India and Jordan - Enhancing Well-Established Ties

Focus

Priya Singh insists that the existing mutually beneficial relationship between India and Jordan must be further deepened and strengthened in the days ahead

The geographic area that is now the country of Jordan was, for centuries, a sparsely populated and highly tribalised desert region within the Turkish controlled Ottoman Empire. The population is primarily Arab and Sunni Muslim, although Christian Arabs, Circassians and other minorities have lived in this area for centuries. Ottoman control of vast tracts of Arab territory ended as a result of the empire’s defeat in the World War I and the subsequent dismemberment of the former Ottoman territory by victorious allied powers. As part of this transition, the country now known as Jordan began its separate political existence as Transjordan, a British League of Nations Mandate, in 1921. Since Transjordan was created as a separate political entity from Palestine, it was not subject to Jewish immigration. It was in 1949 that King Abdullah changed the name of Transjordan to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

The Hashemite Kingdom has played a central role in many key issues, crises and problems of the Middle East, despite Jordan’s status as a small country with limited resources. It has played an important part in the war against terrorism and in the search for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement.

If history has critically shaped Jordan, so has geography. Occupying a small buffer zone between much larger and more powerful states, Jordan has been highly vulnerable to outside influence, a feature greatly amplified by its strategic alliances with the United Kingdom and the United States, its heavy dependence on foreign aid and on remittances from its nationals working abroad, and its large Palestinian population with ambivalent loyalties. Jordan faces changing security challenges both outside and within. Its security is highly dependent on the future of the Arab-Israeli peace process and the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Jordan’s security is also affected by Iraq’s stability and by Iran’s rising challenge and ties with Lebanon and Syria. It faces growing challenges of Islamist extremism and terrorism.

Since the 1990s, Jordan has skilfully managed to support policies that benefitted other moderate Arab states and the West, while advancing its own national interests. Jordan does have two natural resources: potash and phosphate for fertiliser. Tourism is also an important source of revenue. Jordanians have high levels of education and have long provided a flow of income from their workers in other Arab states.

Indian Engagement

India has had close, historic ties with Jordan. Both the countries signed their first bilateral agreement for cooperation and friendly relations in 1947, which was formalised in 1950 when India became a sovereign, democratic republic.

Relations between the two countries have witnessed many high-level visits. The state visit of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania to India in December 2006 provided a great opportunity for exchange of views on all aspects of bilateral relations.

The Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India stated in August 2011 that ‘India and Jordan have very warm, cordial and cooperative relations; and it is our hope that the existing mutually beneficial relationship would be further deepened and strengthened in the days ahead.’

In a tangible sense, India exports electrical machinery, cereals, frozen meat, inorganic chemicals, animal fodder, engineering goods, petroleum products and imports fertilisers, phosphates and phosphoric acid from Jordan. The Arab kingdom of Jordan has, in fact, caught the fancy of Indian exporters after exports from India to the West Asian country soared to $554 million in April-July 2014, which is up about 137 percent from $234 million recorded in the corresponding period last year. India’s exports to Jordan stood at $1.59 billion in 2013-14, up almost 60 percent from the previous year. India is also the third largest destination for Jordanian goods, and imported goods worth $610 million in 2013-14.

An important area of cooperation between the two countries is the construction industry as massive infrastructure expansion projects are underway in Jordan, and the construction sector is forecast to grow at over 20 percent per annum in the next five years. A business delegation led by Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) visited Jordan in September to explore opportunities in exports of electrical and construction machinery, sanitary wares, tiles, marble stone, granite, scaffolding, spa products, electrical gears and switches, and furnishings.

Boost to Bilateral Ties

Foreign office consultations were held between India and Jordan in April 2014, which provided the two countries with an opportunity to review bilateral relations and examine ways to boost them. In an interview with The Jordan Times, Secretary (East) in India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Anil Wadhwa said the two sides agreed to hold consultations at regular intervals because of their significance in strengthening ties. He went on to specify that 25 Indian textile companies have invested in the special qualifying zones in Jordan and a big joint venture would be commissioned in the near future, wherein a plant will produce 500,000 metric tonnes of phosphoric acid to be exported to India annually. There have been discussions focussed on ways to increase the trade volume, which amounted to $1.61 billion in 2013. Moreover, the two sides are considering the potential for boosting bilateral trade, through cooperation in IT, call centres, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, automotive spare parts, fertilisers and textiles.

Convergence of Vision

As far as the Middle East peace process is concerned, India and Jordan share similar views on contentious issues. Both the countries strongly reject religious fundamentalism, extremism and terrorism in all forms. India supports just, comprehensive and lasting peace, leading to the establishment of a secure, viable and united state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital with recognised borders alongside Israel, and would like to see an amicable solution of the issue. India, like Jordan, is also deeply concerned at the on-going violence in Syria and the loss of human life. Both nations feel that Syria’s role in West Asia and in the stability of the wider region is pivotal.

The convergence between the two countries in terms of shared notions and visions of political stability, peace and economic prosperity for the West Asian region in general, and Jordan in particular, must be converted into practice in a real sense.

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Author

Priya Singh

Priya Singh is a Fellow at the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies.

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