The Gulf has shared civilizational links with India for thousands of years but it is also a region which has been vastly neglected in India's foreign policy. The Vice President of India reiterated the importance of the Gulf and the pressing need for peace and stability in this region and the consequences for India during his introductory speech at the 3rd International Relations Conference titled 'Link West India and the Gulf', which was organized by the Symbiosis School of International Studies at Pune, India on 10 October 2015. Read the full speech here
The Hon'ble Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan also graced the occasion which his presence and his speech focused on maintaining India's energy security. The delegation from the Gulf States also assured of an uninterrupted flow of energy trade with India in the future. In this respect, it is important to note that the Gulf region is diversifying its operations in the field of energy. India via its engagement with the region should work towards adopting these practices in order to reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons. The trade balance between the two regions is approximately USD 160 billion. This figure has tremendously changed in the last decade. The fall in the price of oil poses a challenge to the Gulf, however, this could be an opportunity for India. The current approach that India has towards the Gulf would need to change tremendously given that, today, the countries of the Gulf region are tuned in to global competition and international norms of business and trade.
With regard to investments, there has been equity of USD 30 billion, However, considering the fact that the Gulf countries have surplus funds, this figure should have been considerably higher. A point to note in this regard is that while the Gulf countries possess vast Sovereign Wealth Funds, India's investments in the Gulf have far outweighed investments from the Gulf region in India. Therefore, a proactive methodology needs to be established for attracting future investments. The present situation in the West Asian region is characterised by the rise of violent conflicts, civil wars and terrorism which will have implications for India as well. India which has a considerable stake in the region should contribute towards the security of its western neighbourhood. Therefore, the Governments of the countries of the Gulf region and the Government of India should adopt a proactive approach which will promote dialogues with the aim to find solutions for peace and security.
The discussions at the session on Iran-Iraq contributed immensely in enriching the deliberations of the conference. During his speech, the Ambassador of Iraq, voiced his opinion on India's role as a mediator to lower the mounting tensions in West Asia. This underlines the importance of India for the region. The Ambassador of Iran also highlighted the opportunities for cooperation that India could explore in the post-sanctions era. Support for India's efforts for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council was also echoed during the conference. The last session highlighted the concept of 'soft power as being adjunct to power'. In the civilizational space of the pre- Westphalia order there were no clear national boundaries and nations were solely defined on the basis of their cultural identities. As such, the issues of power projection did not exist until 1648 when the concept of the 'Nation State' emerged. In the current geo-political environment where relationships between countries are more multidimensional than before, governments are once again looking at the soft power aspect of relationship building between nations. But given the reality of the present day, a utopian existence of non-national states should be discounted from policy formulation. Therefore, the concept of balance of power has to be incorporated in a nation's soft power approach.
Given the rich discussions under each session, it is hoped that the conference proved to be a worthy exercise and that the recommendations contribute towards the evolving contours of India's foreign policy vis-a-vis the Gulf region.
As said by Ambassador (Retd.) Sudhir T. Devare during his concluding remarks at the conference on 11 October 2016, 4:40 PM (IST)