Saturday, September 9, 2023

India’s G20 Summit Boasts Unprecedented Middle Eastern Presence


India Sets Precedent by Inviting Most Middle Eastern Countries to G20 Summit

As India hosts the G20 summit in New Delhi, it has made history by inviting the largest number of Middle Eastern countries ever to participate as guests in the event. The G20, a forum for the world’s largest economies, has been significant for the Middle East since its establishment in 1999. However, it was only in 2008 that non-member countries from the region began to be involved in the annual leaders’ summit.

The invitations extended to non-member countries aim to strengthen the legitimacy of the G20 and promote global outreach. Under India’s presidency, non-member Arab countries have enjoyed greater representation than ever before, with three of them participating in ministerial, sherpa, and working group meetings throughout the year. These countries will also be part of the leaders’ summit.

India’s decision to invite non-member Arab countries, including Egypt, Oman, and the UAE, reflects the country’s close economic and defense partnerships with these nations. Dr. Hasan T. Alhasan, a research fellow for Middle East policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, explains that India is using its hosting of the G20 to showcase its global influence to its Middle Eastern partners and other G20 member states.

India’s ties with the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been strong for many years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration has prioritized relations with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, leading to increased security and defense cooperation. India is the GCC’s third-largest oil market and sources a significant portion of its oil and liquefied natural gas from the region. GCC oil exporters are keen to secure a long-term share of the Indian oil market, while India seeks a stable supply of energy.

The Middle East holds vital interests for India, as evidenced by the large number of Indian nationals living and working in Gulf countries. Currently, about 9 million Indians reside in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain. Besides energy, the “massive Indian workforce” is one of the pillars of India’s cooperation with Arab states.

India’s engagement with Middle Eastern countries is also influenced by its competition with China. As relations between Delhi and Beijing become increasingly tense, India sees the G20 platform as an opportunity to enhance its Middle Eastern engagements vis-a-vis China. Marita Kassis, a Beirut-based political analyst and media expert on the Middle East, explains that India is focused on building its geopolitical framework and strengthening ties with traditional US partners in the region. This approach is seen as a direct competition with China.

Delhi’s emphasis on geoeconomics includes spearheading regional connections, science-based projects, economic collaboration, and military cooperation with the US Central Command in Bahrain through the Indian Navy. Strengthening Middle Eastern-Indian relations aligns with the region’s efforts to explore new projects, economic opportunities, technologies, and political orbits around the world.

In conclusion, India’s invitation of the largest number of Middle Eastern countries to the G20 summit marks a significant milestone in the forum’s history. It highlights India’s strong ties with the Middle East and its desire to showcase its global influence. The increased engagement with Arab countries also reflects India’s competition with China and its focus on geoeconomics and regional cooperation. As the G20 summit unfolds, it will be interesting to observe the outcomes of these interactions and their impact on future Middle Eastern-Indian relations.

Latest stories