Top diplomats, government official and business leaders endorse the potential that is waiting to be unlocked in this tri-lateral alliance that could change the face of collaboration in the Middle East and West Asia.
The normalisation of ties between Israel and the UAE has thrown open the floodgates of immense possibility for India as it forges ahead to make its presence felt in the Middle East across multiple podiums.
Trade, security, oil & gas and other avenues of strategic cooperation underline India’s interests and with it, New Delhi’s connections with GCC nations have solidified.
The beneficiary is not just India alone but the UAE and Israel as well since Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv signed the historic Abraham Accord, to restore diplomatic ties, thus opening up broad cooperation and collaboration.
The peace agreement between the UAE and Israel stands to benefit not only the Middle East but also India who has been a dependable partner for both nations. The Narendra Modi government has invested a great deal of time and energy to nurture and advance its bonds with both countries.
This was endorsed by Navdeep Suri, former Indian ambassador to the UAE, when he said, “[India has] excellent ties with both Israel and UAE, so the normalisation of ties between them is good news for India. It opens the way for meaningful cooperation in several areas of mutual interest ranging from conservation of water resources and promoting food security to joining hands in the fight against terrorism.”
Suri’s comments made last year also resonated through a meeting conducted by the International Federation of Indo-Israel Chambers of Commerce (IFIICC) last week to discuss the ongoing business collaborations being pursued through IFIICC's leadership across sectors. According to Ambassador Ilan Sztulman Starosta, Head of the Israeli mission in Dubai, “The international business potential backed by Israeli innovation, UAE's visionary leadership and strategic partnership of both nations with India could be $110 billion by 2030.”
Starosta’s observations also found common ground with Ahmed Abdul Rahman Al Banna, Ambassador of the UAE to India and Founding Patron of IFIICC, who stated, “UAE and India's bilateral trade is projected to grow from USD 60 billion in 2020 to USD 100 billion by 2030. UAE is a gateway to the world and this trilateral with India and Israel could benefit the world."
Dr Aman Puri, Consul General of India to Dubai, also reiterated that India was well aware of the opportunities that lay ahead in a mutually beneficial union between the three nations, "The Indian business community in the UAE could significantly leverage the strengths of this trilateral to boost economic growth of all nations," he commented.
The locks that had been in place for decades prohibiting the UAE and Israel from diplomatically engaging with each other were undone last August when UAE became the third Arab country to resume diplomatic ties with Israel in a US-brokered deal. Bahrain followed suit. Historically, Egypt and Jordan established normal relations with Israel in 1979 and 1994. India's policy on Israel has also evolved through the decades thanks to the robust engagement of the Narendra Modi government.
Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, in 2017, months after hosting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. India has been closely engaged in the region and shares prosperous ties with all stakeholders.
Making an observation then in his analysis published for the Asia & the Pacific Policy Society Don McLain said, “It is simple to see the potential benefits of this move for India. Israel and India have enjoyed close relations in recent years, and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also been able to cultivate strong relations with the UAE. With the two states normalising relations, the diplomatic environment in the Middle East will become more favourable for India.”
The post-Abraham accord phase has generated a lot of activity between Israel, UAE and Bahrain with business sectors getting into the act. The UAE-Israel Business Council (UIBC) which was set up after the normalisation of relations last year already boasts of 500 Israeli companies trading with the UAE. Throwing India into this mix would ensure significant ground being covered in the spheres of defence, cybersecurity, space science, healthcare, food security and financial services.
Ran Tuttnauer, Honorary President of IFIICC commented, “International business through the UAE in collaboration with India using Israeli Innovation will be the future”.
Merzi Sodawaterwala, Founder and Chairperson of IFIICC, which was launched on December 14 last year, decoded ties saying “Innovation and collaboration can help usher in a new, post-pandemic era of sustainable economic growth.”
Kamal Vachani, a long-time UAE resident and a mainstay of the Indian business community evinced optimism in tri-lateral ties commenting “The innovation and economic prospects of this trilateral are endless.”Vachani is also an Honorary President of IFIICC for the UAE and Group Director & Partner of Al Maya Group.
Clearly the stakeholders are staring at a future which is loaded with limitless possibilities especially in a post-Covid scenario. The Indo-Israeli relationship has already been scaled up manifold thanks to productive overtures between both governments. As Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu once said during his visit to India in 2018, “What we can do together is shape the future. It is not something that I say off hand. I believe in India, deeply. I believe in India because I know your heritage, your culture, your ingenuity, your creativity, your humanity, your passion which is exemplified by Prime Minister Modi to change the world for the better. We are your partners and I came here to say today, Prime Minister Modi, thank you for believing in Israel the way we believe in India."
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A lot of the credits that India has earned for itself has been in the way it has fashioned its West Asia strategy. Speaking to India Global Business last year, Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Distinguished Fellow and Head of Strategic Affairs at the Ananta Aspen Centre, said, “It is a bundle of bilateral relations which does its best to keep from being entangled with each other. This allows it (India) to have good relations with Israel, Iran, UAE and others without any of them protesting. But this also means India cannot serve as a mediator between the various rival parties of the region - a role it also does not seek. It has supported other peace initiatives like the Oslo accord, but only when both sides asked it to do so.”
With majority of the Arab world now recognising the value of doing business with Israel, India suddenly finds itself as a fulcrum. It stands in the middle with a capacity to gain from both sides.