December 5, 2022

5th West Asia Conference on ‘India’s approach to West Asia: Trends, Challenges and Possibilities’ begins

New Delhi: Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) organised the 5th West Asia Conference on ‘India’s Approach to West Asia: Trends, Challenges and Possibilities’ in its premises in New Delhi on March 29-30.

Delivering the Welcome Address, Director General Manohar Parrikar IDSA, Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy, set the tone for the conference by contextualising India’s approach to West Asia in the changing global and regional environment. He described the Indo-Pacific as an aspirational and accommodative geostrategic space that is likely to influence the regional dynamics of West Asia and its adjoining regions.

Speaking about the fluid situation in West Asia and North Africa (WANA), Amb. Chinoy said the transition in WANA countries from authoritarianism to participatory politics is painful and inconclusive, and the power struggle among the key regional stakeholders has complicated the regional security situation. The issue of energy security has assumed enormous significance for the oil importing countries of India, Japan, South Korea and China amid the spiralling energy prices, he added.

Commenting on India’s stand on the existing Ukraine crisis, Amb. Chinoy insisted that India takes its own decisions, based on its assessments and national priorities. India’s “strategic autonomy” is a reality in words and deeds, and India stands for the resolution of disputes through peaceful negotiations, he pointed out. India’s ‘Look West’ policy has been transformed into a “Link and Act West” policy and this process has benefitted from PM Modi’s personal visits and goodwill in the region.

Speaking further on the implications of the Ukraine war, Amb. Chinoy observed that the crisis in Europe and the economic fallout of sanctions come at a time when the global economy is emerging from the deleterious effects of the pandemic. The North-South divide is likely to grow. Countries are more likely to spend on arming themselves as insurance instead of focussing on economic recovery, he pointed out.

The Director General, while chairing the first session on ‘India and West Asia: Adapting to Changing Realities’ also observed that the Russia Ukraine conflict has once again brought global attention towards the broad themes of non-proliferation, ballistic missiles and disarmament. The ongoing conflict is bound to give a temporary boost to the OPEC oil producers, but the search for alternative economic avenues in the age of renewable energy will shape the geopolitics of West Asia, he reflected.

Speaking at the session, Amb. Dr. Ezzat Saad El Sayed, Director, Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Cairo, underscored the growing defence cooperation between India and Egypt as an indicator of growing levels of trust and mutual understanding between the two nations.

Also speaking on the occasion, Amb Talmiz Ahmad, former Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman, noted that the WANA region has come of age and is experiencing local realignments, as it strives to define its interests and shape policy approaches. The apathy demonstrated by West Asia towards the American sanctions on Russia, reveals the region’s divergent stand from the West and the growing autonomy of the region, he observed.

Amb Dore Gold, President, Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Jerusalem, spoke about India emerging as a great power in the region since World War I, and that its growing role as a great power is shaped by protecting India’s interests in the region.

MP-IDSA has been organising its biennial West Asia Conference (WAC) since 2014. Over the years, this flagship event has dealt with a number of critical issues facing West Asia and North Africa (WANA) region including the paradigmatic shifts in the region’s geopolitics, the growing impact of ideological and socio-political movements, and the global, regional and intra-regional responses to the regional developments.

The two-day conference brings together 21 experts from all over the world to share their perspectives and generate new ideas that would contribute to the process of deepening mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation between the WANA countries.

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