India with its democratic background and principled position of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries is in a position to work as a mediator and help ensure that peace in the Middle East is restored, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh said on Wednesday. The minister was speaking at the first conference on ‘Geopolitical Shifts in West Asia: Trends and Implications’ organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a leading think tank that specialises on strategic affairs. The Middle East is referred to as West Asia in India.
India, with important political, economic and security stakes in the peace and stability of the region, had been following Middle Eastern developments very closely, he said. In light of the emerging political situation, the challenges facing India was to balance its political equations and economic interests with major regional and external players in the area.
India is heavily dependent on energy supplies from the Gulf region. Energy imports from the region constituted around 63 per cent of India’s total oil imports in 2012-13. The region is the leading trading partner for India with a total trade of around $200 billion in the same year.
Around seven million Indian passport holders live in the region and they form another important symbiotic link between India and the region. Strategically, India can play the role as a mediator, as a partner and as a country on which a lot of players in Middle East can rely on, said the minister.
He said India will abide by various UN resolutions pertaining to the region for the betterment of the area and to ensure the establishment of people centric and abiding regimes. Elaborating on India’s policy towards the Middle East, Singh, a former Indian Army chief who joined the ruling BJP after his retirement, said New Delhi’s policy had been to be friendly with all the players in the region.
India looked forward to a peaceful extended neighbourhood so that the area can prosper on its own. Reflecting on the upsurge of “extremist forces” like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, he stated that such trends have had their fallout globally. India hoped that this “extremist manifestation” would be controlled by the regional players of the area.
Speaking on India’s stand on the Israelis and Palestine, he said India wanted a negotiated settlement between the two in line with UN declarations. The two-day conference aims at deliberating on the geo-political, security, economic and strategic issues unfolding in the Middle East. Scholars from India, the Middle East and other countries are participating in the conference to discuss in greater details the evolving trends and its implications for regional peace and stability.