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Choices before India in a changing West Asia

Posted on Feb 12, 07:22PM | IANS

New Delhi, Feb 12 : A new and different set of security and economic challenges facing India in the wake of tumultuous events like the "Arab Spring" in West Asia and the intra-Islamic divide in the region will be under the lens at an international conference beginning here Wednesday.

Interestingly, all this is taking place at a time when Asia is in the process of displacing the West as the fulcrum of the global economy, and India and China are its leading locomotives. The net result is that stronger strategic synergies in the fields of energy, economic and people-to-people relations among the South and EAst Asian countries and the Arab/Gulf nations are making the latter an integral part of the unfolding Asian growth story.

All these broad trends and developments are creating new opportunities and challenges for India, its foreign policy. How should India respond? How should the country maintain a diverse alliance that is beneficial to its energy security and strategic interests as West Asia constitutes an integral part of its "extended neighbourhood".

India imports over half its oil from Arab countries and Saudi oil dominates those flows. Also, Iran's nuclear ambition has pushed Saudi Arabia and Pakistan closer.

To understand and analyse these developments and their possible impact on bilateral relations, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) is organising an international conference -- "Emerging Trends in West Asia: Regional and Global Implications"-- in the capital from Feb 13-15.

The conclave is part of the think tank's 15th annual Asian Security Conference (ASC) and will deliberate on the major economic, socio-political and strategic trends which are unfolding in the West Asian region in general, and its Gulf region in particular, in the context of their security and economic implications both for the region and for Asian countries.

Defence minister A.K. Antony will open the conference Wednesday. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon will also address the meet Friday.