationship with Israel. While previous governments had established diplomatic ties, Modi took it a step further by visiting Israel, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to do so.

2. Aligning with the Realities on the Ground

Unlike the Congress Party, which still holds onto the idea of supporting the “Palestinian cause,” the current government recognizes that several Arab countries have started to make peace with Israel without any preconditions. The rise of extremist groups like Hamas threatens not only Israel but also moderate Arab states. This shared concern has created opportunities for cooperation between Israel and Arab countries.

3. Maintaining Ties with Palestine

Contrary to popular belief, the current government is not abandoning Palestine. India continues to have strong ties with the Palestine Authority and supports a two-state solution. However, it refuses to ignore the issue of terrorism and won’t use the “root causes” argument to justify acts of violence.

4. Strengthening Ties with Arab Countries

Under the current government, India has significantly improved its relationship with Arab countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. These countries have become important strategic partners, and their economic contributions have the potential to drive India’s growth.

5. De-linking Religion from Diplomacy

India’s historical partition based on religion and Pakistan’s attempt to gain support from the Middle East through Islamic solidarity complicated India’s engagement with the region. However, under Modi’s leadership, India has shifted away from religious considerations and focused on pursuing common interests with Arab countries. This pragmatic approach has yielded positive results for India, while Pakistan’s religious kinship has not brought them much benefit.

India’s Role in the Middle East

As the Middle East faces new challenges, India has an important role to play in promoting stability and prosperity in the region. The Indian political class must move away from self-centered discussions and consider the larger trends in the Middle East. It’s crucial to build a national consensus on engaging with the region based on these structural realities.

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