`India, Arab world can work in institution building'

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 11:30 hrs

New Delhi, Dec 11 (IANS) India and the Arab world can work in institution building, said an Indian expert here Tuesday as international academicians and thinkers participated in a conference to discuss the future of Arab spring and its ramifications.

"India must welcome the dawn of democracy," said former ambassador K.P. Fabian at the two-day conference where academicians and thinkers from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Morocco as well as from the US, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Italy participated.

The conference was hosted at Sapru House by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) in association with the New York-based International Research Network on Religion and Democracy (IRNRD) and Developing Countries Research Centre (DCRC), where speakers deliberated on democratic transformation in and around the region that began in Tunisia and spread to other countries.

"Primarily the Arab Spring is about Arab people standing up for their rights. There was unity of purpose in getting rid of Mubarak, but that unity of purpose cannot last Mubarak's exit," said Fabain while referring to Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak who ruled for decades before he was deposed in a revolution that paved the way for the Muslim Brotherhood's victory in subsequent elections.

"India can share democracy, if only (others) asked for it...The Egyptians have asked and the Election Commission is in touch," he added.

He said that India and the Arab world can work in institution building.

Andrej Zwitter from the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, said that a state of emergency is a fundamental issue and pointed out the differences between the Egypt's 2007 constitution and the new constitution being drafted now.

Egypt has been experiencing a period of political and social turmoil since Nov 22 when President Mohammed Mursi issued a controversial decree protecting the work of the constituent assembly drafting the new constitution from judicial interference, thereby immunizing his actions from any legal challenge.

Zwitter spoke of a fear that "what was earlier emergency law will now become a part of the criminal law".

Ambassador R. Dayakar, who retired as Indian ambassador in Iraq, stressed that India has "cordial, warm" relations with the countries in the Arab world.

He noted that any change there would lead to prolonged uncertainty. He said that an estimated six million Indians settled there send remittances.

"Any instability will have psychological impact."

Also, it is important for food security since "phosphate and potassium are imported".

Dayakar explained that the Arab spring is due to "a disconnect of the state and the street". He added that India is watching the developments closely.

ICWA director general Rajiv Bhatia observed that the developments in the Arab world in the past two years have changed the contours of the political and socio-cultural landscape of the region.

Israel's Uriel Abulof said that Israel has been looking suspiciously at the Arab Spring.

He elaborated the thinking that the "only way Israel can face the rapid change is to detach itself" and added that the Israel sees it as a "neighbourhood which is completely unpredictable".

"I believe Israel can contribute to make the region a better place," he added.

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