India-Israel-UAE-US: New Quad
Dr N Ojha on the burgeoning partnership between the UAE, India and Israel, a result of the ever-changing geostrategic landscape globally and in the Middle East, providing new opportunities for cooperation
The changing global landscape, coupled with the future of diplomacy in a Covid-and-post-Covid world, led to an announcement by the US, UAE, India and Israel of the formation of a 'new quad' in 2021. This new grouping is expected to hold their first in-person meeting of foreign ministers in March 2022, which will focus on collaborating in technology and infrastructure projects, enhancing political and economic cooperation, and maritime security issues as shown in Figure-1.
The most promising is the ‘partnership for the future'' also referred to as the 'new quad'. However, this nomenclature is misleading. This US-UAE-India-Israel bloc, unlike the original quad, is rooted in increasing regional cooperation, rather than competition with China.
Power in the 21st century is no longer determined by military prowess alone, but through technology, connectivity, innovation and trade components. New relations between countries are more partnerships and coalitions rather than alliances, driven by strategic autonomy. Such partnerships are rooted in economic pragmatism rather than political ideology. With bilateralism inching towards a saturation point and multilateralism yielding limited results, the idea of minilateralism or plurilateralism has gained traction in recent years.
It is a narrower and usually more informal and adaptable initiative to address specific problems with fewer countries sharing the same interest; they are in essence, 'task-oriented'. It is in this spirit that a UAE-Israel-India trilateral agreement was signed in May 2021 with an Israeli company producing an innovative water-free robotic solar cleaning technology in India for a project in the UAE. The innovation and international business potential of the UAE-Israel-India trilateral is pegged at $110 billion by 2030.
The India-Israel relationship has evolved in line with the modern times, post-cold-war. Though the strategic relationship between the two was established back in 1950 - when India recognised Israel- thereafter an immigration office was established in Mumbai by the Jewish Agency. Initially, there was not much headway made by the two sides on other areas of cooperation and collaboration. However, in recent times, the perception has changed and the two are no more confined to military security, having established bilateral relations ranging from agriculture to counter-terrorism.
Thirty years of relationship
Israel and India established diplomatic relations on January 29, 1992. Since then, the bilateral relations between both countries have developed into a multifaceted strategic partnership. This year on January 24, India and Israel launched a commemorative logo to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries. The logo features the Star of David and the Ashoka Chakra, the two symbols that adorn the national flags of both countries. The special logo symbolises the strong friendship, love and admiration that exists between the people of Israel and the people of India.
This is an important occasion to reflect on our mutual successes as well as a good opportunity to look ahead and shape the next 30 years of our relations. Israel and India relationship, encompasses a slew of areas comprising health and innovation, agriculture and water, trade and economic activities, science and technology, research and development, defence and homeland security, art and culture, tourism and space.
India and the UAE have come together in a range of common-interest initiatives. Other trilateral partnerships, which include a combination of these countries, continue to develop re-enforcing cooperation between the core grouping. For example, the UAE, India and France are joining hands to spearhead the International Solar Alliance and are conducting joint naval exercises. The UAE and India are also collaborating to set up an ICT centre in Ethiopia, as are the 'UAE and Israel Uniting with Africa'.
Within the grouping, specific bilateral mechanisms could bolster plurilateral cooperation. The UAE and India are likely to sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022, which foresees deals and investments in a range of sectors - construction, clean energy, logistics, hospitality, services, tourism, healthcare, cybersecurity, education, space, advanced technologies, and food security. CEPA is expected to double bilateral trade to about $120 billion in five years as shown in figure 3.
Conclusion : Recommendations
This year therefore, provides an opportunity to not only look back and take account of the bilateral achievements of the past thirty years but also the last five years, when the relationship was put on a 'qualitatively higher trajectory'. To conclude, the scope of the ties between India and Israel is in a cherry blossom phase and a lot could be expected from this multifaceted cooperation. As the relationship is changing, interdependence is increasing as India as well as Israel, both widen the spectrum by showing immaculate interest in various bilateral and multilateral cooperation along with other countries in the region and beyond. The people of these two countries are connected by civilisational bonds that go beyond trade and economic ties. The Jewish people have thrived in India for centuries and, in fact, enriched the composite culture of India. FTA can take India-Israel friendship to the next level.
The 3.5 million Indians in the UAE are a critical pillar of strength for the country. Their contributions, even during the most trying times, have been exemplary and will act as an inspiration to Indians around the world. India counts on their achievements to make the nation shine and thrive on the global stage. The Indian community is a living bridge that brings India and the UAE even closer.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's proposed visit to the UAE in February 2022 will be his fourth visit to the county as Prime Minister. The Indian leader will also visit Expo 2020 Dubai and sign the India-UAE Free Trade Agreement. PM Modi will visit the Indian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, showcasing India’s culture and achievements, from yoga and ayurveda to space programme. The pavilion also has a model of the Ram Temple and BAPS Hindu Temple, which is being built in Abu Dhabi at an estimated cost of Rs 900 crore. This coincides with the potential for further UAE-Israel cooperation as the two nations have recently begun talks to establish a free trade agreement. After normalising diplomatic relations in 2020, bilateral trade crossed $700 million in 2021, a significant uptick from the $125 million in 2020. Abdulla Bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s Minister of Economy said that he was hopeful of $1 trillion of economic activity over the next decade with Israel. A step towards facilitating this was the launching of free trade agreement talks in late 2021. The synergies of these middle power groupings could provide a base for a modular arrangement by adding or replacing one with another country based on both strategic and economic cooperation. To facilitate this expansion, diplomatic and defense meetings could be broadened to economic agencies, as well as high-level business roundtables. The world has been on a geostrategic reset mode over the last two decades. It is currently in between orders, with foreign policies drifting and unravelling. These trends have been accelerating over the past decade, particularly over the past few years, with the acceleration of superpower competition. The changing geostrategic landscape globally and in the Middle East provides new opportunities for cooperation between middle powers in Asia and the Middle East. The example set by the UAE, India and Israel paves a promising path forward.
India – USA Relationship
climate change, QUAD, and new and emerging technologies. In September last year, Joe Biden, the US President hosted Prime Minister Modi at the White House and their meeting was about launching a new chapter in the history of US-India relationship. At that time, the two leaders laid out their shared vision for the relationship and vowed to continue working closely this year. In the coming days, we can expect our governments to move forward on a wide-ranging set of common interest initiatives from cooperating to fight the pandemic, scaling up action to address climate change, working bilaterally and through the QUAD - Quadrilateral Security Dialogue - expanding our cooperation in trade and investment, cyber, and in new and emerging technologies.