Context: While the development of the Quad has taken centre stage, other geographies such as West Asia are new arenas of New Delhi and Beijing’s competition.

Geopolitical shifts

  • The year 2020 has been a watershed moment for relations between India and China following the most serious clashes between the two countries in the Galwan region of Ladakh since the 1962 war.
  • These events have had a cascading effect on India and China’s foreign policy.

Significance of India and China for West Asia

  • Strategic investment:The powerful and oil-rich Gulf states are looking for investment alternatives away from the West to deepen their own strategic depth.
  • Oil markets: The Gulf economies such as Saudi Arabia will still need growing markets to sell oil to in the coming decade as they reform their economic systems. 

The obvious two options here are China and India.

Significance of West Asia for India and China

  • Strong economies: Despite entanglements in the Yemen war and general tensions between the Gulf states and Iran, the likes of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and so on have maintained relatively strong and stable economic progression. 
  • Israel’s recent peace accords with the UAE and Bahrain add much further weight towards a more stable Gulf region. 

India and West Asia:

  • Improved relations
    • India doubled down on its relations with the likes of Abu Dhabi and Riyadh since 2014.
    • While engagements with Israel moved steadily forward, the U.S. sanctions significantly slowed the pace of India-Iran engagements.
  • Strategic autonomy: The ideation of ‘strategic autonomy’ is much different from the Nehruvian era thinking of ‘non-alignment’. The alignment is issue based, and not ideological.
  • Balancing act of diplomacy in West Asia: India follows ‘Non-alignment’ thinking and the ethos of equitable engagement with the three poles of power in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel. 

China’s advantage in West Asia

  • Alternative of USA: 
    • Beijing has tried to capitalise around the thinking in the Gulf that the American security safety net is not absolute, and they need to invest more in others. 
    • China, being second only to the U.S. in both economic and military terms today, is the obvious choice for West Asia. 
    • Through concepts such as “negative peace” and “peace through development”, in concert with tools such as the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing is now ready to offer an alternative model for “investment and influence”. 
  • Aggressive strategic deals: A $400 billion, 25-year understanding between Iran and China, has shown how Beijing is taking advantage of the U.S. President’s abandonment of the Iran nuclear deal. 

The overt outreach to the Gulf and the announcements of multi-billion-dollar investments on Indian shores by entities from Saudi Arabia and the UAE shows that New Delhi is out to contain China in West Asia.

Image source: New Indian Express

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For Mains:

Q) While the development of the Quad has taken centre stage, other geographies such as West Asia are the new arenas of competition between New Delhi and Beijing. Analyze. (250 words)