BOM and posture matter, India shouldn’t be sleepwalking on the platform
The second Quad grouping taking shape in the Middle East is certainly an exciting prospect. Comprising India, the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, the platform is positioned as the western wing of the Quad oriented towards East Asia comprising India, the United States, the Japan and Australia. While that might seem like a nice balance, the Second Quad certainly can’t mirror the original and is loaded with more uncertainties given the political complexities of the Middle East in general. It is also not known what the main objective of the second Quad is. The original Quad is presented as a grouping of democracies sharing values that aims to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. And despite the official diplomatic language, this platform is clearly aimed at countering China’s maritime belligerence and the militarization of economic interdependencies in East Asia.
In other words, the original Quad has a clear purpose with a sound building block. On the other hand, the second Quad lacks such clarity. What we can learn from the first meeting of foreign ministers of the participating countries is that the group will focus on the technologies of the future such as Big Data and digital infrastructures, trade and maritime security ( in the eastern Mediterranean). Thus, this platform appears to be cutting edge in technology and economics rather than strategic security.
If this is the case, then why link the platform to the original Quad? It could simply position itself as a West Asian-focused technology, trade and economy group without entering into regional strategic dimensions. The worry is that India could be drawn into the hornet’s nest of Middle East politics, putting it in dangerous situations. After all, with the United States reorienting towards the Indo-Pacific following its withdrawal from Afghanistan, Washington might want New Delhi to play the balancing role in the Middle East. But that may not be in India’s strategic and security interests. First, India certainly does not want to be drawn into regional politico-sectarian rivalries between the Gulf Arab states and Iran. After all, the second Quad, with the presence of Israel and the United Arab Emirates, relies on the new synergy between the Jewish state and the Gulf Arabs. And this synergy is based on their common antipathy towards Iran.
But Iran is an important country for India for its energy needs, connectivity to Central Asia and access to Afghanistan. In fact, after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Iran’s strategic importance to India only increased. All in all, it would be a huge mistake if India got into a standoff between Iran and the New Arab-Israel Pact. Second, India already has a lot of soft power in the Middle East. In addition, the region is home to a huge Indian diaspora of nearly 8 million people. Therefore, New Delhi should consider whether an open strategic alliance with Israel will actually help its interests in the Middle East.
Of course, bilateral defense cooperation with Israel has matured over the years and will continue to develop. But an alliance has a completely different connotation. Because, he could see India facing delicate situations in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is true that some Arab Gulf monarchies are themselves reorienting their position on this conflict. But it is difficult to say whether this decision is supported by their Arab citizens. In fact, it is entirely possible that the Arab-Israeli pact could unravel in the future if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalates further.
In this scenario, India’s alliance with Israel could become a problem, jeopardizing its diaspora and investments in the Middle East. That said, if the second Quad’s focus remains firmly on technology and economics, it will also be a force for good. The Middle East is a growing market with a large young population. Therefore, the new platform can actually serve to improve the lives of people in the region and serve as a shield against radicalism.
So, given the strategic and political complexities in the Middle East, it is better to project the new group as a platform focused on technology and development rather than presenting it as another Quad with its strategic implications for security. In this regard, it would be prudent not to call the grouping “Quad” and to switch to another nomenclature that mitigates our risks and reduces apprehensions in the Middle East.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
END OF ARTICLE