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24th November – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Time to bridge the Gulf
  2. Politics must link climate action to economic and societal progress

TIME TO BRIDGE THE GULF

Context:

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates this week is a good moment to reflect on the structural changes taking place in the Gulf and the region’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2:  Effect of Policies & Politics of Developed and Developing countries on India (India’s interests, diaspora); Bilateral, Regional, Global groupings & Agreements (involving and/or affecting India)

Mains Questions:

  1. The Indian establishment must discard outdated perceptions and seize the new strategic possibilities in the gulf region. Comment. 15 marks
  2. The question of India’s Energy Security constitutes the most important part of India’s economic progress. Analyse India’s energy policy cooperation with West Asian Countries. 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article

  • About West Asia?
  • Importance of west Asia for India
  • Challenges in West Asia
  • India’s look west policy
  • Limitations in India’s vision and strategy
  • Five points strategy to tap the potential of West Asia
  • Way forward

About West Asia?

West Asia is the westernmost subregion of Asia. It includes Anatolia, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Mesopotamia, the Levant region, the island of Cyprus, the Sinai Peninsula, and Transcaucasia (partly). The region is considered to be separated from Africa by the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt, and separated from Europe by the waterways of the Turkish Straits and the watershed of the Greater Caucasus. Central Asia lies to its northeast, while South Asia lies to its east. Eight seas surround the region (clockwise): the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Mediterranean 
GEORGIA 
TURKEY 
SYRIA 
AZE 
ARMA 
IRAQ 
IRAN 
LEBAN 
PALESTINE 
JO 
WEST ASIA 
AN 
KUWAIT 
BAHRAI 
SAUDI ARABIA 
YEMEN 
UAE 
Gulf of 
Oman 
OMA 
Arabian Sea

Importance of west Asia for India

India has huge stakes involved in the region such as energy, trade and safety of Indian community in the region.

  • Energy security: 70 per cent of India’s imported energy needs come from West Asia and this dependence will only increase as the Indian economy continues to grow at 8 per cent or more.
  • Security of Indian community:
    • India is the largest recipient of foreign remittances from west Asia.
    • 11 million Indians working in West Asia. Therefore, stability in the region is high on India’s core agenda.
  • To counter radicalization: close cooperation is essential to counter radicalization in India.
  • Gate way to central Asia: West Asia is gate way to land locked and energy rich central Asia.
  • Geostrategic importance: To reduce the influence of china in west Asia and in Arabian Sea. China is continuously making in road to west Asia through OBOR initiative.

Challenges in West Asia

  • Political instability: The security situation in West Asia has been continuously deteriorating ever since the onset of the Arab Spring in December 2010. E.g. Syria, Yemen and Iraq crises.
  • Involvement of global and regional powers: The involvement of extra-regional players such as the USA and Russia in the internal conflicts in West Asia has further aggravated the situation.
  • Terrorism: Terrorism has emerged as the biggest security threat to the region. The rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is the most disturbing trend.
  • Regional Conflicts:
    • Arab Israel Conflict – A comprehensive and permanent solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict should be achieved on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions, Madrid Peace conference of 1991 and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut.
    • Syria Issue – There is need to preserve the unity, sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability of Syria and the importance to reach a political solution to the crisis that preserves the lives of Syrians.
    • Israel – Palestine Conflict- Israel should end its occupation of the Palestinian “Arab” territories it seized in 1967 and dismantle all the settlements
  • US Sanctions on Iran: US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal and has threatened to impose economic sanctions on Iran. This may weaken the dialogue mechanisms, embolden conservatives and may threaten the regional stability even more. India also has significant oil trade with Iran and stakes in connectivity through Chahbahar port and other projects.
  • Pakistan factor: Pakistan is very close ally of many west Asian countries especially with GCC.
  • US Sanctions on Iran: Recently US withdrew from Iran nuclear deal and has threatened to impose economic sanctions on Iran. This may weaken the dialogue mechanisms, embolden conservatives and may threaten the regional stability even more. India also has significant oil trade with Iran and stakes in connectivity through Chahbahar port and other projects.

India’s “Look West” policy

For decades, India was a passive player in West Asia-a beneficiary of good relationships with multiple actors. During the Cold War years, India maintained close economic cooperation with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, the rival poles in regional geopolitics. In the post-Soviet world the bi-directional approach has been expanded to a tri-directional foreign policy to accommodate the three key pillars of West Asia — Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel. India adopted Look West policy in 2005. Main features of the policy are:

  • A Secular and Non- Aligned Policy: India’s policy towards the region will be shaped by its policy of nonalignment in the context of the region’s religious (Muslims and Jews) and sectarian (Shia-Sunni) conflicts.
  • Diplomacy at various levels: Commitment to Diplomacy outlining closer government-to-government (G2G) relations draws attention to the vibrant business-to-business (B2B) and people-to-people (P2P) relationships.
  • Move towards India’s Non-Ideological Policy: The seismic changes in the Middle East compelled India to revisit its Middle East policy that had been anchored on Arab socialism, secularism and Soviet friendship. India not only had to co-habit with US domination but also engage rising conservatism in the region. In practical terms this meant devising a policy that was driven more by economic calculation than political rhetoric.
  • Major emphasis on Maritime Diplomacy: The seas surrounding West Asia have assumed a major emphasis in Look West Policy due to energy and economic security they offer now for India.

Limitations in India’s Vision and Strategy

  • On the domestic front, the bureaucratic mode of running Indian foreign policy, chronic understaffing, and multiple centers of decision making has often resulted in inefficient or inadequate implementation of bilateral and international treaties and agreements.
  • Second, despite India’s growing stature in the Gulf, it has not been able to attract substantial Arab investment. Foreign direct investment (FDI) from the G.C.C. countries between 2000 and 2014 has remained stagnant, at $3.2 billion partly due to failure of establishing Islamic banking and lack of investor’s confidence due to archaic banking rules and regulations, corruption, and lack of transparency.
  • India’s “trust deficit” with Pakistan has incapacitated India from advancing its commercial interests, including the bringing to fruition of the Iran-India-Pakistan (IPI) and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan India (TAPI) gas pipeline projects
  • 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. Alongside, 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.
  • West Asia’s Domestic factors:
    • India lacks a long-term vision to arrest the worrying menace of Saudi Wahhabism, the rapid spread of which has created havoc in Pakistan.
    • Second, 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, tax levies, contracting employment opportunities, and the nationalization of workforces at the cost of the expatriate community.

Five Points Strategy To Tap the Potential Of West Asia

  • First is the immediate need to shield India’s interests in the post-pandemic turbulence that is enveloping the region. The threat to the region’s economic stability is real, and as the Gulf considers cutting back on foreign labour, Delhi would want to make sure its workers in the region are insulated. The UAE alone hosts nearly three million Indian expatriates. Delhi is also eager to improve the working conditions of its large labour force — close to eight million — in the Gulf.
  • Second is to focus on the new and long-term possibilities for economic cooperation with the Gulf, which is looking at a future beyond oil. The Gulf states have embarked on massive economic diversification and are investing in a variety of new projects including renewable energy, higher education, technological innovation, smart cities, and space commerce. Delhi must get its businesses to focus on the range of new opportunities in the Gulf.
    • India also needs to tap into the full possibilities of Gulf capital for its own economic development. The big gap between the investments that the Gulf is ready to offer and India’s ability to absorb needs to be reduced. When PM Modi travelled to UAE in 2015, Abu Dhabi committed to invest $75 billion in India. Delhi is a long distance away from facilitating that scale of investments.
  • Third, the Gulf’s financial power is increasingly translating into political influence and the ability to shape the broader political narrative in the Middle East. The influence has been manifest in their successful transformation of the debate on Arab relations with Israel.
  • Fourth, less noted in India but equally significant is the growing ability of the Gulf to influence regional conflicts from Afghanistan to Lebanon and from Libya to Somalia. Khaleeji capital’s new weight in the Indian Ocean is reflected in several ways. The Gulf today delivers economic and security assistance to friendly states, builds ports and infrastructure, acquires military bases and brokers peace between warring parties and states.
  • Fifth, Delhi pays insufficient attention to the significant reforms unfolding in the Gulf that seek to reduce the heavy hand of religion on social life, expand the rights of women, widen religious freedoms, promote tolerance, and develop a national identity that is not tied exclusively to religion. The UAE has been the leader in this regard.

Way Forward

Delhi has long seen the Gulf as the source of extremist religious ideology that destabilised the Subcontinent and beyond. India now has every reason to support the Gulf rulers who are trying to reverse course and promote political and social moderation at home and in the region.


POLITICS MUST LINK CLIMATE ACTION TO ECONOMIC AND SOCIETAL PROGRESS

Context:

Joe Biden’s key to success may lie in the way his campaign has framed climate change — not as a stand-alone environmental issue, but one that is linked to the creation of millions of planet-friendly green jobs.

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: Environmental conservation; Environmental pollution and degradation; Environmental Impact Assessment

Mains Questions

  1. What is The Green New Deal? How this will help to counter the climate change? 10 marks
  2. If we are to tackle climate change, our political debates and legislative action must move away from the false rhetoric that pits environmental action against economic and societal progress. Discuss. 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article

  • What is The Green New Deal?
  • Provisions related to The Green New Deal
  • Significance of The Green New Deal
  • Challenges to The Green New Deal
  • Way forward

What is The Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal (GND) is a proposed package of United States legislation that aims to address climate change and economic inequality. The name refers back to the New Deal, a set of social and economic reforms and public works projects undertaken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression. The Green New Deal combines Roosevelt’s economic approach with modern ideas such as renewable energy and resource efficiency.

The Green New Deal Is Good for the Planet—and the Democratic Party | The  Nation

Provisions related to The Green New Deal

These goals are to be accomplished through the following actions on the part of the federal government:

  • Providing investments and leveraging funding to help communities affected by climate change
  • Repairing and upgrading existing infrastructure to withstand extreme weather and ensuring all bills related to infrastructure in Congress address climate change
  • Investing in renewable power sources
  • Investing in manufacturing and industry to spur growth in the use of clean energy
  • Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and “smart” power grids that provide affordable electricity
  • Upgrading all existing buildings and building new ones so that they achieve maximum energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability.
  • Supporting family farming, investing in sustainable farming, and building a more sustainable and equitable food system
  • Investing in transportation systems, namely zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, public transit, and high-speed rail
  • Restoring ecosystems through land preservation, afforestation, and science-based projects
  • Cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites
  • Identifying unknown sources of pollution and emissions
  • Working with the international community on solutions and helping them achieve Green New Deals

Significance of The Green New Deal

  • Devastating floods in Assam, Bihar, Kerala and Mumbai, widespread damage by cyclones Amphan and Nisarga, locust swarms and forest fires — these are warning signs that climate change has already begun to impact Indian lives and economies. The Green New Deal will help to address it.
  • The US is the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and a major contributor to global warming. The Green New Deal will increase the participation of USA to counter the climate change.
  • The Green New Deal has an ambitious goal of making the US carbon-neutral by 2030 –emitting only as much as can be locked up in oceans and forests.
  • The Green New Deal activists have called for a ban on fracking, and recent research has shown that methane leaks from shale fields have had a major global impact.

Challenges to The Green New Deal

  • For one, the Green New Deal has an ambitious goal of making the US carbon-neutral by 2030 –emitting only as much as can be locked up in oceans and forests. That’s just 10 years away. Biden says this is impossible. He plans to make the US economy net-zero by 2050, 20 years later than the Green New Deal targets.
  • Biden has announced that he has no plans to ban fracking on private lands in the US. Two US states, Pennsylvania and Texas, sit on top of massive shale fields, which have recently been exploited via fracking to produce “clean energy” via natural gas. 
  • The Senate is still in control of the Republicans, and the fossil fuel lobby plays a prominent role in shaping political decisions in the US.

Way Forward

Biden’s election provides significant cause for optimism on climate action, not just for the US but for the rest of the world. One of the first things he is likely to do after assuming office is to ensure that the US re-joins the Paris Agreement, and reinstate a number of environmental legislation and institutions that Trump dismantled. He plans to spend five trillion dollars to combat climate change, creating millions of “green jobs” in the process in the renewable energy sector, energy efficiency and climate resilient infrastructure.

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