A fundamental re-ordering is needed

The fact is that such groupings are always based on a degree of political comfort and understanding
A fundamental re-ordering is needed
File Pic

The India, Israel, UAE and US grouping somewhat awkwardly named as I2U2 seems determined to proceed purposefully forward to pursue tangible economic and technical cooperation between the member-states. Officials and businesspeople of the four countries met in the inaugural session of the business forum of the grouping on February 22 in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. The attempted to give practical shape to their cooperation in the areas of water, energy, transportation, space, health, food security and technology. A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) press release on the meeting stated inter alia that the partnership “aims to mobilise private sector capital and expertise to, among other objectives, help modernise infrastructure, decarbonise industries, improve public health and promote development of green technologies”.

These are ambitious aims and all the four states will have to show a great degree of commitment and a will to take the process of their cooperation on a meaningful upward trajectory. Naturally, if their private sectors are to get involved, as all four countries wish that they do, then each project will have to become financially viable and technology transfer will have to take place. Should that happen then I2U2 will become a significant vehicle of cooperation in areas of direct popular benefit. The fact that this meeting has been held so soon after the I2U2 groupings first summit was held through video conferencing during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel in July last year indicates a degree of seriousness on the part of the four countries about this set-up. It will also be recalled that the first ‘meeting’ of the grouping took place virtually in October 2021. At that time India’s External Minister S Jaishankar was visiting Israel.

The four I2U2 countries have emphasised the economic nature of the grouping. However, the fact is that such groupings are always based on a degree of political comfort and understanding. There is no doubt that the grouping could not have come into existence without the UAE taking the fundamental decision to not only actively cooperate with Israel in the economic sphere but also establish diplomatic relations with it. The two countries did so in 2020 with the mediation of the United States. Prior to this decision too they were actively normalising their ties. The process of UAE-Israel cooperation is now moving ahead rapidly with the business communities of the two countries creating profitable opportunities.

India’s relations with the UAE have been excellent since Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s visit to the country in 1981. India’s economic stakes have consistently grown in this Arab Peninsular state through the decades which hosts almost four million expatriate Indians. With India having deep ties with Israel and with the establishment of Israel-UAE diplomatic relations and a desire to upgrade their cooperation the stage was set for I2U2. However, India’s decision to participate in the grouping represented a great change from its erstwhile approach of confining itself to only bilateral ties with each Arab country so that it kept away from their internecine quarrels and also balanced its Arab-Iran relationships.

On its part, India is not acknowledging that its West Asian policy has undergone a change for it is projecting I2U2 as an economic grouping. However, an American scholar Daniel Markey working in the US Institute of Peace sought to provide a ‘political’ basis for I2U2 in addition to the cement of practical cooperation. He said “By highlighting their shared commitment to pluralism and cooperation across faiths, I2U2 could become a venue for cooperation on a variety of other initiatives. It could pair pragmatic, development-oriented problem solving with peace building across religious and communal divides”. These are fine phrases but the fact is that politically and strategically what unites the US, UAE and Israel is a deep distrust of Iran and a desire to curtail its influence. In this respect India is and will remain an outlier in the grouping for despite its reservations with Iranian policy in many areas it has interests in Iran and values its ties with the Shia majority state.

At the Abu Dhabi I2U2 Business Forum India was represented by Dammu Ravi the very able Secretary in-charge of Economic Relations in MEA. The Ministry’s press release notes that he “reiterated India’s commitment to the I2U2 partnership and made a strong pitch for all stakeholders to work towards making tangible progress in all I2U2 initiatives, including setting up an I2U2 Innovation Centre in Gurugram, Haryana, India. In line with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s clarion call for LiFE -Life style for environment, he urged I2U2 partners to work towards an environment friendly and sustainable lifestyle for all”. There is no doubt that Modi’s views on the world adopting a sustainable life style is the need of the times.

In a way Modi’s view is based on Mahatma Gandhi’s pithy comment that the planet can fulfil the needs of all but not their greed. Unfortunately, a change to an austere way of living would require a fundamental re-ordering of the entire historical process of development, especially as it has taken place since the twentieth century. Climate change and environmental degradation has made it obvious that this development process is leading the planet and humanity towards disaster but till now for all the talk of sustainable development and the adoption of suitable lifestyles there is no indication that the affluent countries are willing to change their ways of living. This is because for them and, imitating them, for elites in the Global South, it is material success and extravagant living which is the basis of a fulfilling life.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Greater Kashmir