The first-ever meeting between the foreign ministers of India, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States is being widely perceived as a new QUAD group.
What is Abraham Accord?
The Israel–UAE normalization agreement is officially called the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement.
It was initially agreed to in a joint statement by the United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on August 13, 2020.
The UAE thus became the third Arab country, after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, to agree to formally normalize its relationship with Israel as well as the first Persian Gulf country to do so.
Concurrently, Israel agreed to suspend plans for annexing parts of the West Bank.
The agreement normalized what had long been informal but robust foreign relations between the two countries.
India and the Gulf
Now India has stronger, multifaceted and growing socioeconomic engagements with Israel and the Gulf countries.
With over eight million Indian diasporas in the Gulf remitting annually nearly $50 billion, annual merchandise trade of over $150 billion.
It sources nearly two-thirds of India’s hydrocarbon imports, major investments, etc. Hence it is natural to ask how the new regional dynamic would affect India.
India has acquired a large and rewarding regional footprint, particularly as the preferred source of manpower, food products, pharmaceuticals, gem and jewellery, light engineering items, etc.
Indians are also the biggest stakeholders in Dubai’s real estate, tourism, and Free Economic Zones.
In the evolving scenario, there may be scope for a profitable trilateral synergy, but India cannot take its preponderance as a given
The idea of the Indo-Abrahamic Accord
The idea of an accord between India, the UAE and Israel was first suggested by Mohammed Soliman, an Egyptian scholar based in Washington.
The focus, then, was on India taking full advantage of the normalisation of relations between Israel and the Arabs.
Prospects of India joining the accord
Adding “Indo” to the Abrahamic Accords — from think tank level to the policy domain underlines the extraordinary churn in the geopolitics of the Middle East.
It also points to new openings for India in the region and ever-widening possibilities for Delhi’s strategic cooperation with Washington.
Significance for India
The new minilateral consultation with the US, Israel and the UAE should started breaking that political taboo by:
(1) Creating a minilateral in the Middle-East:
Such events mark an important turning point in Delhi’s engagement with the Middle East.
It suggests India is now ready to move from bilateral relations conducted in separate silos towards an integrated regional policy.
As in the Indo-Pacific, so in the Middle East, regional coalitions are bound to widen Delhi’s reach and deepen its impact.
(2) India bridging the Arab-Israeli rift:
Often the Arab nations and Israel are divided over Palestine.
The simultaneous expansion of Delhi’s cooperation with Israel and the Arab world was considered impossible.
However, India’s new foreign policy broke from that assessment and demonstrated the feasibility of a non-ideological engagement with the Middle East.
This diplomatic pragmatism allows Delhi to reimagine its policies towards the Middle East.
(3) Extension of cooperation with the US:
Thinking of the US as a partner in the Middle East is part of the reimagination.
For long, India defined the US, and more broadly the West, as part of the problem in the Middle East.
As a result, Delhi kept a reasonable political distance from the US in the region.
India’s scale with Israeli innovation and Emirati capital could produce immense benefits to all three countries.
Add American strategic support and you would see a powerful dynamic unfolding in the region.
What is the kind of agenda that this group can develop?
Economic Cooperation: Like the eastern Quad, it would make sense for the new Middle Eastern minilateral to focus on non-military issues like trade, energy, and environment and focus on promoting public goods.
Technology cooperation: Beyond trade, there is potential for India, UAE and Israel to collaborate on many areas — from semiconductor design and fabrication to space technology.
A new geopolitical entity: The new “Quad” in the Middle East is likely to be India’s only new coalition in the region. It provides a thrust to new regionalism to the west involving India.
‘Extended’ neighborhood: This engagement will open the door for extending the collaboration with other common regional partners like Egypt (better call it Suez Canal), who will lend great strategic depth to the Indo-Abrahamic accords.