India lauds ties with Arab world


India’s Minister for External Affairs Dr S. Jaishankar says the Arab region serves as an example of successful diplomacy….reports Asian Lite News

India’s Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, has said that his country’s relations with the Gulf have “evolved and advanced” in the last nine years.

Jaishankar was speaking at a special media briefing to mark nine years of the Narendra Modi government’s foreign policy since Prime Minister Modi assumed office in 2014.

“Our relationships have evolved. Take the regions, the Gulf, the ASEAN, each one of these has advanced. And why have they advanced? They didn’t advance by gravity and, you know, by nature. They advanced because people worked very hard. That in these relationships, the Modi government has driven, it has put in place policies, the Prime Minister himself has led the diplomatic efforts from the front, that we have tried to find areas of agreement, of collaboration, of working together with these countries, we have tried to expand the economic base, the technology base, tried to find security partners, and we have been largely successful.”

Jaishankar said the Middle East is one area where such “success is evident, if you look at the Gulf countries.” “Over the past nine years, there has been a change. There has been increased political engagement and a great level of comfort. If we look around the world today and think about which countries support us, many of them are from the Middle East.”

The Minister said there have been numerous high-level visits to the Gulf. In addition, he has himself visited Egypt and Tunisia, Jaishankar said, while his ministerial colleagues have been to Iraq, Morocco and Algeria.

“Our engagement with these countries has increased, and our relationships have become closer through political interactions. Trade has seen significant growth in the past nine years. So, from every perspective, this region serves as an example of successful diplomacy for us,” Jaishankar concluded.

FTA with GCC

The India-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Senior Officers Meeting (SOM) was held in Riyadh in March where they agreed for an early finalisation of the India-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Indian delegation led by Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary(CPV&OIA), called for more collaboration between India and GCC countries in renewable energy, food security, health, IT sector and counter-terrorism. The two sides proposed the formation of Joint Working Groups to cater to particular areas of cooperation between India and GCC countries.

GCC is the largest trade partner to India with a total trade of USD 154 Billion in FY 2021-22.

Earlier, in an interview with ANI, Jaishankar said boost in ties with the Gulf countries was among of big changes in the foreign policy domain. “If you were to ask me in ten years give me three examples of some big changes that happened in our policy, I would certainly put the changed relationship with Gulf, very, very high up there on the list,” Jaishankar said in response to the queries.

In an apparent dig at Congress, he said foreign policy should not be dictated by “vote bank mentality”

“Why didn’t it happen earlier? My own sense, we want a very, very honest answer is, I don’t think people were strategic earlier. I think when you have a vote bank mentality, you actually not serious about foreign policy and operationalising it, for you it’s like a slogan that they are with us so we kind of treated it as that’s the place as that we get our petrol.. …energy from there,” he said.

“There is a big community out there. The rest of it was like a distant goodwill which you needed for your political vote bank calculations. I think when you got a different government, which said we actually want something deeper, more strategic with full elements or full spectrum relationship, we have the ability today to deliver on lot of issues…. One of the reasons why the Gulf looks at us, the Gulf sees today’s India as much more credible than India of 10 years ago,” he added.

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