Diplomatist Special Report: West Asia - North Africa 2018 WANA 2018 - Page 9

SPECIAL REPORT Indian President Ram Nath Kovind's maiden visit to Djibouti in October last year acquired extreme signifi cance on the backdrop of these geopolitical happenings. Relations with Djibouti and its neighbourhood needs to be further intensifi ed, India can expand the already recognized in the region, but minor, educational and medical services, to start with. and industrial machinery and equipment, pharmaceuticals, mobile phones, meat and milk powder to Algeria. Recently, both countries have taken steps to enhance collaboration in the oil sector. India contributed $1 million as humanitarian aid for the victims of the earthquake which struck Algeria in May 2003. India and Egypt, the two oldest civilizations of the world, have experienced close connections since ancient times. Ashoka's edicts refer to his relations with Egypt under Ptolemy-II. During the 1956 War, Jawaharlal Nehru stood defending Egypt to the point of threatening to withdraw India from the British Commonwealth. In 1967, following the Arab-Israeli war, India supported Egypt and the Arabs. During the 2017 Mosque terror attack in Egypt, PM Narendra Modi was one of the fi rst leaders to condemn the attack, and also guaranteed India's assistance in the fi ght against terrorism. Both nations are bound by an agreement on combating international terrorism, transnational, and organized Crime inked in 1995. To India and Israel 2018 has started as a promising year for two reasons, fi rstly this year marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, Secondly, due to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's maiden visit to India, coming 15 years after the fi rst visit (2003) by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu's visit came a little more than six months after the historic and signifi cant visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel in July 2017, the fi rst visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel. Counter-terrorism, security and defence, innovation and startups, cyber-security, agriculture, water management, Bollywood, etc. are some of the potential areas in which engagements can significantly strengthen. Weighing the personal chemistry and mutual friendliness of both leaders, this is likely and promptly, also it is indispensable that both leaders should fi nd mutual interests to reinforce the bilateral ties. Strengthening the relations with Israel does not mean that India must stay aloof from the Arabs. India's stakes in the Arab world are substantial and range from energy security to counter- terrorism and bilateral trade to cultural exchange. India's strong solidarity with the Palestinian people and their cause were given voice during India's struggle for freedom by Mahatma Gandhi. "Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French," he once said. Since then, empathy with the Palestinian cause and bond with the people of Palestine has become an essential substance of India's foreign policy. In every multilateral forum, India has played a proactive role in garnering support for the Palestinian cause. In 2015, India supported setting up of Palestinian fl ag at UN premises along with other observer states, like the fl ags of member states. India should play its ‘pragmatism' card to maintain friendly relations with both Israel and Palestine. Increasing the bilateral relations is a key to realize this. Both Israel and Palestine want a strong relationship with India. On a broader angle, the region since the beginning of this century is facing profound turbulence and traditional alliances are shifting at the rate like never before. India's engagement in the region is now on the high mandate, from Djibouti to Egypt and Israel to Palestine. Keeping the longstanding fault lines on the side of the table, India must explicitly indicate that it is open to business with all the countries in the West Asia and North Africa region. And the contemporary WANA's political dynamics also desires India's pragmatic engagement. At the same time, India will have to navigate the new challenges in the region. *The author is an Independent Journalist based in Chennai. He holds a master in International Relations and his areas of interests include Foreign Relations of U.S., India and Major Powers, Diplomacy. West Asia-North Africa• 9