Abstract: India’s relations with the region of Middle East and North Africa (MENA), which is also referred to as West Asia and North Africa (WANA), have been historic and deep-seated in nature. Given the geographical proximity of parts of India and many Middle Eastern countries, relations have long been flush with the exchange of commodities, people and ideologies. In the post-colonial era, India’s relationship with many of these nations has been focused on the procurement of oil and other energy imports, which have been necessary commodities for sustaining its economy, which has been growing especially rapidly since the 1990s.
This paper looks at India’s foreign policy in the broader Middle East and North Africa region and charts the changing dynamics of the relationship. After going through the factors that have led to the evolution of India’s foreign policy, it discusses the country’s position vis-à-vis the different actors present in the MENA region, including the GCC nations, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Turkey and various states hit by conflict.
Specifically, it argues that India has been walking a tightrope of neutrality in the MENA region by balancing between all of its allies there, many of whom are in conflict with each other. This balancing act is in accord with a long line of pragmatic thinkers in the Indian foreign policy establishment, most recently epitomized by Prime Minister Modi, and also India’s growing clout in Asia as a benign power that respects the internal affairs of foreign countries.