Diplomatist Special Report: West Asia - North Africa 2018 WANA 2018 - Page 47

SPECIAL REPORT and extremism on her own soil as well. Security partnerships with the region go beyond the gambit of traditional avenues like defence cooperation and intelligence sharing but extend to an economic and cultural engagement aimed at winning ‘hearts and minds’. India has been reaching out to countries in the region for enhanced capacity building and security cooperation, particularly in the face of maritime peacekeeping and anti-piracy initiatives. With India hoping to also increase her geopolitical influence in the Indian Ocean Region, her collaborations with WANA countries are of strategic signifi cance to the country and while the process has begun India must invest heavily in strengthening and expanding these ties to create veritable maritime security regime in the region. Countering Chinese infl uence is also a major strategic objective and can be achieved through greater engagements with the North African states of Djibouti, Sudan and Egypt. India has already proven her maritime strength and ability to act in the event of a crisis through Operation Raahat during the Yemeni crisis and could build on these good offi ces to improve the scope and reach of maritime security goals in the region. India has a vested interest in matters of energy security in the WANA region, particularly in maintaining the stability of oil and natural gas supply, and prices. Thus, Indian engagement in energy security in the region has been driven by strategic objectives and long-term investment plans. Given the current global trends, including the loss of favour of Pakistan within the region and the US’ pull-back from interference in the affairs of the region, New Delhi is well placed to developing a more robust energy security for cooperation with West Asia. Moreover, India must also look to the future, and increase her investment in and engagement with the entire WANA region in terms of climate diplomacy and cooperation. Not just to help combat the growing insecurity in the region with regards to depleting oil reserves but also to moderate Chinese reach in the region by getting in on the ground-fl oor with new avenues for creation of sustainable energy sources in the region. In particular, India must invest in the Maghreb to tap into the regions strategic position as a bridge between Europe and the Sahel and further into sub-Saharan Africa to promote the International Solar Alliance and decrease global as well as a regional dependency on oil and natural gas in order to realise energy security goals. In order to maintain holistic security cooperation with the WANA region, it would be imperative to look at food security and India’s agricultural cooperation with the region. Building on bilateral and multilateral engagements on food and water security like those with Israel and the GCC, the West Asian and North African countries could become important partners in India’s quest for food and water security as well as open up potential avenues of trade and technological transfer that have not been explored so far. Strategically, building partnerships that go beyond the traditional dimensions of security would not only help India gain a strong footing in the region but also go a long way in addressing Indian concerns over the scope and nature of China’s Belt and Road Initiative especially in the region. While India has shown a renewed focus in the region and has particularly committed bilaterally to strengthening defence ties through joint military exercises, capacity building projects, counter- terrorism initiatives and other such programmes, if India is to capture the void created by US disengagement in the region while also countering China’s growing infl uence as a politically neutral international power in West Asia, it is imperative that New Delhi build on this defence partnership and expand its gambit of security cooperation to different fi elds and partners in the region. While space is open for India to truly engage with the WANA region and strategically place herself as a non-intrusive and neutral ally in the region with engagements across the board with all the nations it would give New Delhi a fi rm foothold in the greater global geopolitical space. Building on our bilateral cooperation with the countries of West Asia and North Africa, India must start investing both economically as well as diplomatically in partnerships both bilaterally as well as multilaterally in concrete security cooperation. * Daneesh Sethna is a research and teaching assistant at symbiosis school of international studies. She also worked as an intern at Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. She holds a master degree in International relations and Security at Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. West Asia-North Africa• 47