India will host a two-day meeting with officials and foreign ministers of the Arab League states from January 31, capping the government’s outreach to West Asia, a key source of energy supplies and home to more than 7 million Indians.
This will be the second ministerial meeting of the Arab-India Cooperation Forum, which was created to boost cooperation with the 22-member Arab League.
The first meeting was held when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Bahrain in January 2016.
Senior officials of the two sides will meet in New Delhi on January 31 and the ministerial meeting will be held on February 1, a senior Arab diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
The agenda for the meeting is currently being firmed up though the focus will be on energy, security and regional and global issues, the diplomat added.
“This meeting indicates the members of the Arab League are not worried about India’s growing relationship with Israel. There is an undercurrent of support for India among the members of the Arab League,” a person familiar with the developments said.
The members of the League of Arab States, as the grouping is formally known, and especially the six countries that are also members of the Gulf Cooperation Council — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates —are “important economic partners with cultural and religious connects” with India, the pers- on said.
More than 7 million Indians currently live in West Asia, with most of them concentrated in Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, and their remittances are more than $30 billion.
The Arab League does not have a similar forum for cooperation with Pakistan, and the upcoming meeting is expected to strengthen India’s position on issues such as Kashmir, another person familiar with the developments said. Several Arab League states have opposed any strong move on the Kashmir issue that goes against India, the second person said.