Almost every global index, including democracy, human rights, hunger, press freedom etc places India as sinking and in risk of collapsing, yet in reality, the reverse is happening. Foreign governments, including the US, and anti-India global oligarch funded organizations, backed by many Indian haters of the current Delhi dispensation, have been projecting a bleak future for India as also as a nation where freedom of every form is suppressed. The US Government has even been requested to declare India as a nation of special concern.
The view being projected by global anti-India groups is that India is heading for a social collapse, its economic rise notwithstanding. What has irritated many western governments and their funded organizations, is India’s refusal to toe the western line and follow their diktats, especially when it comes to Ukraine and issues which primarily concern the west.
On the contrary, the reality is that the world needs India. Indian economic growth is being exploited by nations seeking to recover from their recession. India’s acceptance by all blocks, whether it be Russia or the US only adds to its global positioning. Rick Russow, a senior adviser and chair in US-India policy studies at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies stated that India is possibly the only country which can ‘pick up the phone and talk to leadership in both the United States and Russia on the same day.’
India’s relevance and successful foreign policy outlook would be further enhanced when for the G 20 summit in Delhi, Biden, Putin and Xi would be in the same room for the first time since the Ukraine war commenced.As president of the SCO and G 20 simultaneously, the world has witnessed India’s handling of different blocks without permitting one to target the other. Simultaneously, India continues as a major player in the QUAD, which currently remains a major Indo-Pacific grouping.
India’s technical expertise and global acceptance is why the US sought Indian involvement in its current interaction in West Asia, aimed at countering increased Chinese presence. It was Biden, who with his overarching belief in Human Rights, promised to take Saudi Arabia and its Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, to task for the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi leading to cooling of US-Saudi ties. The result was refusal by Saudi Arabia to maintain levels of oil production to reduce global impact post sanctions on Russia. At the commencement of the Ukraine war, leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE declined to take phone calls from the White House when Biden sought support, in apparent anger.
Washington, realizing that it is losing its traditional influence in a key region, is now attempting to bounce back. Trump had initiated the Abraham accords which enhanced ties between the UAE and Bahrain with Israel in Sept 2020, but the Biden dispensation in Washington indicated that it does not seek to continue as a guarantor for peace, leading to West Asian nations looking for alternatives.
With the US moving away, China waded in. It brokered peace between Saudi Arabia and Iran, resulting in US sanctions on Iran losing further steam. Chinese investments in infrastructure development in West Asia and North Africa have been immense, claimed to be USD 270 Billion from 2005 onwards. It has managed to draw in countries from the region to join its Belt Road Initiative (BRI). The US felt that unless it countered China, it would become an outcast in West Asia.
For re-entry, the US needed India, aware that India’s growing ties in the region would work in their favour. Recent interaction between the NSAs of the US, India, Saudi Arabia and the UAE in Riyadh was aimed at evaluating the launching of an ambitious infrastructure project intending to counter the BRI. The White House stated that the NSAs met to ‘advance their shared vision of a more secure and prosperous Middle East region interconnected with India and the world.’ The project intends was to link Gulf and Arab countries via a railway network ultimately connecting India and South Asia through multiple seaports. The project, once completed, would benefit both West Asian nations and South Asia.
It was reported that the concept emerged from meetings within the I2U2 (India, Israel, UAE and US grouping), established post the Abraham accords.The US has realised the importance of this grouping. Israel is currently not involved or linked in the project but may be in case relations with Riyadh undergo a change. The US NSA, Jack Sullivan, addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,prior to visiting West Asia stated, ‘If you remember nothing else from my speech, remember I2U2, because you will be hearing more about it as we go forward.’
India has the expertise and west Asian nations and the US the funds. India is currently involved in railway projects in Mozambique, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Botswana through its public sector enterprise, RITES. The RITES website mentions that it has completed projects in 55 countries, including in West Asia. India already has an excellent relationship with west Asian nations, such that Pakistan, which depended on these countries for unstinted support, has been compelled to rethink. Hence, without Indian involvement, the US is unlikely to make any headway.
Indian connectivity with the region had thus far been hampered as overland routes involve transiting through Afghanistan and Pakistan. In case the project does go through it would boost India’s reputation as the global builder of infrastructure as also enhance its ties with the region. With final links to India via multiple ports, Indian oil imports would become economical. With a west Asia moving from confrontation to collaboration, this is the time for India to venture in. Will the Chabahar port, in which India has invested be a part of this corridor, is unknown.
The fact is that no matter what India is assessed in various indices released by biased organizations after limited surveys, the reality is different. India is a nation in demand, whose global footprint and influence has grown in recent years. The India story is one of growing capabilities and ability to partake in complex global infrastructure projects.
The author is Major General (Retd)
India’s growing global footprints