Israel and Haifa port are central to the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC), the ambitious multi-billion connectivity scheme linking India and Europe. The multi-modal transport corridor, conceived by G-7 countries as a counterweight to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), envisages linking India’s west coast via the UAE through the Arabian Peninsula to the Haifa port, from where goods will head for Greece and other European destinations.
In short, although the Israel-Hamas clash has put the IMEEC project, which requires cooperation from Arab countries, hanging, Israel is far more pivotal to India’s ambitions now than ever before.
The Gulf countries, for whom the Palestinian issue is a sensitive topic, are also vital for India. Close to 9 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) live in them, according to official government statistics. The PTI news agency reports that, as of March 2022, Gulf countries account for more than 66 percent of NRIs – out of around 13.4 million NRIs around the world. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) employs more than 3.41 million Indians, Saudi Arabia 2.59 million, Kuwait 1.02 million, Qatar 740,000, Oman 770,000, Bahrain 320,000, and so on. Far fewer Indian citizens are based in the US and the UK. On the other hand, only 20,000 Indians currently reside in Israel, according to Israel’s Consul General in Mumbai, Kobbi Shoshani.
A survey of remittances from abroad reveals more about the India-Arab world connection. The US is the single highest source of remittances to India – which refers to the money that Indians abroad send to their own accounts or to their relatives back home in the country. But, as a group, the Gulf countries contribute much more, with UAE topping the list.
The United States accounted for remittances of $23.4 million, the United Arab Emirates $18 million, the United Kingdom $6.8 million, Singapore $5.7 million, Saudi Arabia $5.1 million, Kuwait $2.4 million, Oman $1.6 million, Qatar $1.5 million, and so on. New Delhi is also gung-ho about potential tie-ups with Saudi Arabia, which is planning a huge image makeover, including the building of new smart cities, to attract international investment. Indian businessmen have publicly talked about their excitement to invest in that country.
Prisoners in Palestinian homeland: Indian Muslims recall Gandhi, Nehru, and Vajpayee’s support for the plight of stateless Arabs
For India, it is all the more essential in the wake of its growing tensions with China to win more friends in the Arab world and Africa, besides the West, to retain its stature on the global stage and secure itself against tectonic shifts in world power. Which is why the foreign establishment has been cautious about the way the crisis is being handled.
There is, however, a worrying aspect about certain preoccupations that have crept in. It is obvious that, increasingly, at a cultural and political level at least, there is greater stress on the medieval period of India than the modern one, which saw Great Britain colonizing the subcontinent. That such a propensity is influencing our political priorities at home is a foregone conclusion. Not letting such internal politicking enter geopolitical concerns is crucial in not only gaining friends but also retaining them.
In that sense, Gandhi is as relevant as ever in the way he foresaw how dangerous digging up myths and ancient pieces of history to justify modern political projects can get. That must be the premise from which to operate: having empathy for the lived experiences of others without bias. As Gandhi warned us, doing justice to one group of people cannot come at a cost to another.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
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