India’s status in the world has been elevated since the beginning of this century, supported by its accelerated economic growth. In order to grow from a regional to world power, the foreign policy of a nation needs to be adapted to the new circumstances. In this context, the new relations between India and the Middle East attract our attention. We must also consider the repercussions of domestic politics on the subject, particularly since the advent of the BJP government under Narendra Modi in 2014.
Ever since the BJP government came to power in 2014, India has begun to question the assumptions of political principles such as “secularism,” established under the Congress party government since the country’s independence in 1947. The new orientations could be termed as a paradigm change or a watershed in the political framework in the history of independent India. In the domestic field, the BJP government challenges the Indian “secularism” and pursues a sort of “ethnic democracy,” a concept introduced in Israel. Concerning its foreign policies India is gradually discarding its use of the traditional non-alignment principle and pursues a combination of multiple alliances taking into account the rising influence of China.
The ruling party, BJP, is the political wing of the RSS, an influential Hindu right-wing ss organization promoting Hinduism as the national identity of the Indian nation. The BJP and RSS particularly target the Muslim community in their campaign to promote “Hindutva,” a Hinduized national integration concept. The Indian “secularism” traditionally emphasizes equal consideration of every religious community in India. However, the Modi government in 2019 annulled the constitutional clauses that guaranteed special allowances to the Jammu and Kashmir state with Muslim majority and introduced an amendment to the citizenship law which excluded Muslims while considering granting citizenship to illegal refugees.
Under these circumstances, the Modi government pursues three different policies toward the Middle East. The first policy is to promote trade and investment, primarily from the viewpoint of mutual economic interests. India’s dealings with the Gulf countries and East Africa are typical cases where the Modi government employs this policy. The second policy is to enhance India’s regional dominance and neutralize any interventions from neighboring Muslim countries in India’s domestic policies concerning the Muslim citizens in the country. The third policy is a newly emerged special relationship with Israel, which has strategic, technological, and ideological implications in the reorganization of power structure in the South West Asia.