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Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges: The US and India Forging a Stronger Middle East
The United States and India have strong strategic interests in the Middle East. These interests have expanded in recent years and include issues as wide-ranging as energy and security, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism, and trade and people-to-people ties. The changing global dynamics of energy supply and demand will likely shift the strategic priorities of both the United States and India in the Middle East as far as energy trade is concerned. Access to new oil and gas reserves in the United States is expected to drastically reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. On the other hand, India’s rapidly growing energy needs will make it more dependent on foreign energy resources, particularly from the Middle East. In 2011, Saudi Arabia was the largest supplier of oil to India.

India has a large diasporic population in the Middle East with more than six million Indians living and working in the Gulf countries alone. According to the World Bank, India was the largest recipient of remittances in the world ($69 billion) in 2012. A large percentage of these remittances come from the more than six million expatriate Indians working in the Gulf, many of whom are Muslims. Indian Muslims who live and work in the Middle East play a prominent role in influencing the historical, financial, and ideological links between India and the Middle East.


The United States and India have a mutual interest in ensuring a stable and secure Middle East. Some of the key challenges in this area include confronting the threats posed to the region by nuclear-armed countries, e.g., Iran, and the destabilizing effect of state support for terrorist organizations.

In Fall 2013, the U.S. Consulate General at Hyderabad and Indian School of Business will host a major conference in Hyderabad that will focus on the changing energy, security (including non-proliferation and terrorism) trade, and people-to-people trends in the Middle East vis-à-vis the U.S. and India. It will bring together civilian and military think tank experts from the United States, India, and other countries to discuss opportunities and obstacles as the U.S. and India take on significantly different roles in the Middle East. Conference organizers will later publish the proceedings of this conference.

Below is a summary of the conference themes.

Panel 1: Energy Trends

  • Current energy trends and challenges for the U.S. and India
  • Energy security issues
  • Role of technology in the production and transfer of energy
  • Alternate sources of energy and their impact
     

Panel 2: Trade Issues

  • Bilateral trade between India and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council)
  • Bilateral trade between U.S. and Persian Gulf countries
  • Infrastructure modernization and its impact on trade
  • Trade beyond the Persian Gulf
  • Trade choke points and obstacles
     

Panel 3: Geo-political and Geo-strategic Issues

  • U.S. and Indian maritime activities in the Persian Gulf states
  • India as a mediator between Iran and the West
  • Iran’s nuclear challenge
  • Terrorist networks in the Middle East
  • Port security and security of naval vessels
  • Piracy, transnational crime, and counter-terrorism
  • Arab world relations with Pakistan vis-à-vis India 
     

Panel 4: People-to-People Ties

  • The influence of Indian Muslims in shaping India’s Middle East policies
  • Historical and contemporary linkages between India and the Middle East
  • U.S. colleges in the Middle East
  • Financial remittances from the Gulf
  • ‘Wahabi’ influences on Indian Islam
  • The Indian diaspora in the Middle East and its effect on Indian foreign policy