Editorial Simplified: Rethinking the Gulf | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (International Relations)

Improvements in India-Gulf relations

  • India’s relations with the key Gulf countries have never been as good as they are today.
  • The deepening energy interdependence is marked by growing volumes of energy imports into India and the prospect of substantive investments from the Gulf into the Indian hydrocarbon sector.
  • The number of Indian migrant workers in the region stands at more than 7 million.
  • The Gulf is among India’s top trading partners.
  • A high-level engagement between India and the Gulf has blossomed in recent years.
  • The expansion of the political engagement has been matched by the growing security cooperation, especially on counter-terrorism.
  • India and its Gulf partners are also taking tentative steps towards defence cooperation.

The roadblocks in India-Gulf relations

  • India’s relations with the Gulf have been constrained by too strong a focus on the bilateral.
  • Delhi is paying too little attention to the growing weight of the Gulf in regional affairs and the strategic possibilities that it opens up for India.

Significance of Gulf nations

  • As the nation with one of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Riyadh has played a critical role in shaping the world energy markets since the 1970s.As the home to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has a unique place in the Islamic world.
  • The UAE has turned into a strategic actor of consequence in the Middle East and beyond. It is also a major player in the global logistics market. It is now striving to emerge as a centre of art, higher education and technological innovation. As the home to multiple nationalities from around the world, the UAE has become a small but important cosmopolitan centre.
  • If Delhi looks beyond the bilateral, it will find two very important axes of potential partnerships in the Middle East. One is the idea of a “moderate Arab centre”. The idea of a moderate Arab centre resonates deeply with India’s natural ethos and its traditional empathy for modernising forces in the Arab world. Helping the construction of a moderate Arab centre envisaged by Abu Dhabi is very much in India’s interest.
  • There has been growing impact of the Gulf countries in the Indian Ocean region. Nowhere is this more evident than the Horn of Africa.
  • The recent success of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea who had been locked in a prolonged conflict underlines the positive role of the Gulf in Africa..
  • The Gulf countries today are bringing a combination of financial resources and political will to shape the geopolitics of their neighbouring regions.
  • Some of the Gulf countries like the UAE are eager to collaborate with India on development assistance and the construction of strategic infrastructure in the Indian Ocean littoral.
  • The Gulf states have relied in the past on the Anglo-Americans for their security. As America and Britain gaze at their own navel, the Gulf states are taking greater responsibility for managing the regional order.

Way forward for India

If India continues to be disinterested, they are bound to look for other partners. The conditions under which India could afford to take a purely bilateral approach to the Gulf nations are beginning to disappear. India needs an integrated regional strategy to secure its ever-rising stakes in the Middle East and the Western Indian Ocean.