DELHI (NEW): On Sunday, experts said that due to India’s recent security engagements with Gulf countries, India is strengthening its defense ties with the Middle East.

Just in the past few weeks, Indian forces have clashed with their UAE, Saudi Arabian, and Omani counterparts.

The Indian Navy’s patrol vessel INS Sumedha arrived in Abu Dhabi on February 20 to take part in the Naval Defense Exhibition and International Defense Exhibition.

A week later, the Royal Saudi Air Force hosted eight aircraft from the Indian Air Force for refueling and to meet with Saudi airmen.

On February 28th, an Indian submarine requested a turnaround at the Omanese port of Salalah.

Recently, as the United States reduces its presence in the region, Indian defense engagements with the Middle East have grown in scope and intensity, though they have been on the rise for some time.

“The US is minimizing its security role in the region and there is a vacuum,” said Zakir Hussain, a Middle East expert and former fellow of the Indian Council of World Affairs in New Delhi.

Part of India’s motivation for filling this “vacuum” is to counteract China’s growing clout in the region.

According to Hussain, who spoke with Arab News, “the China factor is playing a key role” in luring India into defense and security matters. As its influence expands in Asia, China becomes a major player. As a result, India has also stepped up its presence in the region.

However, India’s access to the ports in the three Gulf countries makes them strategically significant.

According to Hussain, “the 21st century is known as the maritime century,” and if India does not increase defense cooperation with these countries, then merely economic cooperation will not succeed. To quote an expert: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it’s the need of the hour.”

Ranjit Kumar, a senior journalist and defense expert, argues that the time has come for India to “play a bigger role” in its relations with the Gulf states.

For the most part, Arab countries have taken sides with the United States or Russia,” Kumar stated. At this point, they have both begun to leave the region. “India is a natural partner for the Arab world.”

The vast Indian diaspora in the area also has a vested interest in strong security partnerships.
Roughly $80 billion is sent back to India annually by the 8.5 million Indians who live and work in the Middle East, with 3.4 million residing in the United Arab Emirates and 2.5 million in Saudi Arabia.

“Remittance income from the Arab world is an important contributor to India’s GDP. I think that’s a pretty significant point,” Kumar said.

For the sake of its overseas Indian population and its economy, India requires peace and stability in that region.

Diplomatic efforts and improved bilateral ties, especially with Saudi Arabia, are reflected in the stepped-up security cooperation.

“Military diplomacy between India and Saudi Arabia is crucial…

According to Kabir Taneja, a strategic studies fellow and Middle East expert at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, this is a “very significant time for bilateral ties between India and Saudi Arabia in the field of defense.” This is because all three of India’s armed services are now collaborating with Saudi Arabia.

Defense ties are a reliable indicator of the health of bilateral ties between nations. In the same way that defense is crucial for West Asia, India recognizes its own importance.

He thinks that the shifting economic dynamics are in harmony with the growing defense commitments. According to him, India is working to dispel the notion that it is only interested in sending its citizens to the Middle East to work on construction projects.

‘India wants to be seen as an investor, as an economic power where the big sovereign funds of the region like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE are attracted to India as an economy,’ Taneja said.

According to the World Bank, “the Arab world is important for India’s economy right now…

and Gulf investors find the Indian economy to be very appealing at the present time