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India in the Eastern Mediterranean: The 3+1 Trilateral Agreement

Updated: May 23

In geopolitics, forming alliances, partnerships, blocs, and groups allows nations to secure common interests and ensure stability is vital. Of all such developments, the formation of a trilateral energy agreement between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, which later included the US, has allowed the region to enhance and develop their relationships into a strategic partnership. 

Technological developments, increasing international conflict, and the growing need for energy security have impacted global order. The trilateral agreement, the 3+1 Alliance, has been created to address these concerns in the Mediterranean region. 

The relationship between Israel, Greece and Cyprus has been part of their foreign policy's holistic strategy, allowing them to cooperate on various agendas with like-minded countries. In this regard, the invitation to India to attend the 10th Trilateral Summit in 2024 reflects the strength, relevance and potential of a group looking for another major power, like India, to join them on their journey to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the Eastern Mediterranean.

What is the 3+1 Alliance?

On January 28, 2016, Greece, Cyprus and Israel initiated the trilateral summit. The group aimed to achieve peace, security and stability through substantive and practical strengthening of joint ventures. They agreed to cooperate in the energy, tourism, research and technology sectors. The group also stated they would collaborate on environment, water, terrorism and migration policies. The formulation of trilateral cooperation was a historic event bringing progress not only to the citizens of the three democracies but also to the broader region.

The group improved their interrelationships, transforming agreements into a strategic partnership based on a shared vision: a thriving Eastern Mediterranean. The prospect of substantial hydrocarbon resources waiting to be tapped beneath Eastern Mediterranean waters has sparked significant global interest. As a common denominator, energy will become a central component in the geostrategic struggles of the Eastern Mediterranean and its surrounding regions. The resources require careful management to avoid confrontation and friction, which would impact global trade. Thus, the US' inclusion into the group – forming 3+1 – has expanded the scope and solidity of the agreement.

Invitation to India join the Alliance and its Implications

India's relationship with the US and Israel has improved in recent years, as reflected by the I2U2. The invitation for India to join the 3+1 group is viewed as strategically valuable for all parties. The Eastern Mediterranean region is becoming a hotbed of geopolitical activity, and the inroads India is making have caused some contentment and concern in Turkey. The area is strategically valuable, rich in natural gas but punctuated with maritime territorial disputes. India's plan to join the group is seen to challenge Turkey's influence directly and is ruffling feathers in Ankara.

Invitation to India to attend the group - and hopefully join the 3+1 group next year during the 10th Trilateral Summit - highlights the group's continued intention to invite like-minded countries to strengthen its aim and objectives. 

The decision was taken during the 9th Trilateral Summit, held in Nicosia, Cyprus, to discuss regional energy cooperation and focus on exports to Europe, especially natural gas and renewables. The group views such a partnership as strengthening their resolute efforts for the Eastern Mediterranean as common interests will increase the prospects of the wider region, hopefully compelling other countries to cooperate or even join the group soon. 

Partnerships ensure peace, stability and security. The 3+1 Alliance seeks to secure the growing need for energy diversification, interconnectivity and a reliable energy corridor to the rest of Europe. In recent years, the energy demand has increased. Thus, ensuring countries respect international laws like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) has become a primary prerogative. In the last 15 years, significant gas discoveries have been made in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly off the coasts of Israel (Tamar Field) and Egypt. More gas exploration is taking place in Cyprus's exclusive economic zone. 

The Eastern Mediterranean has been plagued by maritime territorial disputes for years, often initiated by Turkey, who claims its exclusive economic zone is beyond its waters, as assigned by UNCLOS. Further, with Europe diversifying its source of energy demands since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Greece could play the role of a gateway. With India diversifying its source of energy demands, joining the group and improving its bilateral relationship with Greece will allow the flow of natural gas to Europe and India. 

With the Abraham Accord being a success and another such accord on the table between Israel and Saudi Arabia, energy security is increasing globally. If all these developments succeed, gas will be transited from Greece to India through Israel and the Arabian peninsula, providing a safe and stable trade route. 

During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Greece, he ensured India engaged in gas exploration and transportation in the Eastern Mediterranean region. Thus, India joining the 3+1 trilateral group soon will give the nation ample opportunity to thwart Turkey's anti-India stance and improve its bilateral ties with friendly Mediterranean countries. Turkey will remain cautious, but India will successfully enter into firm agreements with the other nations in the Eastern Mediterranean, regardless. 

Ensuring a secure supply to help meet India's energy demand will propel its economic growth, improve India's global stature and strengthen its foreign policy. 

The recent 9th Trilateral Conference, 2023, happened when they were constructing an 'Energy Highway' connecting the national electricity grid of all three nations. India becoming a group partner will allow Israel, Cyprus, Greece and India to engage in the defence cooperation and supply chain, too. These international agreements wil alsol bolster India's Make in India and Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiatives.

Development of the 3+1 group was viewed as an outstanding achievement and was inconceivable 20 years ago, as Israel's Ambassador to Cyprus, Oren Anolik stated. Its vision to enhance regional cooperation by creating various linkages at different levels allows it to invite India to join the group, which will be a win-win situation for its members. 

India's foreign and defence policy is working tirelessly to secure strategic cooperation with like-minded nations across the globe, which is essential in contemporary geopolitics. 

Image: IDF Spokesperson's Unit

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