New Delhi: Expressing concern over the security of Indians working in West Asia region, the government on Wednesday said long-standing conflicts there cannot be ignored as India has a "natural" interest in peace in that region.
"During 2011, India evacuated nearly 19,000 Indians working in Libya. The safety and security of Indians working in the region is a sensitive concern for the Indian government," Defence Minister A K Antony said while addressing the 15th Asian Security Conference here.
Recent developments in the region have complicated the security situation there, he said at the meet being organised by Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).
"Given India`s vital stakes in peace and stability in the region, it is natural for India to have an interest in abiding peace and security in the region. At the same time, long standing conflicts in the region cannot be ignored," he said.
He stressed that the Gulf region is vital for India`s security needs also.
"The region has about 48 per cent of the world`s total proven oil reserves and almost 16 per cent of the world`s natural gas reserves. Nearly two-third of our hydrocarbon imports are from this region. This will continue to be so in the near future," he said.
Noting that nearly 6.5 million Indian live and work in different countires in the region, he said, "A World Bank report says India received a USD 70 billion in remiittances during 2012 and a majority (of it) came from the Gulf region."
He said that the Middle East has been experiencing tumultous changes since 2010 and these changes have ushered in fundamental political and socio-economic transformation in the Arab world.
"The ongoing violence in Syria is a matter of concern for the region as well as the world. Recently extremists believed to be linked with Al Qaeda elements took over the government in Mali. Meanwhile, France has sent its military forces for intervention," he said.