King Abdullah’s visit: Could Jordan mediate between India and Pakistan?
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, accompanied by a business delegation, came to India on February 27 for a three-day visit. This was his second visit to India, after he came accompanied by Queen Rania in 2006. The visit was intended to provide the two countries an opportunity to explore ways to strengthen bilateral ties in diverse areas, raise political synergies and enhance bilateral trade and investments from the current level of $1.35 billion.
Both India and Jordan renewed and expressed unequivocal support for the Palestinian cause. Abdullah, who serves as custodian of Islamic Holy sites in Israeli – annexed East Jerusalem, believes a negotiated two-state solution is the only realistic way to resolve the Israel – Palestine conflict.
Despite a major shift in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s foreign policy towards Israel, India’s stand on the Palestinian cause and two-state solution has been consistent and independent of any third party. In December 2017, along with Jordan, India voted with the rest of the world in the UN General Assembly against US President Donald Trump’s unilateral announcement to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
From an Indian point of view, Abdullah’s visit was very significant in terms of its Kashmir conflict with Pakistan. During the visit, Abdullah reiterated Jordan’s neutral position on the Kashmir issue, despite Jordan’s deep political, cultural and historical links with Pakistan. Prior to his visit to India, Abdullah visited Pakistan where President Mamnoon Hussain highlighted the issues of Kashmir, saying it was imperative for international peace and stability to resolve them. Abdullah highlighted the importance of a political solution to the Kashmir issue with India in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions.
This delicate balancing act between India and Pakistan indicates that Jordanian foreign policy is rooted in the diplomacy of pragmatism. This puts Jordan in a better position than any other country to play a third-party role in facilitating a resolution to the Kashmir conflict.
Although India refuses third-party involvement in its domestic affairs, it must understand that its unilateral approaches of negotiating a settlement with Pakistan have led to futile political posturing rather than effective discussion. In addition, the current government’s policy towards Pakistan appears belligerent. This has provided space for Iran and China to emerge as Pakistan’s supporters, who are attempting to internationalize the Kashmir conflict.
Jordan is not only close to Pakistan, comparatively, it also has the experience of negotiating peace settlements.
The kingdom has been involved as a third-party mediator in the Israel-Palestine conflict resolution process. Abdullah has mostly assumed a mediatory role between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, various Palestinian factions and occasionally between the Palestinian authority and the US. Therefore, India could rely on Jordan when it brings Pakistan to the negotiation table.
Jordan has the potential to force Pakistan to have a political breakthrough on the Kashmir conflict with India. This can also drastically reduce insurgency in the Kashmir valley. Therefore, India can consider approaching Jordan and proposing a third-party role to it in facilitating the Kashmir peace process, in order to break the entrenched stalemate.
While discussing bilateral relations, both countries also sought to diversify and broaden their cooperation to bind India’s and Jordan’s economies. After discussions between the leaders, both countries inked 12 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) in the fields of defence, security, and investment protection and cooperation.
India is one of the most violence-afflicted countries in the world, with separatist movements in Kashmir and a Maoist insurgency across the country. The formation of AQIS (al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) has further alarmed the country’s security establishment. Online radicalisation of Indian youth by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) is among the most challenging problems India is facing currently. Keeping in mind Jordan’s de-radicalisation experience, India emphasized closer bilateral security cooperation. Both sides explored the possibility of initiating provisions for the implementation of cooperation in the areas like defence training, counter-terrorism, and cyber security
For India, engaging with one of the key Islamic countries against Islamic extremism in recognized fields of defence and security could be of importance in curbing terrorism and cyber security threats. With Jordan’s support, India has the potential to become an important game changer in the area of de-radicalisation and cyber security.
On the economic front, India is Jordan’s 4th largest trade partner after Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China. The main commodities India imports are fertilizers, phosphates and phosphoric acid, and exports machinery, cereals, frozen meat, organic and inorganic chemicals, fodder and automotive parts to kingdom. Both countries agreed to further explore the possibilities of cooperating in assisting Africa.
They discussed further potentialities in enhancing India-Jordan bilateral trade and investment relations given the excellent bilateral political ties.
Jordan must also attempt to engage with India in its other advanced sectors like aerospace, biotechnology or ‘Make in India’ initiatives. India must also try to explore the potentialities of the Jordanian market.
Jordan is home to more than 10,000 Indians, who are employed in various sectors like textiles, construction and IT. The potential for greater opportunities and enhanced cooperation based on mutual understanding between India and Jordan is brighter than ever before.