There is today no region which impinges on India’s security with as much immediacy as West Asia. This is not surprising or new. For centuries our extended neighborhood in West Asia has been a part of our lives in India, beginning with the four thousand year old trading relationships evidenced by sailing ships on Indus Valley seals found in archeological sites in Iraq. These are truly historical, cultural, linguistic, religious and civilizational links. (Menon, 2013)
The visits by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to various Middle East states from 2015 to 2021 have highlighted an interest in a region that had been largely neglected in the foreign policy agenda of previous Indian governments. Some observers have interpreted these developments as indicators of a shifting Indian approach towards the Middle East (Gupta, 2017; Pethiyagoda, 2017; Brandenburg and Gopalaswamy, 2018; Pant, 2018). Others have argued that there is in fact more continuity than change in the determinants of India’s Middle East policy (Joshi, 2015; Gupta et al, 2019). Are these developing ties redefining the regional boundaries between two traditionally distinct South Asian and Middle Eastern regions? Or is it problematic to frame these growing transactions in logics of trans-regional cooperation, thereby (re-)producing arbitrary and Eurocentric spatial understandings of South Asia and the Middle East? Are present conceptualizations of the ‘region’ as an analytical category, mostly derived from the West European experience, useful to understand India’s evolving Middle East policy?
These questions are not trivial today given the contemporary debates over the role of regions in world politics and more specifically about India’s emergence from a regional to a global power.
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The Gulf is a major global destination for migrant workers, with a majority of these workers coming from South Asia. In this book, a team of international contributors examine the often-overlooked complex governance of this migration corridor.
Going beyond state-centric analysis, the contributors present a multi-layered account of the ‘migration governance complex.’ They offer insights not only into the actors involved in the different components of migration governance, but also into the varying ways of interpreting and explaining the meaning and value of these interactions. Together, they enable readers to better understand migration in this important region, while also providing a model for analyzing global migration governance in practice in different parts of the world.
The governance of migration has increased in complexity. Individual citizens (migrants and their families; political, professional, and ethnic communities), NGOs, regional and international organizations, and states (both central and subnational authorities) all have stakes in the migration process, and each serve as potential mechanisms of governance or venues for responding to migrant needs. Some scholars focus on the international level through the role of global institutions, while others concentrate on national migration and labour regulations. Yet frameworks that account for the multi-layered nature of migration governance across multiple sovereign political domains are lacking. This is a story of overlapping contested sovereignties, which occurs across, above, and below the involved states. We examine these dynamics by looking at one significant, albeit neglected, case: the South-to-West Asia migration corridor. Gulf countries host nearly 14 per cent of global labour migrants, the source of nearly one quarter of global remittances. Moreover, over 90 per cent of migrant workers from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and over 65 per cent from Bangladesh and Nepal, find employment in a Gulf country. By focusing on this dynamic corridor through a collection of studies from scholars coming from different disciplines and research methodologies (political science, geography, anthropology, economics, law), we seek to map the multiple, simultaneous processes that form a migration governance complex to build theoretical insights for migration and governance literature.
Within the broader India–UAE migration corridor, the Kerala–Dubai corridor illustrates the complex assemblage of actors operating in a migration governance space and, in a variety of ways, challenging state sovereignty over this issue area. Where some view migration and citizenship governance as a ‘last bastion of state sovereignty’ (Dauvergne 2008: 169), others suggest growing evidence in various spheres of migration governance of ‘extraterritorial interventions’ by states and private actors (Rodriguez and Schwenken 2013: 381), and even ‘deterritorialized labour market regulation’ (Ennis and Walton-Roberts 2018: 179). In this chapter, we examine such contested governance and sovereignty in the Kerala–Dubai migration corridor through two cases: the process of recruitment and the establishment of a shared electronic migration regulatory system.