Why India’s G20 leaders’ summit has an unprecedented Middle Eastern presence 

Why India’s G20 leaders’ summit has an unprecedented Middle Eastern presence 
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil El-Sisi gets a warm welcome as he arrives in New Delhi, India, on September 8, 2023, for the G20 Summit. (Indian Ministry of External Affairs handout via EPA)
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Updated 09 September 2023
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Why India’s G20 leaders’ summit has an unprecedented Middle Eastern presence 

Why India’s G20 leaders’ summit has an unprecedented Middle Eastern presence 
  • Egypt, Oman and UAE invited as non-member guests, underscoring MENA’s importance to Indian foreign policy
  • Relations with GCC countries have been a top priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government 

RIYADH/WARSAW: As India welcomed world leaders in New Delhi on Friday, it set a precedent in G20 history by inviting the most Middle Eastern countries ever to take part as guests in the group’s key summit.

The Group of 20 largest economies, as a forum, has been important for the Middle East since its inception in 1999, especially as Saudi Arabia and Turkiye are among its members.




A man walks past an illuminated hoarding of the G20 India summit logo along a roadside in New Delhi on September 6, 2023, ahead of its commencement. (AFP)

However, it was only in 2008, when the group began to organize its annual leaders’ summit, that non-member countries from the Middle East became involved.

Host nations, and those holding the group’s rotating presidency, can invite non-member countries to their ministerial, sherpa and working meetings, as well as the leaders’ summit.




Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Asaad is welcomed by Indian officials upon arrival at Palam Air Force Airport in New Delhi for the G20 leaders’ summit. (Indian Ministry of External Affairs handout via EPA)

The invitations aim to strengthen the legitimacy of the G20 and promote global outreach. While there are permanent invitees such as Spain, other non-members usually differ from year to year.

This time around, under India’s presidency, non-member Arab countries have enjoyed greater representation than ever, with three of them joining ministerial, sherpa and working group meetings since the beginning of the year.

They will also be part of the leaders’ summit on Saturday and Sunday.

India has extended invitations to nine non-member countries, including Egypt, Oman and the UAE.

“The UAE, Oman and Egypt are, alongside Saudi Arabia, India’s closest economic and defense partners in the Middle East, so it’s unsurprising that New Delhi chose to invite them to attend the G20 summit among a handful of other nations,” Dr. Hasan T. Alhasan, a research fellow for Middle East policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Arab News.

“India is using its hosting of the G20 to showcase its global influence to its Middle Eastern partners, and to demonstrate the breadth of its partnerships to other G20 member states.”

India’s ties with the Middle East are particularly strong with Saudi Arabia, but Delhi’s decision to engage its three other major Middle Eastern partners shows how important it deems the relationship, and not only to India’s foreign policy.

Relations, especially with Gulf Cooperation Council countries, have been a priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration for the past nine years.

“Since Modi assumed office in 2014, India has expanded its security and defense cooperation in the Gulf with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. It holds increasingly regular military exercises and high-level defense consultations with its three Gulf partners,” Alhasan said.

This cooperation extends to energy security. India is the GCC’s third-largest oil market and sources about a third of its oil from the six states of the bloc. At the same time, half of its liquefied natural gas comes from Qatar, the UAE and Oman.

“Since India is expected to account for a large share of growth in global oil demand by 2045, GCC oil exporters are keen to secure a long-term share of the Indian oil market,” Alhasan said.

“Similarly, India has cemented its political relations with GCC oil and gas exporters to hedge against geopolitical shocks and ensure a stable supply of energy.”

India has vital interests in the Middle East. While its foreign policy focus on the region has been evident under Modi’s rule, it started some three decades ago, reflected in the number of Indian nationals moving to live and work in Gulf countries.

Currently, about 9 million Indians live in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.




Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates, arrives to participate in the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, on September 8, 2023. (UAE Presidential Court/Handout via REUTERS)

For Dr. Krzysztof Iwanek, head of the Asia Research Center at War Studies University in Warsaw, Poland, the “massive Indian workforce” is, besides energy one of the pillars of India’s cooperation with Arab states.

“There is scope for even greater cooperation in other areas such as food security, attracting more investment from the Gulf countries to India. Thus, Indian foreign policy over the past decades was rather effective in engaging and not antagonizing Middle Eastern Muslim countries,” he said.

“For instance, India declined to take part in the American attack on Iraq (in 2003), knowing this would have been seen unfavorably by many Arab states.”

There is also a sense of competition with India’s regional rival, China, as relations between Delhi and Beijing have been increasingly tense, not only over their border dispute, which has recently seen an outbreak of violence, but also in attempts to position themselves as superpowers.

The G20 platform has given India an opportunity to significantly increase its Middle Eastern engagements vis-a-vis China.




Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, arrives for the G20 Summit at Palam Airforce Airport, in New Delhi on September 08, 2023. (Indian Ministry of External Affairs handout)

“India seems to have an undeniable national interest in cementing relations with its partners there,” Marita Kassis, a Beirut-based political analyst and media expert on the Middle East, told Arab News.

“For the past few months, India has been using the G20 momentum to build its geopolitical framework. Following the 2020 border clashes, India and China’s relations grew tense. Both countries have been locked in a competitive security strategy of openness with the Middle East.”

Delhi’s approach is focused also on increased cooperation with traditional US partners in the region, which Kassis said was a “direct line of competition” with Beijing.

“The emphasis is on geoeconomics by spearheading regional connections, science-based projects, economic collaboration and the military through an entente with the US Central Command in Bahrain via the Indian Navy,” she said.

“The interest in strengthening Middle Eastern-Indo relations is always a significant plan as the region tries to venture into new projects, lead new economic opportunities and technologies, and build new political orbits around the world.”

 


Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097
Updated 21 min 33 sec ago
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Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097
  • The tally includes at least 48 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Sunday that at least 34,097 people have been killed in the territory during more than six months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
The tally includes at least 48 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 76,980 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.


Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM
Updated 31 min 8 sec ago
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Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

DUBAI: Sultan Haitham of Oman will visit the UAE on Monday for talks with President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, state news agency WAM reported. 

During the visit, both leaders will discuss “the deep-rooted, historical relations between the UAE and Oman and cooperation in various fields,” the agency said. 

The two leaders will also discuss a number of regional and international issues of common interest. 


Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA
Updated 34 min 26 sec ago
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Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

DUBAI: Kuwait’s prime minister-designate Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah will serve as the emir’s deputy when the latter is not in the country, state news agency KUNA said on Sunday, citing a royal decree.

Emir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who was sworn in December, has yet to choose a crown prince, who would usually be his deputy.

The Emir selected Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad after the cabinet’s resignation earlier this month. 

The expected move comes after a new parliament was elected and is a procedural one as the current government has to submit its resignation before the legislature’s inauguration.


West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more

West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more
Updated 21 April 2024
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West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more

West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more
  • Attack began after Israeli went missing, later found dead
  • Residents say Israeli army did nothing to stop raid

AL-MUGHAYYER: The Israeli settlers who rampaged through the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyer on April 12 came in greater numbers and carried more weapons than during any of the previous raids on the Palestinian community, residents said.
Days later, torched homes and cars still bear testament to the attack, which residents said lasted several hours and that they said Israeli soldiers did nothing to stop.
With few means to defend themselves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, they fear more such assaults on the village.
“We have stones and they have weapons, and the army supports the settlers,” said Abdullatif Abu Alia, whose house came under attack. His roof was spattered with the blood of Palestinians wounded as they tried to repel the attackers with rocks. One of them, his relative Jihad Abu Alia, was shot and killed, he said.
“Of course, the aim is to force displacement,” he added.
Al-Mughayyer was one of several Palestinian villages raided by settlers over several days beginning April 12, an escalation that began after a 14-year-old Israeli went missing. His body was discovered not far from Al-Mughayyer the following day.
Israel said he was killed in a terrorist attack.
Violence in the West Bank, seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, was already surging before the Gaza war began in October — fueling further bloodshed in the territory.
Settler violence is a source of growing concern among Israel’s Western allies. A number of countries, including the United States, have imposed sanctions on violent settlers and urged Israel to do more to stop the violence.
Washington imposed sanctions on Friday on an ally of Israel’s far-right national security minister and two entities that raised money for Israeli men accused of settler violence.
The Israeli military said confrontations had spread in the area as a result of the teenager’s killing, and included “exchanges of gunfire, mutual stone throwing and property arson in which Israeli and Palestinian civilians were injured.”
Asked about residents’ accusations that soldiers had done nothing to stop the Al-Mughayyer attack, the military said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and security forces operated with the aim of protecting “the property and lives of all citizens and dispersing the confrontations.”
Gunshot wounds
Ameen Abu Alia, the head of Al-Mughayyer’s municipal council, said 45 Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds in the attack, which began after hundreds of settlers had congregated on a road near the village.
Israeli troops arrived shortly before it started, setting up road blocks and a cordon which left houses on the village outskirts cut off from its center, meaning villagers could not to go to aid those who were under attack, he said.
The soldiers also prevented ambulances from reaching the area to treat wounded people, he said.
The Israeli military said ambulances “were delayed for a security check and then they were given the authorization to continue.”
Abu Alia, the municipal council head, accused the Israeli army of providing security for the settler raid, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said had been “accompanied by Israeli forces.”
Complaints about soldiers’ behavior that was not in accordance with orders will be examined, the Israeli military said.
Israel has settled the West Bank extensively since 1967, viewing it as the biblical Judea and Samaria and critical to Israel’s security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promotion of settlement growth has drawn US criticism.
The settlements have eaten up West Bank land where Palestinians have long aimed to establish an independent state that would also include the Gaza Strip and have East Jerusalem as its capital.
Fire truck torched, sheep stolen
His home torched in the attack, Shehadah Abu Rasheed has pitched a tent to provide temporary shelter. Inside, the walls of the house were charred black. Abu Rasheed said his wife was hit by a settler and one of his four children lightly wounded by gunfire.
The settlers also torched a fire truck sent to Al-Mughayyer by the Palestinian civil defense service during the attack, the civil defense said. Its charred remains were being loaded onto a truck when Reuters journalists visited on Wednesday.
OCHA reported that the settlers fully burnt 21 houses in Al-Mughayyer, displacing 86 Palestinians, and that 32 vehicles were damaged, and some 220 sheep were killed or stolen.
It was unconfirmed if the Palestinian man who died during the raid was killed by Israeli forces or settlers, it said.
Four of seven Palestinians killed in the West Bank between April 12 and 15 died in incidents involving Israeli settlers in a series of attacks on Palestinian communities during and after the search for the 14-year-old Israeli, OCHA reported. Another Palestinian man was killed in a settler raid on April 20, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The United States, Britain and the European Union have all imposed sanctions on violent settlers in recent months.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at an April 15 briefing that Washington condemned last weekend’s violence against Palestinians just as strongly as it condemned the murder of the 14-year-old Israeli. The United States has said it is “incredibly concerned” that Israeli security forces were not doing enough to stop settler violence, he said.
Al-Mughayyer is located in a part of the West Bank where Israel has full security control under interim peace accords which Palestinian leaders signed three decades ago in the belief they would eventually lead to an independent state.
The arrangements mean most of the West Bank is off limits to the security forces of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Abdullatif Abu Alia, the Al-Mughayyer resident, said the most he hoped for from the Palestinian government was help to erect a protective fence around his house and reinforce the windows.
“What else can they do? They can’t even protect themselves,” he said, referring to Israeli raids into Palestinian cities.


Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership

Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership
Updated 10 min 23 sec ago
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Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership

Israel to summon ambassadors of countries that voted for Palestinian UN membership
  • Only the US, Israel’s staunchest ally, voted against, using its veto to block the resolution
  • 12 Security Council members back a resolution recommending full Palestinian membership, while Britain and Switzerland abstain

JERUSALEM: Israel will summon ambassadors of countries that voted for full Palestinian UN membership “for a protest talk” on Sunday, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
It came after the Palestinian Authority said it would “reconsider” its relationship with the United States after Washington vetoed the Palestinian membership bid earlier this week.
Thursday’s vote saw 12 countries on the UN Security Council back a resolution recommending full Palestinian membership and two — Britain and Switzerland — abstain.

A Palestinian doctor tends to a baby born prematurely after his mother was injured during Israeli bombardment, at the Kuwait Hospital in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Only the United States, Israel’s staunchest ally, voted against, using its veto to block the resolution.
On Saturday, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Oren Marmorstein said the ministry “will summon for a protest talk the ambassadors of the countries that voted in the Security Council in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinians in the UN.”
“The ambassadors of France, Japan, South Korea, Malta, the Slovak Republic and Ecuador will be summoned tomorrow for a demarche, and a strong protest will be presented to them,” he said in a post on X.

Blood stains are seen on a wall inside a house following an Israeli raid on the Nur Shams refugee camp in the occupied West bank on April 20, 2024. (AFP)

“An identical protest will be presented to additional countries,” he said.
“The unambiguous message that will be delivered to the ambassadors: A political gesture to the Palestinians and a call to recognize a Palestinian state — six months after the October 7 massacre — is a prize for terrorism.”
The draft resolution called for recommending to the General Assembly “that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations” in place of its current “non-member observer state” status, which it has held since 2012.
The majority of the UN’s 193 member states — 137, according to a Palestinian count — have recognized a Palestinian state.