Ansari favours 'Look West' policy focusing on Gulf region



New Delhi: Vice President Hamid Ansari on Saturday said India should 'Look West' focusing on the Gulf countries as such a policy will help it in safeguarding and promoting its interests there.

"A Look West policy towards this part of West Asia... would be as relevant for safeguarding and promoting India's interests as its Look East policy that has been in place for some years," he said.

The Vice President was speaking at a seminar on 'India and GCC countries, Iran and Iraq: Emerging Security Perspectives' organised by Indian Council of World Affairs. The GCC consists of six countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Ansari said it was in Indian interest to have friendly governments, peace and stability, access to oil and gas resources, freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and Straits of Hormuz and market access for Indian trade, investments and workforce in the Gulf region.

Pointing out that the region was within the operational radius of the Indian Navy, the Vice President said, "The latter's participation in the anti-piracy operations in the Arabian Sea is a case in point. If needed, it can escort shipping and interdict forces hostile to it."

Noting that though India is comfortable with the present situation the Gulf region, Iran and Iraq, he said, "an unstable status quo also looms over the horizon. Misgivings about intentions motivate it; divergence of perceptions and policy about extra-regional politico-military presence adds to it; so does what had been called 'an undeclared arms race'."

The Vice President said there was a requirement to seek arrangements to cater to the threat perceptions and essential interests of all regional and extra-regional stakeholders for stabilising the regional situation in long-term.

Citing the example of regional groups in the Southeast Asian region, Ansari said the countries such as India, China and Japan should also be included Gulf regional cooperation and other community-building exercises there.

"It should include all other principal beneficiaries of energy supplies and open sea-lanes," he added.

Pointing out that an integrated Persian Gulf littoral would offer more opportunities for socio-economic advancement, the Vice President said, "it will the foundation for eroding political rivalries and harsh nationalist impulses and for bringing about regional stability and peace."

Advocating an "outward looking, flexible and dynamic" Gulf regionalism, Ansari said this would help these countries to benefit from enhanced economic integration and face common threats of terrorism, proliferation of WMDs, securing energy exports and security of sea-lanes.

PTI