The political landscape of the Middle East has undergone a remarkable metamorphosis in recent years. This transformation stems from the region’s leaders’ daring to reshape socio-political paradigms through bold reforms and strategic international alliances.

At the forefront of this diplomatic renaissance is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where prudent governance and inventive policies have catalysed the nation’s ascent as a regional leader. The UAE’s push towards gender equality, environmental sustainability, and space exploration as outlined in Vision 2050 fosters innovation and progress. Meanwhile, the UAE’s expanding diplomatic influence reached new heights with the Abraham Accords, normalising relations between Israel and Arab nations.

Saudi Arabia too has embarked on a path toward political liberalisation, as evidenced by granting women greater freedoms and its diplomatic outreach to Israel. By fostering dialogue with former adversaries such as Qatar and Iran, Saudi Arabia solidifies its position as an emerging diplomatic force.

Expanding beyond the efforts of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the Arab world’s 22 diverse nations find themselves amid a profound era of geopolitical, economic, and social transformation. From the Atlantic shores of Morocco to the waters of the Arabian Gulf, significant shifts in alignments and priorities have reshaped relationships and regional dynamics. Traditional concepts of ethnic or religious unity have largely given way to pragmatic considerations of national interest and economic prosperity.

Abraham Accords

This transition was embodied in the historic Abraham Accords of 2020, which witnessed the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan make peace and normalise relations with Israel after decades of hostility, which paves the way for collaboration with Israel in investment, banking, technology, medicine, tourism and security, projected to exceed $300 billion.

However, the persisting failure to uphold Palestinian rights and sovereignty remains a major critique of the process from activists across the Arab world.

For the UAE, the opportunity to collaborate with Israel’s thriving innovation, science and technology sectors was a major incentive along with shared security interests in countering Iranian influence.

In the three years since formally signing the Accords, the UAE and Israel have rapidly expanded bilateral cooperation spanning climate action, healthcare, space exploration, tourism promotion and critical cybersecurity domains. India has greatly benefited from the Abraham Accords, forging diverse ties with Arab nations beyond energy and labour relations. Trade between India and the UAE exceeded $75 billion in 2022-23.

Saudi Arabia is India’s second-largest Arab trading partner with a trade volume exceeding $42 billion, while over 2 million Indians work in the Kingdom and bilateral defence production is on the rise. Qatar provides over 60 per cent of India’s imported LNG, hosts over 750,000 Indian residents, and has invested over $2 billion in India.

In Iraq, annual two-way trade exceeds $25 billion, with India participating in infrastructure rebuilding efforts. Oman allows Indian navy ships access to the Western Indian Ocean and hosts a key Indian Air Force base, while Bahrain hosts the Indian Navy’s first overseas base, INS Jyoti, furthering India’s Act West policy and maritime security cooperation.

However, challenges to stability persist due to proxy conflicts, sectarian tensions, terrorism, and the delicate equilibrium between modernisation and tradition.

Nonetheless, a shift towards pragmatic foreign policies aimed at technological progress, economic diversification beyond oil, cultural inclusivity, and the nurturing of human capital suggests a promising path towards prosperity and stability in the Arab world.

Nehal is a South Asia analyst and columnist. Bevara is a business and leadership writer