India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon said in Riyadh on Monday that the energy-rich Gulf states had a special focus in his country's foreign policy with New Delhi emerging as a strong strategic partner in the stability, security and economic wellbeing of the region.
“India has a stake in issues relating to peace and stability in the wider Gulf region, including Iran and Iraq,” said Menon.
The Indian official, who was addressing a session on the second day of the high-profile Gulf and the Globe conference, called on the Gulf states and countries in the extended neighborhood to create “a climate of peace by working together on issues of regional security.”
He indicated in his speech that India cannot maintain a business-as-usual scenario with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the region at large because of India’s substantial and abiding interests in the region.
On the other hand, India's political traditions and long-term interests in the Gulf will also now allow it to become a junior partner in a US-led Western alliance. However, Menon reiterated that India has and will have a stake in the Gulf because of its age-old ties with the region. “India's own success is increasingly bound to the fate of the rest of the world as we live in an increasingly interdependent world,” he added.
“We will therefore work with our international partners, contributing within our own capacity to create an external environment for the domestic transformation of India … and that is what Riyadh and New Delhi have attempted to do together in the G20.”
He said the balance of power shifts and technological change were creating a world where power was more widely held.
Monday's first session of conference was also addressed by Bilahari Kausikan, permanent secretary at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Sun Shuzhong of China and Bulant Aras, chairman of the Center for Strategic Research of Turkey.
The session was chaired by professor Abdulkhaleq Abdullah of Emirates University. The session concluded with a consensus that neither rising Asian powers, such as China and India, nor the EU as a whole can or should act as the new security guarantors for the Gulf, essentially replacing the US.
The panelists were very clear in stating that their countries could not embrace overall military security roles.
Menon said India would not be like the traditional big powers. “But I am sure that working together, the Gulf and India will be able to face the challenges that the new geopolitics are throwing up and take advantage of the opportunities that these changes are opening up,” said Menon. He noted that the GCC as a bloc is home for over 6 million Indian workers and Indo-Gulf trade exceeds $100 billion annually.
Menon was of the opinion that the need for a strong strategic partnership in the Gulf and the possibility of India playing a role in it arises due to the changing tides on both sides. On a bilateral level, Saudi Arabia and India enjoy cordial relations, which is evident from the visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to India in 2006 and a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Riyadh in 2010.
Referring to India's consistent economic growth, he said his country's economic prospects were good. Over the last two decades, India has averaged over 6 percent growth, which accelerated to between 8 to 9 percent in the last five years, said Menon. He further pointed out that the Indian economy could sustain high growth rates.
Chinese Ambassador Shuzhong said: “The central goal of Chinese foreign policy is to ensure peace and security in the Gulf region and the world at large. The Gulf and its security dynamics have been largely shaped by the US,” said Singaporean official Kausikan, while referring to the growth of multiple major powers.
He noted that US-Sino relations is the most important bilateral relations in the context of global politics.