July 2, 2014

From Bombay to Jerusalem

This article - excerpted below - originally appeared in Foreign Policy on July 2, 2014. 

The crisis in Iraq lies at the intersection of India's broader interests in the Middle East -- or, to use New Delhi's preferred parlance, West Asia. While Indian political leaders and diplomats often emphasize their cultural affinity to the region -- Persian was the court language of the Mughal Empire; trade links go back centuries -- India's interests in the Middle East today encompass the safety and security of its large diaspora, its dependence on energy imports, and its complex but finely balanced defense and intelligence ties with several regional powers. While these are all consequences of India's growing international profile, they also expose the country's vulnerabilities to energy supplies, remittances, and international terrorist activity. Over the course of his tenure, Modi will have to weigh the merits of adopting a more high-profile role in order to proactively shape the Middle East's future. But a more diplomatically or militarily active India would risk abandoning what has so far been a fruitful, if low-key, approach to the Middle East, one that has enabled New Delhi to -- perhaps uniquely -- cooperate with Tehran, Riyadh, and Jerusalem.