A New Engagement (Editorial abt relation betwwen India and Arab World in context of Libya !!!)

With each passing day, it becomes more certain that Libya's revolution will not be resolved as swiftly and bloodlessly as Tunisia's and Egypt's did. The Gaddafi clan does not mean to go quietly, and with a section of the military backing them to the hilt, the country is teetering on the brink of civil war.

Meanwhile, the Gulf states watch anxiously while scrambling to use a mixture of palliative measures and heavy-handedness to pacify their own restive populaces. The UN continues to condemn the Libyan regime. Iran is subject to democracy pressures itself but jostles for advantage in West Asia and North Africa.

It's a difficult situation for New Delhi. When the people's push for democracy had momentum as it did in Tunisia and Egypt, deciding on a policy was relatively easier. But in the far murkier waters of Libya and the Gulf where the tussle could be a protracted one, calibrating a response becomes far more difficult. Consider the stakes for New Delhi.

The UAE overtook the US in 2008-09 to become India's largest trading partner, a position it continues to hold today. India's energy security calculus revolves around the region as well. Currently, it is the sixth largest net importer of oil in the world - it's expected to be the fourth largest by 2025 - and imports 70% of its oil needs. Of those imports, 70% comes from the Middle East. Factor in the massive Indian diasporas in the Gulf countries and the complexity of the problem becomes clear.

New Delhi's policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states has stood it in good stead in the past, and there is no need to abandon it in case of the turmoil roiling the Arab world. However, it does present an opportunity to project New Delhi's soft power, which is considerable in the region. It presents a working democratic model in a sociocultural environment far closer to the Gulf's than western democracies are - and with none of the political baggage of the latter.

Leveraging this soft power will require a multi-pronged effort. A start could be made by helping set up the electoral process in Egypt as the US has already requested, to the extent called for by the Egyptians. Participating in diplomatic, humanitarian and democracy-building initiatives in the region whenever asked for, while deepening civil society engagement - are all options. It will not be an easy process. But it is in New Delhi's interests to start such an engagement and seize the opportunities that open up.

Source-- TOI

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