Coming straight to the nub of the matter, let me begin by first and foremost pointing out that India and Jordan which have traditionally enjoyed good bilateral relations have decided to strengthen it further now by signing a landmark framework on March 1, 2018 in defence cooperation thus paving the way for a joint strategy to counter common threats. The officials who oversaw this landmark framework being signed between both the nations – India and Jordan said that the defence agreement which is the first such understanding between the two sides, is the biggest takeaway of the visit by the Jordanian king Abdullah II to India. There can be no denying it.
As it turned out, a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that, “The purpose of the MoU is to promote cooperation between India and Jordan in the field of defence by defining the scope of such cooperation and making provisions for implementation of the cooperation in some of the recognized areas like training, defence industry, counter-terrorism, military studies, cyber security, military medical services, peacekeeping etc.” It must be pointed out here that the defence agreement is primarily the culmination of broadening security and defence related dialogue between the two sides since the king’s last visit in 2006. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then.
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that India and Jordan had held the first bilateral security dialogue in July 2016. According to officials, this exchange, especially in the field of cyber security, is likely to deepen in the coming years. Both countries are fully determined and committed to work ahead with renewed vigour in this direction by cooperating in full earnest with each other.
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that TS Tirumurti who is the Secretary-in-charge of Economic Relations in the MEA said that the security cooperation is based on the tremendous experience that Jordan has in the region of West Asia and North Africa. It cannot be lost on us that Amman has provided critical support to India during the 1991 evacuation of citizens from Iraq and also during the latest crisis in Iraq and Syria. India too has firmly and fully reiterated its commitment to always cooperate with Jordan in all matters and in all possible ways.
Truth be told, on March 1, King Abdullah II visited the Manesar based headquarters of the National Security Guards (NSG), where he witnessed a demonstration of the group’s skills in the field of counter-terrorism. King Abdullah II was highly impressed with the counter-terrorism capabilities of the NSG. A presentation on Advanced Light Helicopter was also done before the visiting dignitary. The Jordanian king is known to be an accomplished para trooper and a helicopter pilot himself.
It would be pertinent to mention here that TS Tirumurti disclosed that, “The Jordanian side has lot of experience in this matter and both sides are resolved to cooperate against terrorism.” Both India and Jordan decided to step up defence cooperation to combat terror and prevent cyber security crimes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jordanian King Abdullah II held talks on key strategic issues after giving a clear message that terrorism and radicalization are not linked to any religion.
It must be revealed here that both the leaders discussed a gamut of issues ranging from Syrian refugees to Palestine and resolved to enhance cooperation in the economic sphere. Ahead of their talks, the two leaders addressed a conference on ‘Islamic Heritage: Promoting Understanding & Moderation’ during which Modi asserted that, “The action against terrorism and radicalisation is not against religion. It is against the mindset that misleads our youth to inflict atrocities against innocents. Complete welfare and inclusive development are possible only when Muslim youths have a Quran in one hand and computer in the other”. Absolutely right!
It is noteworthy that King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein who is a 41st generation direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad is known for his global initiative to fight radicalisation and terrorism. He is also the custodian of the Al-Aqsa mosque which is the third holiest site in Islam which is located in the Old City of Jerusalem. This is what makes his trip to India historically relevant as good relations with Jordan is the key to establishing good relations with all other Islamic countries in the world!
Needless to say, after extensive talks between their leaders, the two sides signed 12 agreements in a wide range of areas including defence, health and medicine, setting up of the next generation Centre of Excellence (COE) in Jordan, long term supply of rock phosphate and fertilizer and setting up of a Hindi Chair at the Jordan University. The defence cooperation which is a key element of the visit envisages to promote cooperation by “defining the scope of such cooperation and making provisions for implementation of the cooperation in some of the recognized areas like training; defence industry; counter-terrorism; military studies; cyber security; military medical services, peace-keeping etc”. When asked about the details on the pact on defence cooperation, Tirumurti said that, “It is a framework agreement under which several areas of agreement were delineated. The two countries will explore what are the avenues which can be taken to move forward. There was nothing specific that was decided.” But it cannot be denied that the road to future defence cooperation has certainly been opened with this historic visit by King Abdullah II to India! A Jordanian defence delegation had come to India in December 2017 and the two sides had held discussions on a range of issues.
Be it noted, the Jordanian King who addressed Modi as “my dear brother” said that the global war against terrorism is a fight among moderates of all faiths and their extremist counterparts “who spread hatred and violence”. The Jordanian King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein said that, “We need to recognize and reject them is information groups promote about Islam, or indeed any religion. We need to take back the airwaves and internet from the voices of hatred, those who have victimized our world only with bombs and terror but with ignorance and lies”. He said that inclusion is the path to co-existence and called for building strong and successful countries. He also reiterated that, “It is our strongest defence against turmoil and our greatest promise of our future and prosperity, security and peace.”
Apart from defence and security, health is another focus area for mutual cooperation between India and Jordan. The thrust will be on several sectors, including universal health coverage and regulation of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Jordan has more than 10,000 Indians working in textile, construction, health and manufacturing sectors, universities and IT, financial and fertiliser companies. A memorandum of understanding was also signed for setting up a centre in Jordan for training at least 3,000 Jordanian IT professionals over five years. A similar unit will be based in India to train master trainers in IT from Jordan.
On a concluding note, it has to be admitted that both sides have now come close in forging ahead a new partnership in security and defence cooperation. But still a lot of ground has to be covered even now. The groundwork has been done which is most important. Now it has to be cemented and raised further to new heights of mutual cooperation and sharing. Both sides have a lot in common and both can gain immensely by this mutual defence cooperation! This landmark visit by the Jordanian king to India has certainly rekindled a lot of high hopes and expectations in both the countries which is a good news for both the countries!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.