Process of Transformation in Middle East Far From Over: Raksha Mantri

February 13, 2013

New Delhi: Reacting to the recent fundamental, political and socio-economic transformations in the Middle East, Rakhsha Mantri Shri AK Antony in a key address said that the “the process of transformation (in the Middle East) is far from complete and on the contrary, has just begun,” adding, that “while the fundamental forces have got a fillip, democracy is yet to be consolidated.”

The Minister was speaking at the inaugural session of the 15th Asian Security Conference on ‘Emerging Trends in West Asia: Regional and Global Implications’ organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

The Minister further cautioned that the journey ahead for the Arab nations “will be a long, torturous and full of unexpected twists and turns,” as new political equations emerging in Iraq and Afghanistan have “heightened regional and global uncertainties.”

Further, describing the Middle East region as “critical to India” the minister said that the Gulf Region is “vital for India’s energy security”, as “nearly two thirds of our hydro-carbon imports are from this region”.

India’s trade with the region is expanding. During 2011-12 the country’s trade with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was more than $145 billion. Nearly 6.5 million Indians live and work in different countries of this region. These remittances support nearly 40-50 million families in India and at the same time contribute to local prosperity.

Speaking on the role that India can play in the region, the minister said “at a time when several West Asian nations are in a state of transition, India can share its experience with the governments and civil societies”. From India’s point of view, “long standing conflicts in the region cannot be ignored,” insisted the minister.

Earlier, in his welcome speech, Director General, IDSA, Dr Arvind Gupta said that the old order in West Asian countries was slowly giving way to the new one. “Popular protests that began in December 2010 in Tunisia spread to several other countries in the region, bringing in hope of reform and change,” said Dr Gupta, while adding that, “two years down, the promise of ‘Spring’ in the West Asia North Africa (WANA) region has given rise to forecasts of long ‘winter’ and more ‘turmoil’.”

Regimes and governments have changed in a few countries, while in others, reforms are on hold; and in some, a few adjustments to the political systems have been made. Overall, this is a period of transition and uncertainty, said Dr Gupta.

The three day conference will see participants from most West Asian countries, as well as the US, UK, Australia, etc.

The Asian Security Conference is a major calendar event of the IDSA, which is organized in early spring each year. Since 1999 when the conference was first held, it has become an important forum for debating issues relating to Asian Security. The ASC provides an opportunity for policy makers, scholars and security analysts, both from India and abroad, to share their views on the security challenges facing the continent.