The third Senior Officials Meeting of the Arab-India Cooperation Forum took place through video conference. The Meeting was co-chaired by Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (Consular, Passport & Visa &Overseas Indian Affairs) in the Ministry of External Affairs and Ambassador Mohamed Abu Al-Kheir, Assistant Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the League of Arab States with the participation of Senior Officials from the Arab States and India, as well as the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States.
The Senior Officials recalled the historic and civilizational ties that exist between the Arab World and India and underlined the contribution of the commercial and cultural ties to binding the two sides together. They hailed the strong foundation, great potential and wide-ranging prospect for Arab-India cooperation, and the role that the Forum can play to advance Arab-India relations towards capacious horizons.
The Senior Officials discussed issues of mutual concern on both regional and international levels, emphasizing the importance of strengthening cooperation and coordination mechanisms between the two sides, in a way that serves mutual interests and maintains regional and international peace and security. In this regard, they reiterated the need for political solutions to regional issues and crises in the Middle East, according to relevant international legitimacy resolutions and relevant agreements and references, particularly the Palestinian Issue, the crises in Syria, Libya and Yemen, and underscored the need for cooperation in combating terrorism and ensuring freedom of navigation and maritime security, according to the principles of international law.
The officials stressed that the exceptional circumstances and unprecedented challenges that the world faces due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic require the need to strengthen international and regional cooperation to confront the consequences of this pandemic, including in areas of conflict and crises. The two sides discussed ongoing collaboration between India and the Arab States in the fields of diagnostics and treatment, and exchanged views on respective national approaches to post-Covid economic recovery.
The Arab side congratulated India on its election as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a two-year term (2021-2022), while looking forward to India’s continuing pivotal role at the international stage, particularly with regard to regional issues of mutual concern.
The Senior Officials also discussed ways and means to enhance cooperation in the framework of the Arab-India Cooperation Forum, including in the fields of economy, trade and investment, energy and environment, agriculture and food security, tourism and culture, human resources development, education and health care, science and technology, and media.
The economic relations between India and the Arab countries have to be stepped up to match the strategic partnership and bilateral understanding at the political level. The key elements of India-Arab countries’ economic engagement are characterised by energy security, food security, human resource exchanges, growing trade and investment relations and strong connectivity. The ties between India and the Arab countries are multi-faceted and extensive but the potential is huge, opine analysts.
According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, 53 per cent of India’s oil imports and 41 per cent of gas imports come from the (Arab) region. India has stakes in oil blocks in Iraq, Syria, Libya, UAE, Yemen and South Sudan. The nature of the partnership has evolved from mere hydrocarbon ties between buyer and seller to participation in upstream & downstream projects, joint ventures in refineries and building of strategic oil reserves.
With both India and the Arab region engaged in reforms and transformational changes in the economy, the strong political understanding and goodwill between the people provides tremendous potential to take economic engagement to a higher level.
Both sides agreed on the early scheduling of the joint activities of the Forum, including the 3rd Session of Arab-India Cultural Festival, the Symposium on Arab-India Cooperation in the field of Energy, the 1st Arab-India University Presidents Conference, the 2nd Symposium on Arab-India Cooperation in the field of Media, and the 6th Session of Arab-India Partnership Conference. The 2nd Ministerial Meeting of the Arab-India Cooperation Forum is likely to take place soon in India, at a mutually convenient date.
Script: Padam Singh, AIR: News Analyst