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Strategic Dialogues And Dynamic Partnerships

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Bahrain’s think tank, Derasat,hosted two significant discussions as part of its Think Talk series.

Indian Ambassador Vinod K Jacob spoke about the changing relationship between India and the Arab World, highlighting new opportunities with the Gulf States, while US’ Edison Electric Institute (EEI) International Programmes Senior Vice President Dr Lawrence E Jones explored the concept of electricity diplomacy and its impact on international relations.

These sessions at the Derasat headquarters in Awali, hosted with the support of the Indian and US embassies, respectively, reflect Bahrain’s active role in understanding and shaping global strategies and energy policies.

In his session titled “Shifting Dynamics: Exploring the Arab World and India’s Evolving Relationship with Emerging Powers and Prospects with the Arabian Gulf States,” Ambassador Jacob highlighted the strong historical and growing ties between India and the Arab world, emphasizing the Arab region as an extended part of India’s neighborhood. He pointed out the robust economic and commercial bonds, including the significant India-Arab trade worth over $240 billion, and the vital role of Indian expatriates in the Arab world’s prosperity. The strategic importance of the Suez Canal and nearby regions in India’s trade, the reliance on the Arab world’s resources for India’s energy and food security, and the mutual benefits of investments were underscored. Additionally, he noted India’s impressive economic growth, becoming the fifth-largest global economy with a GDP exceeding $3.5 trillion, and its vibrant democracy and innovative private sector.

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Trade and investment ties between India and Bahrain have strengthened, with bilateral trade hitting $1.73 billion and the trade deficit narrowing to $80 million from April 2023 to March 2024, noted the envoy. India’s exports to Bahrain, led by engineering goods at $201.7 million, are varied and include electronics and petroleum products, among others. The exchange of petroleum products is notably even. India is the 6th largest investor in Bahrain with $1.5 billion in investments, while Bahrain is the 48th largest investor in India, focusing on real estate and technology. This is reflective of a wider trend in the GCC’s investment landscape in India.

Some key milestones highlighted by Mr Jacob are:

  • Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs): A series of MOUs were signed during King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s state visit to India in 2014, laying the groundwork for deeper cooperation.
  • High-Level Visits: The exchange of high-level visits, including those by HRH Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Bahrain, have been pivotal in reinforcing bilateral ties.
  • Cultural and Economic Agreements: The Cultural Exchange Programme and the launch of the RuPay Card in 2019 are testament to the multifaceted nature of the partnership.
  • Strategic Dialogues: The ministerial-level High Joint Commission meetings have been instrumental in reviewing and enhancing cooperation across various sectors.
  • Global South Summit Participation: The involvement of H.E. Sheikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa in the Voice of Global South Summit 2.0 in 2023 highlights the shared vision for a collaborative future.
  • Maritime Contributions: The Indian Navy has played a significant role in promoting regional peace and stability, with increased maritime activity and force levels in the Arabian Sea.
  • Defence Cooperation: The establishment of a defence wing in the Indian Embassy in Bahrain and the frequent port calls by Indian naval ships underscore the strategic importance of defence and security cooperation.
  • Military Engagement: The increased interactions between military leaderships and the participation of Bahraini trainees in events at the Indian Naval Academy reflect the deepening military-to-military engagement.

Mr Jacob also cited that India and Bahrain have shown strong cooperation, especially during the Covid pandemic, with Bahrain ensuring the safety and repatriation of Indians and India maintaining essential supply chains. Both countries align on combating climate change and terrorism and value their partnership in promoting peace and stability in Asia and the Middle East, he noted.

In his talk titled “Unlocking the Value of Electricity Diplomacy,” Dr Jones provided insightful perspectives on the mutual benefits of electricity diplomacy and its potential for bilateral and multilateral engagement to enhance energy security. Underscoring how electricity diplomacy, by fostering collaboration and mutual understanding among nations, can help mitigate the impacts of geopolitical challenges, the award-winning author and seasoned practitioner, with over 25 years of experience in the energy industry, ensured the stability and resilience of energy systems and promoted sustainable development. Additionally, he illustrated how lessons learned from diverse global contexts can inform better stakeholders, ultimately driving the transition towards a more interconnected world that benefits all globally.

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