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West Asian Quad

Context: The Prince of Saudi, Mohammad Bin Salman recently hosted a special meeting of the National Security Advisers (NSAs) of India, the U.S. and the UAE, in Jeddah.

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  • The term “West Asian Quad” is a reference to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, commonly known as the Quad- which is a strategic forum consisting of four countries: the United States, Japan, India, and Australia.
  • The meeting was focused on considering regional initiatives on infrastructure, and is unlike anything seen in the region in recent years.
  • The leaders discussed means to strengthen relations and ties between their countries in a way that enhances growth and stability in the region through interconnectedness with India and the world.
  • The meeting is significant as it follows Indian NSA’s recent visit to Iran, which recently agreed to restart ties in a meeting brokered by Beijing.

The Quad

  • The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Quad began as an informal partnership after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when India, Australia, the US and Japan joined together to provide humanitarian and disaster assistance to the affected region.
  • The grouping was formalized by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007. However, it became dormant after Australia’s concerns.
  • The grouping was revived in 2017 amidst China’s growing influence in the region. The Quad could act as a counterweight to China’s assertive actions.
  • Objectives/goals:
    • The major aim is to deepen economic, diplomatic and military ties among the four countries.
    • The grouping strives to establish a region that is free, open, inclusive, healthy, anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion.
    • Even though China has termed the group as ‘Asian NATO’, there is no mutual-defence pact in effect.
    • There are plans to expand the group into Quad+ with participation of South Korea, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Key Objectives of the Meeting

  • The major objective of the meeting is to advance the shared vision of a more secure and prosperous Middle East region interconnected with India and the world.
  • It aimed to discuss new areas of cooperation between India, the Gulf, and the United States, fueled in part by the comprehensive economic partnership signed last year between India and the UAE.
  • It is also seen as a move to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative and other inroads in the region.
  • One of the main infrastructure projects is a plan to connect Gulf countries via a railway network and connect to India via shipping lanes from “two ports” in the region.

India West Asia Relations

India’s Look West Policy:

  • India’s “Look West” policy refers to the country’s foreign policy approach towards West Asia, also known as the Greater Middle East region.
  • The policy has evolved over time, from a multi-directional approach during the Cold War to a more pragmatic, national interest-oriented approach post-1991.
  • India has sought to build strong economic and diplomatic ties with West Asian countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Israel, while also maintaining traditional relationships with these countries.
  • India has avoided taking sides (stuck to the principal of non-Alignment) in regional conflicts and has focused on promoting peace and stability through diplomatic initiatives.
  • As its strategic interests in the region grow, India is increasingly engaging with West Asia on multiple fronts, including energy, trade, and security.

India’s “Look West” policy has several advantages for the country, including

  • Access to energy resources: The West Asian region is home to some of the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, and India’s closer engagement with these countries allows it to secure its energy needs and diversify its energy sources.
  • Economic opportunities: India’s engagement with West Asian countries provides significant economic opportunities, including trade and investment, and access to markets for Indian goods and services.
  • Regional stability: By promoting regional economic cooperation and stability, India’s Look West policy aims to reduce tensions and conflicts in the region, which could have negative spillover effects on India.
  • Strategic partnerships: India’s closer engagement with West Asian countries has led to the development of strategic partnerships, which can help India advance its interests in the region and beyond.
  • Improved connectivity: India’s Look West policy also aims to improve connectivity between India and the West Asian region, including through the development of transportation and communication infrastructure, which can facilitate greater people-to-people contact and cultural exchanges.

West Asia

  • West Asia serves as a land bridge connecting three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe, making it an important gateway between Asia and Africa, and a back-door to Europe.
  • It is surrounded by three seas: the Mediterranean, Red, and Arabian Sea, and is a hub for international trade with various regions.
  • West Asia is home to two significant waterways, the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles.
  • In the past, Arabs acted as a bridge between India and the West, facilitating the exchange of knowledge, such as numerals, as well as the trade of spices, foodstuffs, jewelry, textiles, muslin, and other goods from India to the Arab region.
  • Meanwhile, pearls and dates were exported from the Gulf region.
West Asia
West Asia

Significance of West Asia for India

West Asia holds significant importance for India due to several factors:

  • Energy Security: The region supplies nearly 60% of India’s total crude oil requirement, making it crucial for India’s energy security. Saudi Arabia is India’s top supplier of crude oil, followed by other Gulf countries. The region also accounts for a major fraction of India’s LNG import.
  • Trade and Investment: The Gulf remains a significant trading partner for India, with trade figures consistently going up, especially with countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Attracting foreign direct investment from the cash-rich Gulf region is also a priority for India.
  • Palestine Issue: India has maintained its stand on the “two-state” solution between Israel and Palestine, and has reiterated its support for all efforts for a resolution, including on the contentious issue of Jerusalem, which Israel has claimed in its entirety since 1967.
  • Forging Strategic Ties: The support of Gulf countries is important for India’s bid for a Permanent Seat at the United Nations Security Council. India and UAE have elevated their relationship to a Strategic Partnership.
  • Protecting Interests of Diaspora: Protecting the interests of the 9 million strong Indian diaspora in the Gulf is an important element of India’s policy priorities in the region. The Indian diaspora in the Gulf is a major source of remittances.
  • Military Cooperation: The growing threats of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism have become concerns for both India and the Gulf countries. India has been deepening defence cooperation with countries like the United Arab Emirates and Oman, conducting regular bilateral exercises between their forces.
  • Fighting Piracy: Piracy activities off the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean have affected both India and the Gulf countries. Cooperation with the Gulf countries in fighting piracy would strengthen India’s presence in the strategic waters of the Indian Ocean.
  • Strengthening Soft Power: In West Asia, India’s most distinct soft power asset is the diaspora and its role in buttressing a positive image of the country. India’s policy of non-interference and neutrality are other dimensions of soft power.


  • Political Instability: The security situation in West Asia has been continuously deteriorating ever since the onset of the Arab Spring in December 2010.
    • The internal security situation in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen has gone from bad to worse. The regional powers continue to fight proxy wars on sectarian lines, pumping huge amounts of money and weapons to bolster their favoured groups.
    • The involvement of extra-regional players such as the USA and Russia in the internal conflicts in West Asia (Syria) has further aggravated the situation.
  • Terrorism: Terrorism has emerged as the biggest security threat in the region. The rise of the Islamic State and other terror groups has created a threat to the Indian diaspora residing in West Asia.
    • Also, the radicalization of Indian youth and their joining the Islamic State has been another major problem.
  • Saudi–Iran–Israel rivalry: The rivalry has been destabilizing West Asia and influencing West Asian geopolitics.
    • The recent withdrawal of the US from JCPOA can be seen through the prism of this rivalry. It will be a difficult task for India to continue to balance its relations with all three countries without antagonizing any of them.
  • India–Israel close ties: India’s deepening defence and strategic relations with Israel have not gone down well with Iran, which has started to play its China and Pakistan card to extract more from India.
  • China factor: China has made rapid inroads in the Gulf by having acquired equity stakes in the region’s upstream oil and gas sector and having successfully penetrated Arab markets.
    • China is continuously making inroads to West Asia through the OBOR initiative.
    • India’s incapacity to manage its own periphery, South Asia, has made Gulf Arabs more inclined to seek China as a better security partner, rather than India.
  • Pakistan factor: India’s “trust deficit” with Pakistan has incapacitated India from advancing its commercial interests in West Asia, including the bringing to fruition of the Iran-India-Pakistan (IPI) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline projects.
  • Arab slowdown & Nationalization: The decline of oil and gas prices, along with the rising cost of “war conditions,” has led to the slowing of Arab Gulf economies, resulting in salary cuts, layoffs, contracting employment opportunities, and nationalization of workforces at the cost of the Indian expatriate community.
  • US Sanctions on Iran: The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and its threatened imposition of economic sanctions on Iran may weaken the dialogue mechanisms, embolden conservatives, and threaten regional stability even more. India also has significant oil trade with Iran and stakes in connectivity through Chabahar port and other projects.

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