RSIS Roundtable by Dr Nicholas Blarel and Ms Sumitha Kutty
Modi’s “Look West” Policy: India’s Balancing Act in West Asia
The contours of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy towards the Middle-East are still undefined. While declaring explicit designs in other regional contexts (“Act East” and his outreach to Central Asia), Modi is yet to articulate any grand strategy towards West Asia.
In recent months, a series of statements and actions have brought the region into focus. India and Iran signed a pact to develop the Chabahar port project in May 2015. The very next month, it was announced that Modi would become the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. India then abstained on a UNHRC resolution that condemned Israel, thereby indicating it was open to changing its traditional voting pattern. And in August 2015, Modi chose to make his first visit in the region to the UAE, the first by an Indian prime minister in over three decades.
What do these recent developments tell us about an emerging Indian policy towards the region? For instance, in the context of the international mobilization against ISIS, can we anticipate what India’s position will be? Should we expect drastic policy changes or will this balancing act continue?
About the Speakers
Nicolas Blarel is Assistant Professor of International Relations at Leiden University, Netherlands. He is the author of The Evolution of India’s Israel Policy: Continuity, Change, and Compromise since 1922 (Oxford University Press, 2015). Nicolas focuses on foreign and security policy issues in South Asia as well as relations between India and the Middle East. Before coming to Leiden, Nicolas studied at l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Strasbourg, Sciences Po Paris, and Indiana University.
Sumitha Narayanan Kutty is Associate Research Fellow with the South Asia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She has recently returned from a field trip to Iran.