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Reviving Canada-India Relations for the Long-Term

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This commentary is published as part of ‘Charting New Waters: Assessing Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy One Year On’, a follow-up policy paper series to IPD’s 2023 Indo-Pacific Strategy Forum.


Canada-India relations have plunged. India’s alleged extra-territorial killing of a prominent Canadian Sikh activist has sunk diplomatic ties. This freeze has implications for Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy that prioritized India. This paper analyses why India featured heavily in Ottawa’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (henceforth IPS) and how that focus manifested till September 2023 before assessing the implications of the current diplomatic crisis on relations with India and the IPS.

The piece argues that Ottawa’s approach to India through the IPS was limited and one-dimensional, driven by a singular focus on trade. The recent rupture from the ongoing crisis not only undermines Canadian efforts to enhance relations with New Delhi and remain in lockstep with Canada’s allies that have cultivated close ties with the Modi government. Simply put, Canada’s ongoing spat with India not only hampers the IPS but also inclination to strengthen deterrence and build a stable rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific.

This piece is organized as follows. The first section reveals how Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy regarded India and how the strategy was received in New Delhi. The second section unpacks Ottawa’s diplomatic focus vis-à-vis India since November 2022 that has largely come down to trade discussions. The third section looks ahead to 2024 and what that portends for the relationship before the final section that assesses the IPS and India’s place within Canada’s Asia strategy following the diplomatic rupture.

An Indo-centric IPS

Canada’s IPS emphasized India, regarding the country as a pivotal economic player crucial to Canada’s economic prosperity and security. Ostensibly, it was India’s growing ‘strategic, economic, and demographic importance’ that warranted a heavy focus in Ottawa’s new Asia strategy.1Global Affairs Canada, “Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy,” Government of Canada, November 24, 2022, The strategy was Canada’s bet on India as it becomes an influential Asian power. Besides being a bulwark to China, which has increased India’s geopolitical importance for western powers, Delhi’s attractiveness also stems from its promising and rising economic position and future that invites unprecedented attention. Notwithstanding China, that India provides a durable and democratic economic market for goods and services has not been lost on countries worldwide; moreover, that Delhi provides this assurance as it itself balances an increasingly assertive and hostile China makes it a critical partner to invest in. Whether or not such trends pan out, the prospect of deepening relations with an economically vibrant pluralistic Asian democracy has shifted geopolitical logics to tilt toward Delhi across western capitals including Ottawa through the IPS.

The IPS, however, remained Canada’s bet on India with little attention given to Ottawa’s strategy in New Delhi. To be sure, it was a heady foreign policy juncture when the IPS was unveiled. Indian officials were managing tiffs between major powers as it planned an ambitious G20 presidency.2Vivek Mishra, “India’s Foreign Policy in 2022: A Year in Review,” South Asian Voices, January 13, 2023, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine placed India in a bind of whether to stand by its longstanding geopolitical patron that had supported it through the Cold War or chastize Moscow, dovetailing what the United States and the European Union did. Ukraine tested India’s resolve with Washington and Brussels as they cobbled together a coalition to repel Russia’s unprovoked war. Delhi faced intense pressure to halt Russian oil imports.3Takahashi Toru, “How India’s Modi Helped Save the West by Buying Russian Oil,” Nikkei Asia, June 19, 2023, These geopolitical pressures collided with India’s diplomatic coming-out party through its G20 presidency that highlighted the global economic effects of the Ukraine war, India’s development strides and its relevance for developing countries, while serving as a model and voice for Global South countries.4G20 Secretariat, “G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration” (G20 Secretariat, September 2023), Though Canada was involved at G20 discussions through 2023, Ottawa’s priorities with respect to India largely focused on trade and getting an early trade agreement finalized that was being negotiated since 2010.

Undoubtedly, Canada’s IPS reflected trade prospects and potential with India, recognizing the country as a rising economic heavyweight in Asia. The primary motivation was to leverage the IPS to expand Canada’s economic presence in India. To be sure, a wide range of Canadian companies already operate in India with enormous scope for growth.5Gyanendra Keshri, “India-Canada Tensions to Impact Trade, Investments,” Deccan Herald, September 20, 2023, Canadian fertilizers and fossil fuels form a huge chunk of Canada’s exports to India. Scope exists, however, to further integrate, particularly in high-value sectors. Indian IT firms and conglomerates are turbocharging India’s robust growth rates and have become prominent economic partners for US and EU counterparts; critically, Indian firms in sectors like information technology, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and engineering are becoming highly competitive and innovative which makes their partnership vital for Canadian growth and prosperity.

A potential Canada-India trade pact gains more salience given Delhi’s absence from regional frameworks like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for a Trans Pacific Partnership.

The rapidly growing Indian market was of critical importance for Ottawa to gain and sustain access for specific Canadian exports. This market access proved vital given countervailing protectionist pressures in Delhi. Since 2020, Delhi has been flirting with economic ‘self-reliance’ as a way to develop and support Indian firms and industries, which could diminish market access for Canadian products.6Mukul Asher, “India’s Plans to Revive Domestic Production,” Research and Information System for Developing Countries, December 20, 2020, Through this ‘self-reliance’ rubric, India quickly erected new trade barriers through tariffs, localisation requirements, indigenous standards requirements, price controls, and import restrictions.7Priya Chacko, “Can India Decouple from China? Geopolitics and the Bid for Self-Reliance – Perth USAsia Centre,” Perth USAsia Centre, 2020, Such moves could be neutralized by a trade or an economic partnership agreement that reassures Canadian and Indian firms, particularly as geopolitical tensions and accompanying risks lurk. A potential Canada-India trade pact gains more salience given Delhi’s absence from regional frameworks like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for a Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).8Shashank Mattoo, “Why India Is Losing out on CPTPP,” Observer Research Foundation, January 7, 2022,

The IPS and India

Since November 2022, no major Canadian initiatives have been announced with India. Until Trudeau’s bombshell announcement of the alleged extra-territorial killing in September, Canada’s focus vis-à-vis India was largely trade and investment, specifically finalizing an early progress trade agreement (EPTA) that could eventually lead to a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA). The primary vehicle to facilitate this outcome was the Ministerial Dialogue on Trade and Investment (MDTI) to solidify bilateral trade and investment. In fact, investments were on the uptick despite being at relatively low levels; in 2022, bilateral investments hit nearly $100 billion with Canadian investments making up nearly two-third ($70 billion) and bilateral goods trade up 57% from 2021 to $12 billion.9Manoj Kumar, “India, Canada Aim to Seal Trade Pact This Year,” Reuters, May 10, 2023, Both governments and trade ministers hoped to get the EPTA agreement finalized by end-2023 to expand rising investment and trade levels while establishing a mechanism to deal with potential disputes.10Global Affairs Canada, “Joint Statement Issued at Conclusion of the 5th India-Canada Ministerial Dialogue on Trade & Investment,” Government of Canada, March 11, 2022, That, of course, has not transpired.

Through 2023, however, both governments committed to boost and protect their trade and investment relationship. A flurry of bilateral meetings occurred under India’s G20 presidency where Canadian ministers reinforced India’s growing economic, demographic, and geopolitical importance, which ostensibly compels both countries to improve relations. Canadian Foreign Minister Joly’s bilateral visit to New Delhi in February marked the relaunch of the Canada-India strategic dialogue that could serve as a vehicle to advance Canada’s Indo-Pacific push.11Global Affairs Canada, “Minister Joly Strengthens Bilateral Relationship with India’s Minister of External Affairs,” Government of Canada, February 6, 2023, Coming off years of little to no meaningful diplomatic engagement, Joly’s visit proved important in signalling to India that it formed an important part of Canada’s IPS and that Ottawa was looking to work with India bilaterally given convergent interests and multilaterally on regional and global challenges.

Trade ministers Mary Ng and Piyush Goyal held the 6th MDTI in May 2023 in Toronto, emphasizing the positive state of the trading relationship with significant scope to grow.12Global Affairs Canada, “Joint Statement Issued at Conclusion of the 6th Canada-India Ministerial Dialogue on Trade & Investment,” Government of Canada, May 10, 2023, Both trade ministers relaunched CEPA negotiations to produce an EPTA covering issues like rules of origin, phytosanitary measures, and secure high level commitment on goods, services and investments, plus dispute settlement.13Rita Trichur, “A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action, Please, on Canada-India Trade,” The Globe and Mail, May 11, 2023, Unsurprisingly, both sides reinforced the importance of coordinating economic and trade policies given pressures left by Ukraine and COVID-19 that increased economic risks and vulnerabilities, particularly in areas like supply chains, climate and clean energy, and critical and emerging technologies. The Toronto MDTI meeting also brought together restive business delegations of both countries who were clamouring for a trade deal with the hope of clinching gains through a Team Canada Trade Mission to India slated for October 2023.14Anirudh Bhattacharyya, “Piyush Goyal, Mary Ng Host CEOs Roundtable in Toronto,” Hindustan Times, May 10, 2023,

Till the recently announced ‘pause’ in trade talks, Delhi reciprocated Ottawa’s desire to boost trade that constitutes a major aspect of its IPS. Unquestionably, both business delegations want clarity and certainty, particularly over trade rules that could accelerate investment in a palpably hostile geopolitical environment. The May meetings appeared to push the needle toward an EPTA, when compared to earlier MDTI meetings. India appeared keen to expand trade through a trade agreement similar to what Delhi had signed with Australia and the United Arab Emirates.15Ministry of Economy, “UAE-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement – Ministry of Economy UAE,” Government of UAE, 2022,

Broadly, Delhi has been redoubling efforts to clinch trade deals with ‘trusted’ partners (like Australia, UAE, UK, etc.) covering strategic areas crucial to India’s growth trajectory. India’s new foreign trade policy announced in April 2023 emphasizes trade integration with preferred partners covering areas like e-commerce, digitalisation, and expanding exports through various incentives and measures to spur production.16Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA),” Government of Australia, 2021, India’s highly advanced digital ecosystem was becoming attractive for foreign technology and services firms keen to tap India’s teeming digital economy. Momentum grew from late 2022 into early 2023 to accelerate trade and investment between both countries and use those gains to strengthen ties despite prevailing political differences over the Sikh diaspora’s alleged anti-India activities in Canada.

An ‘Indo-less’ IPS

India was largely seen in Ottawa’s IPS as the economic and geopolitical answer to a region falling under Chinese dominance and ‘disruption’. Yet, the Trudeau government has largely engaged India on economic and trade issues, not geopolitical or strategic, and that too without a stable political accord to advance incumbent interests. Questions have since mounted over whether Ottawa’s focus on India in the IPS was warranted given the recent crisis that exposed the abysmal state of bilateral relations. Trudeau’s ghastly G20 experience in India and the explosive allegations thereafter prove that the IPS’ overall focus on India was shortsighted, limited, and lacking a political ballast that could propel strategic discussions and shield it from episodic crises.17Claudia Chiappa, “Trudeau to Leave India (at Last) after Plane Problems Delay G20 Exit,” Politico, September 12, 2023, The Trudeau government’s failure to address domestic political irritants, chiefly elements endorsing secession in India, has redounded to upend the IPS. This failure has been a feature, not an exception, of this Liberal government’s India policy.

The Trudeau government’s long-standing apathy toward Canadian groups and entities supporting India’s dismemberment preclude both countries from making their relationship fundamentally strategic, advancing mutual security and economic interests. It beggars belief that Ottawa focuses blithely on India’s economic ascent and potential as a market for Canadian goods and services while glossing over its political and security prerogatives. In fact, the IPS pontificates extensively on India’s economic clout and potential for Canadians firms and investors, yet pays lip service to constraints affecting India’s long-term growth, namely China’s ascendance and a fragmenting regional economic and security order. Expecting Indo-Pacific countries like India (or Indonesia or Vietnam) to offer market access without sufficiently helping them balance Beijing’s power and reduce their dependence on China while contributing to regional public goods is folly. Economics and security are intertwined in Asia and Canada’s IPS must internalize that to be viable.

Expecting Indo-Pacific countries like India (or Indonesia or Vietnam) to offer market access without sufficiently helping them balance Beijing’s power and reduce their dependence on China while contributing to regional public goods is folly.

It also makes little sense for Ottawa to implement an IPS if the ‘Indo’ part is compromised and, as it looks now, jettisoned. Both Canada and India have their own specific China problem that could generate and sustain productive conversations vis-à-vis deterrence. Countries that have a robust and proactive strategic partnership with India like the United States, Japan, Australia and France have focused strategic discussions with India given mutual interests and objectives in the Indo-Pacific, specifically deterring and managing China’s rise.

As India modernizes its military to face challenges in the Indo-Pacific, an interest that Ottawa shares, it is partnering with Canada’s long-standing allies like Australia, Japan, and the United States on security and transnational issues. Working with India also brings dividends for Canada in South and Southeast Asia where countries increasingly welcome India’s security and economic engagement. Yet, this message has been lost on Ottawa that has not been able to fashion a coherent strategic framework to engage India and leverage its partnership for regional stability.

Canada-India Ties in 2024

Will Canada-India ties turn in 2024? Direct pathways do not exist to revive bilateral relations. Moreover, Canada has little leverage in Delhi given the Trudeau government’s India policy that’s all politics and no strategy. Ottawa’s listless approach has cost Canada a viable political way out of the crisis, mend ties, and signal our relevance to India and the wider Indo-Pacific that’s grappling with intense security and economic competition. 2024, as a result, could be more of the same for the relationship — stasis.

That said, with political ties frayed and an RCMP investigation that could further dip relations and an upcoming Indian election that will consume the country, we have to largely rely on existing trade and investment pathways to open doors, reclaim leverage, and restore our relevance. Given India’s ongoing economic surge, demand will only increase for Canadian commodities, energy resources, and services, all areas where Canadian provinces and firms thrive.

So far, India has largely relied on manufacturing and IT services to drive growth but that trend is changing as consumption rises with growing incomes. As macroeconomic fundamentals continue to stabilize, the scope for external inflows from capital and knowledge rich countries like Canada will only heighten. That said, routes to deepen access to the Indian market as it liberalizes further have to be negotiated and netted. To be sure, Canada has other markets for its goods and services that might compel policymakers to pass on India. That would be shortsighted. Investing in India helps us politically given our fragile growth position and need to secure robust Asian market access and strategically as India’s power ascends in Asia.


The Indo-Pacific is a complex and fluid landscape. Most countries that have an Indo-Pacific strategy to engage the region and grapple with China’s rise emphasize India given the latter’s economic rise and how that translates to growing military and geopolitical heft. Canada is an exception, due to high levels of mistrust between Ottawa and New Delhi that have stymied the formation of a strategic partnership.

Delhi’s foreign policy all but revolves around maximising partnerships and opportunities to manage and constrain a rising China. Yet, Ottawa has seldom engaged Delhi on such strategic matters, instead relying on a trade-centric approach given India’s market power and potential.

Canada and India also share a deep strategic desire to keep the Indo-Pacific free, open, and transparent to support their long-term growth and prosperity. While Ottawa recognizes China as a ‘disruptive power’ in its IPS, Delhi’s foreign policy all but revolves around maximizing partnerships and opportunities to manage and constrain a rising China. Yet, Ottawa has seldom engaged Delhi on such strategic matters, instead relying on a trade-centric approach given India’s market power and potential. Ironically, that one-dimensional approach must unlock pathways to stabilize the relationship and revive it for the long term.

Unquestionably, Canada and India share common interests and values from being pluralistic democracies with considerable faith in the rules-based international order, and both are striving to ensure that the international order remains strong, effective, and fit for purpose in Asia and beyond. Without mutual trust, however, little progress can occur for Canada and India to work together in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. Ottawa must build that trust through existing economic channels before drafting a viable policy to engage Delhi or prioritize India through the IPS. The success of Canada’s IPS hinges on that policy.

Written By:
Karthik Nachiappan
Dr. Karthik Nachiappan is a Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore with a joint appointment at the NUS South Asian Studies Programme.
Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

The Western powers have failed to effectively manage the increasing threat of proliferation in the Middle East. While the international community is concerned with Iran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia has moved forward with developing its own nuclear program, and independent studies show that Israel has longed possessed dozens of nuclear warheads. The former is a member of the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), while the latter has refused to sign the international agreement. 

On Middle East policy, the Biden campaign had staunchly criticized the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal and it has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier since assuming office in January 2021. However, serious obstacles remain for responsible actors in expanding non-proliferation efforts toward a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. 

This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  


Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security


Closing (5:45 PM – 6:00 PM ET)

Panel 3: Trade and Business Diplomacy in the Middle East (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

What is the current economic landscape in the Middle East? While global foreign direct investment is expected to fall drastically in the post-COVID era, the World Bank reported a 5% contraction in the economic output of the Middle East and North African (MENA) countries in 2020 due to the pandemic. While oil prices are expected to rebound with normalization in demand, political instability, regional and geopolitical tensions, domestic corruption, and a volatile regulatory and legal environment all threaten economic recovery in the Middle East. What is the prospect for economic growth and development in the region post-pandemic, and how could MENA nations promote sustainable growth and regional trade moving forward?

At the same time, Middle Eastern diaspora communities have become financially successful and can help promote trade between North America and the region. In this respect, the diaspora can become vital intermediaries for advancing U.S. and Canada’s business interests abroad. Promoting business diplomacy can both benefit the MENA region and be an effective and positive way to advance engagement and achieve foreign policy goals of the North Atlantic.

This panel will investigate the trade and investment opportunities in the Middle East, discuss how facilitating economic engagement with the region can benefit Canadian and American national interests, and explore relevant policy prescriptions.


Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

Panel 2: Arms Race and Terrorism in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

The Middle East continues to grapple with violence and instability, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. Fueled by government incompetence and foreign interventions, terrorist insurgencies have imposed severe humanitarian and economic costs on the region. Meanwhile, regional actors have engaged in an unprecedented pursuit of arms accumulation. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have imported billions of both Western and Russian-made weapons and funded militant groups across the region, intending to contain their regional adversaries, particularly Iran. Tehran has also provided sophisticated weaponry to various militia groups across the region to strengthen its geopolitical position against Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel. 

On the other hand, with international terrorist networks and intense regional rivalry in the Middle East, it is impractical to discuss peace and security without addressing terrorism and the arms race in the region. This panel will primarily discuss the implications of the ongoing arms race in the region and the role of Western powers and multilateral organizations in facilitating trust-building security arrangements among regional stakeholders to limit the proliferation of arms across the Middle East.



Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

Panel 1: Future of Diplomacy and Engagement in the Middle East (10:30 AM-11:45 AM ET)

The emerging regional order in West Asia will have wide-ranging implications for global security. The Biden administration has begun re-engaging Iran on the nuclear dossier, an initiative staunchly opposed by Israel, while also taking a harder line on Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen. Meanwhile, key regional actors, including Qatar, Iraq, and Oman, have engaged in backchannel efforts to bring Iran and Saudi Arabia to the negotiating table. From a broader geopolitical perspective, with the need to secure its energy imports, China is also expected to increase its footprint in the region and influence the mentioned challenges. 

In this evolving landscape, Western powers will be compelled to redefine their strategic priorities and adjust their policies with the new realities in the region. In this panel, we will discuss how the West, including the United States and its allies, can utilize multilateral diplomacy with its adversaries to prevent military escalation in the region. Most importantly, the panel will discuss if a multilateral security dialogue in the Persian Gulf region, proposed by some regional actors, can help reduce tensions among regional foes and produce sustainable peace and development for the region. 


Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

Panel 4: Humanitarian Diplomacy: An Underused Foreign Policy Tool in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:30 PM ET)

Military interventions, political and economic instabilities, and civil unrest in the Middle East have led to a global refugee crisis with an increasing wave of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe and Canada. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has, in myriad ways, exacerbated and contributed to the ongoing security threats and destabilization of the region.

While these challenges pose serious risks to Canadian security, Ottawa will also have the opportunity to limit such risks and prevent a spillover effect vis-à-vis effective humanitarian initiatives in the region. In this panel, we will primarily investigate Canada’s Middle East Strategy’s degree of success in providing humanitarian aid to the region. Secondly, the panel will discuss what programs and initiatives Canada can introduce to further build on the renewed strategy. and more specifically, how Canada can utilize its policy instruments to more effectively deal with the increasing influx of refugees from the Middle East. 



Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

Panel 3: A Review of Canada’s Middle East Engagement and Defense Strategy (3:00 PM - 4:15 PM ET)

In 2016, Canada launched an ambitious five-year “Middle East Engagement Strategy” (2016-2021), committing to investing CA$3.5 billion over five years to help establish the necessary conditions for security and stability, alleviate human suffering and enable stabilization programs in the region. In the latest development, during the meeting of the Global Coalition against ISIS, Minister of Foreign Affairs Marc Garneau announced more than $43.6 million in Peace and Stabilization Operations Program funding for 11 projects in Syria and Iraq.

With Canada’s Middle East Engagement Strategy expiring this year, it is time to examine and evaluate this massive investment in the Middle East region in the past five years. More importantly, the panel will discuss a principled and strategic roadmap for the future of Canada’s short-term and long-term engagement in the Middle East.


Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

Panel 2: The Great Power Competition in the Middle East (12:00 PM - 1:15 PM ET)

While the United States continues to pull back from certain regional conflicts, reflected by the Biden administration’s decision to halt American backing for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and the expected withdrawal from Afghanistan, US troops continue to be stationed across the region. Meanwhile, Russia and China have significantly maintained and even expanded their regional activities. On one hand, the Kremlin has maintained its military presence in Syria, and on the other hand, China has signed an unprecedented 25-year strategic agreement with Iran.

As the global power structure continues to shift, it is essential to analyze the future of the US regional presence under the Biden administration, explore the emerging global rivalry with Russia and China, and at last, investigate the implications of such competition for peace and security in the Middle East.


Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

Panel 1: A New Middle East Security Architecture in the Making (10:30 AM -11:45 AM ET)

The security architecture of the Middle East has undergone rapid transformations in an exceptionally short period. Notable developments include the United States gradual withdrawal from the region, rapprochement between Israel and some GCC states through the Abraham Accords and the rise of Chinese and Russian regional engagement.

With these new trends in the Middle East, it is timely to investigate the security implications of the Biden administration’s Middle East policy. In this respect, we will discuss the Biden team’s new approach vis-à-vis Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. The panel will also discuss the role of other major powers, including China and Russia in shaping this new security environment in the region, and how the Biden administration will respond to these powers’ increasing regional presence.



Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor