What’s up ahead at Manama Dialogue?

Bahrain is to witness another momentous event in its history later this week.  High level delegations from more than 20 countries will meet in Bahrain for three days, starting Friday, to discuss the key security challenges facing the region. The Manama Dialogue to be held during 6-8 December, will be the ninth to be co-organised by Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Apart from academics and diplomats, many high-ranking government officials, like the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, and  India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid are all expected to speak at  various sessions.  Top on the list of Gulf leaders addressing the summit is Qatar’s new Amir  Shaikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

‘US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel’s decision to lead an impressive US delegation to the IISS Manama Dialogue is a mark of the unique opportunities for defence diplomacy and conflict resolution offered by the Manama Dialogue platform,” said Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive of the IISS.

This is the first time a  high level ministerial level delegation from India is attending the Manama Dialogue. 

And, as Dr Chipman says, I believe too that this platform offers very unique opportunities for the attendees to discuss issues, to find solutions, and to lead governments onto the paths of security and stability, and thereby towards peace and prosperity.

There are a host of topics scheduled for discussion in the Manama Dialogue. But we all know that top on the agenda would be the Crisis in Syria, and the Nuclear-Deal of Iran.

Interestingly, we hear that Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has also been invited to this summit by Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa.  Let us hope that he accepts. His coming would prove to be a big bolster to the regional security. It would show eagerness and seriousness in the region towards ending the Syrian Crisis; and towards even rekindling and exciting the trade of Iran with  Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

The relations between the six nations of GCC  and Tehran have deteriorated a lot, lately, because of Iran’s support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

But the fact that the recent Geneva deal of Iran was welcomed by the Gulf Arab States shows us a new shift in their foreign policies. It could be an accommodation to Iran which was hitherto not possible. And therefore Iran’s representation, if it happens, could make this Manama Dialogue extremely significant.

Yesterday, Iran’s Foreign Minister was in Kuwait. And after the meeting with his Kuwaiti counterpart Shaikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah, he said “Be assured that the nuclear deal is in favour of the stability and security of the region.”

And, this is just what Manama Dialogue hopes to cover.

Among the key themes on the agenda are also the dangers of sectarianism and extremism in politics, the geopolitics of energy security in the Middle East, and GCC military cooperation and regional security. Needless to say, the Syrian and Egyptian situations would form the basis for most of the discussions.

According to a top diplomat ,   the IISS-Manama Dialogue can clearly yield positive results for the region.

He said that    such meetings where high level delegates from more than 20 countries of the world are represented ,   happen only in places like the UN General Assembly. It is  a platform to exchange views in public and private. And what they discuss in private   can decide the fate of the region.

This is part of a peace-making process. I recall the words of Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa , during his speech at the eighth Manama Dialogue: “”Wishing for peace never works, but peace-making does.”