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A ‘Middle Kingdom’ Dawns on India’s West, The Hindu Editorial Analysis

The Hindu Editorial Analysis: The Editorial Analysis of The Hindu Newspaper Editorial Articles aimed at simplifying various concepts relevant to the UPSC and other State PSC Exams. The Editorial Analysis helps in expanding the knowledge base as well as framing better quality mains answers. Today’s Hindu Editorial Analysis of ‘A ‘Middle Kingdom’ Dawns on India’s West’ discusses various dimensions of Arab World, Role of Riyadh, Associated challenges and India’s stakes in Arab World along with suggestions for India to strengthen its position in Arab Countries, especially with Saudi Arabia.

32nd Arab League Summit in News

The 32nd Arab League Summit, which took place in Jeddah, was characterized by several distinctive aspects. Notably, after a hiatus of 12 years, all 22 Arab states reconvened, with 17 of them being represented by their respective heads of state or government.

32nd Arab League Summit 2023

During the 32nd Arab League Summit, Syria was readmitted and the Ukrainian President attended as a special invitee.

  • The subsequent “Jeddah Declaration” issued after the summit displayed a moderate approach in terms of political optics, acknowledging the contemporary socio-economic challenges faced by Arab nations.
  • While the declaration emphasized the pro-Palestinian agenda, it notably avoided mentioning Israel by name and omitted any references to Iran-related matters.
  • Instead, the declaration called for an end to foreign interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries and firmly rejected support for armed groups and militias.
  • Notably, non-Arab issues such as Ukraine and the oil market were not mentioned in the declaration.

Saudi Arab at 32nd Arab League Summit

The subtle indications suggest that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is emerging as the primary influencer of the Arab world’s agenda in the foreseeable future.

  • Leading up to the summit, the Crown Prince undertook several initiatives to streamline the Kingdom’s regional priorities.
  • This included hosting triple summits in Riyadh with the Chinese President and normalizing relations with Iran, aiming to end nearly 45 years of hostility and geo-religious rivalry.
  • These efforts have helped reduce tensions among their respective proxies in conflicts such as Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
  • The normalization of relations has also raised hopes of resolving the civil war in Yemen, which has been likened to the Kingdom’s version of the Vietnam War since 2015.
  • Additionally, Saudi Arabia has worked towards stabilizing its ties with the United States.

Saudi Arabia’s Quest for Arab Leadership

By independently reconciling with Iran through Chinese mediation, Saudi Arabia has asserted its diplomatic independence without seeking a nod-and-wink from the United States. This move significantly undermined Washington’s efforts to demonize Tehran and its nuclear program, raising questions about the rationale behind the economic sanctions regime.

  • The direct ties established with Iran have also diminished the significance of Qatar, Iraq, Oman, and Pakistan as intermediaries in the relationship.
  • Furthermore, by re-engaging with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, Saudi Arabia aims to replace Qatar and Iran as the primary benefactor, with the goal of contributing to the deradicalization of the Palestinian situation.
  • The Kingdom’s traditional animosity towards Israel has been replaced by a more ambiguous stance, as Riyadh shows no haste in joining the Abraham Accords.
  • Additionally, in recent weeks, Jeddah has become a venue for peace talks among warring factions in Sudan.

Advantages of Saudi Arabia

In its pursuit of Arab supremacy, Saudi Arabia enjoys the advantage of its strong economy. In 2022, its GDP expanded by 8.7%, reaching a total of $1,108 billion, which is more than twice the size of the second-ranking United Arab Emirates (UAE).

  • Being the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia experienced a remarkable 51% growth in oil income, reaching a record-breaking $228 billion.
  • This substantial influence over the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and OPEC+ has been a source of discontent for the West.
  • Given the current high volatility in the global oil market, only Saudi Aramco, the largest oil company globally, possesses sufficient spare capacity.
  • As the global economic landscape faces uncertainties and the costs of regional reconstruction increase in the aftermath of crises, Riyadh is positioning itself as the primary destination for assistance and support.

Associated Challenges for Riyadh

Despite the rapid rise of Saudi Arabia as a dominant force in the Arab world, there are several challenges that it must confront.

  • Firstly, the Kingdom’s foreign policy has experienced significant shifts since the Jamal Khashoggi incident in 2018, and there is a need for greater maturity and consistency to enhance its effectiveness.
  • Secondly, while various initiatives towards regional reconciliation have been undertaken, they have yet to solidify and remain vulnerable to potential setbacks.
  • Thirdly, Saudi Arabia’s relations with the UAE and Qatar are prone to friction and have the potential to worsen tensions.
  • Lastly, although Saudi Arabia maintains internal stability, the anticipated ascension of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the next Saudi king could introduce disruptions and distractions.

India’s Stakes in Arab World, Way Forward

Given India’s significant interests in the Arab world, particularly in the neighboring West Asian region, it is crucial for us to acknowledge the emerging geopolitical shift and closely monitor its developments. It is imperative to realign our strategy accordingly and actively pursue our national interests. While our relations with Saudi Arabia are cordial and substantial, there is still untapped potential that requires periodic upgrading. In light of this, several bilateral initiatives can be considered.

  • One such initiative involves re-inviting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his postponed visit to India, with the possibility of leveraging his potential presence at the upcoming G-20 Summit in New Delhi for bilateral discussions.
  • Additionally, India should-
    • Enhance cooperation through the bilateral Strategic Partnership Council at various levels,
    • Capitalize on the potential for energy complementarity,
    • Collaborate more effectively on regional security,
    • Explore the possibility of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement,
    • Propose an India-Saudi partnership for socio-economic infrastructure development both bilaterally and regionally, and
    • Increase its involvement in various projects under the Kingdom’s ambitious “Vision 2030.”

Antarctic Sea Ice Cover Hits Many Record Lows, The Hindu Editorial Analysis

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