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S. Samuel C. Rajiv

Edited by P.R. Kumaraswamy
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2014, pp. 305, Rs. 795.00


The Persian Gulf has been termed the ‘proximate neighbourhood’ by Indian policy makers. Apart from the geographical closeness, the region has been of crucial importance to India on account of energy dependency as well as the presence of the substantial numbers of Indian citizens working in these countries. The book under review attempts to capture the dynamics of the region with contributions from PhD students of the Centre for West Asian Studies of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Kumaraswamy notes that despite the importance of the region, and the opportunities it gives for India to play a ‘leadership role’, the lack of high-level political engagement is a cause for concern. Despite this ‘political aloofness’ however, India’s economic relations with the region have boomed riding on India’s energy imports. Six out of India’s top 25 trading partners are countries of the Persian Gulf. Kumaraswamy though draws attention to the ‘skewed’ nature of India’s trade, heavily tilted in favour of these countries, except for Bahrain and Yemen as subsequent chapters point out. Among other big trends that Kumaraswamy captures is the diminishing role of Pakistan as a factor in India’s West Asia policy (primarily because of India’s growing economic clout), the rising influence of China, intensifying sectarian divide, the continuing dominant role of the US as a ‘Persian Gulf power’, and the continued importance of ‘Islam’ as a factor in India’s ties with the region. The country-specific chapters do a useful job of detailing the domestic political, economic dynamics of each country, the contours of India’s engagement with them and the role of external players. The information though primarily relates to the period before 2012, given that a Kindle version of the book was first published in 2012. Alvite Ningthoujam highlights the difficult economic situation in Iran as a result of the sanctions. Sonia Roy notes that March 2012 witnessed the first visit of the Kuwaiti Emir to Iraq since 1990, to attend the 23rd Arab League Summit. This was however attended by only 10 heads of state, the other 12 countries sending lower-level representatives as a sign of their continued apprehensions over the rise of Iranian influence in the country (p. 111). Kuwait has witnessed socio-political protests on account of issues such as widespread corruption, among others, though not the ‘severe turmoil’ as the other Arab states have witnessed (p. 131). Paulami Sanyal notes that Kuwait’s labour laws were an issue of concern ...

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