A Distinguished Lecture on Recent Developments in West Asia: Challenges for India by Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad was organized on the 23rd of August by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI, New Delhi. Prof A.K. Pasha joined as discussants. The deliberation was moderated by Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI, New Delhi.

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Just when we look at West Asia today after How Biden got elected as the President of America. India and other West Asian countries are still recovering from the trauma that Trump has left in this region. Attack after 9/11, war on Iraq and leaving American troops without any solution of the conflict with Taliban even after having spent lots of money. In the times of Donald’s presidency, there was robust intervention in order to expand the frontlines in the country. The silent and significant intervention of Russia and China is also marked in the last some time trying to rework on the global order leading potential threat to Eurasia.

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The secret meetings of Iran and Saudi Arabia indicate restorations in diplomatic ties. Biden’s attitude towards the Middle East and West Asian countries is anyway loud and clear that he’s going to scrutinize the human rights record and affect the internal matters of the nations for its own benefit, not as emotionally as Trump but the opposite direction.

The reality check has already happened in the case of Afghanistan. It is quite clear that he wishes to focus on his domesticated agenda first. And for that, he needs to have a degree of national concentration in a country that is so polarized and therefore he put Iran on the back burner and focus on the relief to be given in order to combat the pandemic and the infrastructure bail at home.

West Asian and the middle eastern countries and their issues aren’t on the priority list of Biden’s administration.

But West Asia has the habit of biting you when you’re least expecting it and therefore you’ve violence in Gaza and Jerusalem and the Americans have to get into it but they really conducted themselves as they did earlier.

And that was to give these rallies a very long rope allowing them to cause real violence as much as possible on the Palestinians as well as in Gaza where hundreds of people have been killed not engineered by America but by the Egyptians. Egypt is very clear that though they’re led by a military officer, they don’t want to involve armed forces. All the initiatives that the Egyptians have taken have been diplomatic in character.

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In the context of India, since 2019, the Indian government is paying more attention to the agenda of domestication. And the reworking of the idea in the image of their ideology. What passes for a foreign policy is a near-total absence of any vision or direction but sporadic activities of ministers. But it is an engagement that has no substance and direction.

Pakistan’s concern in the context of Afghanistan is intermixed with the economy and social security that puts the ruling party in Islamabad at alert.

China’s involvement in the case of Pakistan and Afghanistan is purely economic. On both ends there have been conversations about building economic development in the region but only if there’s stability.

India’s relation to Iran has been subordinated by America in the last 20 years. Meanwhile, Russia and China have been consistently in Iran building economic, defense, and political relations.

In the context of Afghanistan, when the human life crisis is happening India is limited to the domesticated ideology and putting foreign affairs completely ignored. When there could be overlapping of different dimensions, India paid attention to only two communities of people who have been living there for 400 years.

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Prof A.K. Pasha began his presentation with an appreciation of Amb Talmiz Ahmad and continued with further information on the same focusing on the covid-19 in relation to IR of West Asia and the global environment. The Syrian crisis is going to fester much longer and the instability which has cost not only Syria but the whole region would only multiply with the new wave of refugees.

Second, the Saudi military intervention continues and the killing of civilians and the infrastructure is degrading.

The third is the issue of the ruling system to its people. Lately, it is not limited to the military ruling nations like Egypt but also to other countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. The world has been silent to the Lebanese, Palestinian community, and Gaza strip.

The intervention of Russia in Syria, Israel, and some other countries also raises eyebrows. Not to speak of the new age interest of Iran along with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other Gulf countries. This region is prone to turmoil and revolutions, wars, and unprecedented agitations spilling from one territory to the other.

So, this area is like a minefield, and for a country like India whether it is Shia Shunni secretariat over Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria but also on the accumulation of weapons because this area is one of the heaviest importers of weapons from all countries from Russia to China to European to America to Brazil by both state and non-state actors. Adding the uncertainty of things by new nuclear programs in UAE and Iran.

Adding his agreement to the Amb Talmiz Ahmad on Indo-Iranian relations that India’s relation was submissive to America and should have had a flourishing like Turkey and other countries.

Concluding remarks and questions

America’s attitude towards the west Asian countries has always been cold even during the times of the cold war. It is considered to be more in relation to Britain. To America, it is more of getting resources out of the region and making profit only and not building assets and relations. The UN and OIC have not been of much help in this region. The UN works as a welfare association and OIC is controlled by Saudi Arabia.

Prof A. K. Pasha continued talking about India’s non-permanent membership in the UN which somehow gets overlooked because of China’s permanent membership and Indo-Pak relations. He focussed more on India’s independent diplomatic relations with other countries which loosened a little in the past few years because of the domesticated and limited approach.

Acknowledgment: Annu is a research intern at IMPRI.

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