After Egypt, Jordan, UAE, and Bahrain, Morocco is the fifth Arab state which has in the very recent past given a nod to normalizing her relations with Israel. This has been the part of the larger strategy of the US and Israel that has worked well. The deal with UAE that concluded with the help of the USA this year has encouraged the Arab states to come openly in establishing their ties with the Jewish state. So countries in the Arab peninsula are re-opening and revisiting their long-held positions vis-à-vis the state of Israel. At the end of the deal with Bahrain, Netanyahu had thanked Trump by saying, “it took us 26 years between the second peace agreement with an Arab country, but only 29 days between third and fourth, and there will be more” referring to 1994 peace deal with Jordan and recent agreements. Analysts argue that this is a major alliance build-up against Iran at the behest of big elephant in the room i.e., Saudi Arabia. There has been fervent media speculations over covert Saudi-Israeli meetings in the very recent past. Some even suspect Netanyahu’s visit to Saudi Arabia, however, officially denied by king Salman.
These developments will have a long-lasting effect not only on the politics of West Asia but beyond. So far as Iran is concerned, there is a strong will within the Israeli and Saudi establishment to cut her wings. Though Obama had come up with a nuclear deal with Iran, however, Trump’s administration not only declined the deal but also heavily imposed sanctions against Iran – to the best wishes of Saudis, Israeli, and one of the forceful Jewish neo-Conservative lobby working in the middle east. With the coming of Joe Biden, it will be seen which lines he follows.
For Palestinians, these deals are simply a letdown. They are hell-bent to stop Arab states to recognize Israel till an amicable two-nation solution is realized. Referring to the deal with Bahrain, Wasel Abu Yousuf, a senior Palestinian official said, “this is another stab in the back of Palestinian cause, the Palestinian people, their rights and Jerusalem,” However, Arab states favorably respond to these deals and are inline to sign one by another.
Where do we see India and Pakistan in this new conundrum?
Pakistani Prime Minister, this year in September said that he was under intense pressure from an unnamed friendly state to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. His remarks were interpreted as King Salman’s poor support for lobbying in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for Kashmir cause. Pakistan’s warning for creating a new Muslim block did not go well with Saudi’s wishes and in response, Pakistan had to face the brunt of withdrawal of half of the $ 2billion, Saudi Arabia had deposited in Pakistan’s central bank. Since then Pakistan’s political as well as military establishment is working hard to bring relations between the two countries on track. The academics, military and political leaders in Pakistan are worried about recent happenings in West Asia. They are afraid that this may result in the encirclement of Pakistan by US led Israel-India proximity near their waters. Pakistan fears to be sandwiched by this Abraham Accord, because it may also involve Japan, Australia. This has given realization in Pakistan that between “recognition and no recognition” there is much more which they can make use of. That is engagement with Israel, without, however, hurting Palestinian interests. Some even suspect Pakistan’s covert engagement with Israel already in vogue.
India has been very quick in gaining the ground the situation offers to her in the West Asian region. Narindra Modi government soon after entering office, made an important policy shift by announcing Look West Policy, the countries in West Asia warmly welcomed India to play her role in the region. India has built a strong relationship with the UAE, Israel, and now on the way to Saudi Arabia. The recent developments have offered India a new opportunity to which she is responding pro-actively. Mr. Vivek Katju in his recent article to Greater Kashmir, “India, and a West Asia in flux” writes “India’s interaction with West Asia and specifically with the Arab Peninsula has witnessed substantial activity over the past three weeks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a detailed telephonic conversation with the ruler of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani on December 8. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the last week of November. Army chief General MM Naravane began a visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia on December 9 and India and Israel held ‘foreign office consultations’ on December 7. This extent of activity in such a brief period reflects the importance that India attaches to a region where it has great stakes. Equally, it demonstrates the countries of the region place great significance on their ties with India. It is noteworthy that these interactions have taken place at a time of change in West Asia.”(GK. 12-12-20). He further says that the visit by the Indian Military Chief is coming in the background of difficulties in Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arab and UAE.
India boosts Gulf Countries in taking reigns of their security into their own hands and minimising their dependence on the US or Pakistan, for example. Besides, there are multi-layered geopolitical reasons for this new development. India is using the fissures developed between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to bolster its case as a long-term partner in heir Salman’s bid to open up the Saudi economy and society, on one side, and also allowing India to promote its position on issues such as Kashmir more successfully within the Muslim world.
Author is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Department Of Higher Education, posted at HKM GDC Bandipora