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Strategic Analysis

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India and Gulf Cooperation Council: Time to Look Beyond Business


Prasanta Kumar Pradhan

Online publication date: 11 May 2010

To cite this Article Pradhan, Prasanta Kumar(2010) 'India and Gulf Cooperation Council: Time to Look Beyond Business',

Strategic Analysis, 34: 3, 409 419


To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09700161003659103
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09700161003659103

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Strategic Analysis
Vol. 34, No. 3, May 2010, 409419

India and Gulf Cooperation Council: Time to Look Beyond Business

1754-0054
0970-0161
RSAN
Strategic
Analysis
Analysis, Vol. 34, No. 3, March 2010: pp. 00

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Strategic Kumar
Prasanta
Analysis
Pradhan

Prasanta Kumar Pradhan


Abstract: Indias relationship with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been
primarily based on mutual trade and business. GCC countries are the main source of
energy for India and a market for Indian commodities. Indias five-million-strong
workforce forms a natural linkage between India and the GCC. But despite such strong
trade linkages, which are still growing, political and strategic relations between India
and the GCC have been found lacking. Recent years have witnessed signing of defence
and security agreements between India and some of the GCC countries. But there still
remain some irritants in the relationship, which need to be addressed by both sides. The
emerging security and regional and international order in the region demands increased
interaction between India and the GCC. As the GCC is also opening up, this paper
argues that it is time for India to look beyond trade and business, and engage the GCC
in political, security and strategic fields.

Introduction
he relationship between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)1 has
grown since the formation of the organisation in 1981. For India, its relationship
with the GCC represents its varied interests in the economic, strategic and political
fields. In recent times, both India and the GCC have been looking for new areas of
cooperation and are trying to improve their relationship. Although there have been a
number of irritants, the interests of both the parties have kept the relationship going at
a steady pace.
In the past, Indias relationship with the Gulf countries has been based on
mutual trade and business, and this continues to grow. The Gulf region is the main
source of Indias energy needs, meeting around two-thirds of its total energy
requirements. Similarly, the Gulf region has been a lucrative market for Indian
manufactured goods like textiles, spices, food products, and lately, electrical goods
and machineries, and information technology products. The bilateral trade between
India and the GCC is currently around $28 billion and is expected to touch $40 billion by the year 2010. But despite having such a huge trade and business relationship, the political relationship between India and the GCC has not been so warm. In
this context, this paper attempts to analyse the current state of the relationship, identify the hurdles, and argue that India and GCC should look beyond mere trade and
business; and try to make it a more meaningful and durable relationship. There is an
urgent need to improve the bilateral political relationship and to enter into a mutually beneficial strategic partnership.

Prasanta Kumar Pradhan is an Associate Fellow at IDSA.


ISSN 0970-0161 print/ISSN 1754-0054 online
2010 Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
DOI: 10.1080/09700161003659103
http://www.informaworld.com

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Economic relations: the mainstay of the relationship


Economic relations have been the backbone of IndiaGCC ties with trade and business
growing steadily. The growth in the volume of trade can be gauged from the fact that
Indias total trade with the GCC countries rose from US$5.55 billion in 2000/01 to
US$23.42 billion in 2005/06. The period witnessed resilience in both exports and
imports.2 According to the Department of Commerce, Government of India, the total
trade between India and the GCC countries for the years 20082009 stands at
US$91.63 billion with total imports of US$59.5 billion and total exports of US$32.13
billion.3 The GCC countries continue to be the major supplier of oil and gas to India,
meeting almost two-thirds of its requirements.
The first GCCIndia Industrial Conference was held in Mumbai in February 2004,
which was attended by GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al Attiyah
and industry ministers of all GCC countries. The leaders discussed ways and means to
promote economic cooperation between India and the GCC. The conference focused
on trade, investment, industrial and technological cooperation and issued a Mumbai
Declaration.4 Further, in August 2004, India and the GCC signed a framework
Agreement on Economic Cooperation to explore the possibility of a free trade agreement
between them. Later, in November of same year, a three-member GCC negotiating
team visited India and held discussions on a broad range of issues, including the possibility of initiating negotiations towards a free trade agreement (FTA) and non-tariff
barriers affecting Indian exports to the region.5 The second conference was held in
Oman in March 2006. The third conference in May 2007 decided to facilitate and
expedite projects in the field of agriculture and food processing, which was identified
as a new sector with significant opportunities for trade and investment. The GCC states
agreed to receive and facilitate the visits of Indian agro-processing companies, and
India was to reciprocate.6
In order to, get closer with the Gulf countries, the Government of India adopted a
Look West policy in the year 2005, in line with the successful Look East policy.
While announcing the new policy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the
Gulf region, like South-East and South Asia, is part of our natural economic hinterland We must come closer to our western neighbours in the Gulf. He authorised
the Commerce and External Affairs Ministries to begin negotiations with the GCC to
conclude a FTA, and also approved negotiations with all individual member countries
of the GCC for a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement covering the services
sector and investment.7
Indias five-million-strong workforce in the GCC countries is also an important
link between the two regions. In fact, expatriate workers from India constitute the
largest workforce in the region. The GCC countries host over 95 per cent of about
four million Indian workers in the West Asian and North African region, and remittances by them have helped India to raise its foreign exchange reserves. Like India,
the GCC countries also benefit from such migrations. These benefits are derived from
the fact that Indian migrants are generally hard working, sincere, efficient, low paid
and law abiding.8

Political relations: need to improve


Although India and the GCC enjoy mutually beneficial trade and business relations,
these are yet to be reflected on the political front. India has initiated a few steps to

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engage the GCC countries politically and strategically in a more rigorous manner. A
GCCIndia political dialogue was initiated in the year 2003 to boost interaction
between the two parties. In this regard, the fourth IndiaGCC Political Dialogue was
held in New York in 2008 on the sidelines of the 63rd session of the UN General
Assembly. From the Indian side, the meeting was attended by External Affairs Minister
Pranab Mukherjee. The two sides discussed the state of IndiaGCC relations and the
situation in the West Asia, particularly the peace process between Israel and Palestine,
and the situation in Iraq.
The volatile security situation and the precarious strategic environment in the Gulf
have dictated the GCC countries to adopt a Look East policy to give priority to their
Asian neighbours. The GCC countries are also looking towards Asia because they
find that the suspicion and scrutiny that greets Arabs in the West is increasingly an
obstacle to do business.9 They are diversifying their engagements with the Asian
countries, and India certainly figures largely in their new-found policy. India has been
granted the status of a dialogue partner by the GCC. India is the first country from
the developing world and only the fourth country after the United States, the European Union and Japan to have got this privilege.10
The steady progress of the Indian economy, its stable democratic political structure, its technological developments and its increasing demand for energy are some of
the factors for which India is important for the GCC in their Look East policy. The
availability of large-scale skilled and semi-skilled manpower, and the policies of the
government, has made India a major destination for foreign direct investments. This
offers immense scope for the Gulf region to invest in Indias economic boom.11 The
GCC is also looking towards India as a strategic partner since the 9/11 terrorist attacks
have induced a change in the security environment of the Gulf region. Although the
United States remains the sole power for maintaining security and stability in the Gulf,
the rulers are looking eastward to diversify their engagements in economic and strategic
fields.
As a result of its engagement with the GCC states, India has managed to gather the
support of two Gulf countriesUnited Arab Emirates (UAE) and Omanin its bid for
permanent membership of the extended UN Security Council. Saudi Arabia has also
agreed to support Indias candidature for a non-permanent seat of the UN Security
Council and has sought Indias support for its own candidature for the year 2014/15.
High-level visits from India to the GCC countries have remained unimpressive.
Most of the ministerial visits have intended to strengthen the existing trade and business and to look for new areas of cooperation, and they have severely lacked political
and strategic significance. A majority of the exchange of visits between two sides
have comprised ministers and high-ranking officials from the departments of industry,
energy, chemicals and fertilisers, petrochemicals, commerce, and so on.12
In this context, the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Oman and Qatar in
November 2008 is significant as it took place almost a decade after the visit of then
prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee to the region in 1998. During this visit, India
signed two agreements with Oman and three with Qatar. India signed an agreement
regarding protection of the rights of five lakh Indian labourers who work in that country.
Among others, the deal gives better job security to employees and rights to appeal in
the court to safeguard their interests. India and Oman also agreed to set up a $100 million
IndiaOman Investment Fund and to take it further to $1.5 billion. Both countries will
contribute equally to the fund, which will finance projects in various sectors, including
infrastructure, tourism, health, telecom and urban development.13

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Similarly, India signed two defence agreements: one on security and law enforcement, and another on defence cooperation with Qatar. The agreement on security and
law enforcement lays out the framework for sharing of information and database on
threats posed by terrorists, money laundering and smuggling of narcotics, while the pact
on defence cooperation lays out a structure for training programmes by the two sides,
exchange of goodwill missions and experts.14 The pacts on intelligence sharing and
sharing the database to tackle terrorism are of primary importance for India as it has
been a target of terrorists and seeks cooperation of all the countries to act upon it.
The visit also sent out a strong message regarding our concerns and interests with
the GCC countries.
Similarly, Vice-President Hamid Ansari also paid a visit to Kuwait in April 2009.
This visit was the first high-level visit by an Indian since 1981 when Prime Minister
Indira Gandhi had visited Kuwait. During his visit, India and Kuwait signed three
agreements on science and technology, education and cultural exchanges.
Security and defence agreements
India has signed defence cooperation agreements with the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Saudi
Arabia. An agreement on defence cooperation was signed by India and UAE in 2003
when Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed
Forces, visited India. The agreement aims at providing for military training, cooperation
in military medical services and jointly combating pollution caused by the military at
sea.15 Again, during the visit of Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee to
UAE in May 2008, talks were held to explore ways to establish a long-term defence
relationship based on possible joint development and manufacture of sophisticated
military hardware, which is a step forward in efforts to streamline the military relationship, which so far has been dominated by naval ship visits and training exchange programmes.16 India has also signed an extradition treaty and an agreement to combat
trafficking in narcotic drugs with UAE.
India signed a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation with Oman
in December 2006. The areas of cooperation envisaged included exchange of expertise
in military training and information technology, utilisation of military and educational
courses and programmes, exchange of observers attending military exercises and
exchange of formal visits.17
In 2006, India and Saudi Arabia signed a comprehensive Delhi Declaration which
includes commitment by both the countries to cooperate in the fields of terrorism,
energy security, political cooperation, technology, trade and investment, education,
health and cultural exchanges. In the present context, India is wooing Saudi Arabia
for cooperation in combating terrorism in what seems to be a well-planned strategic
move as India is a victim of terrorism fomented by elements in Pakistan, who are funded
by several Saudi-based Islamic charity organisations.18
Irritants in IndiaGCC relations
There have been a number of factors responsible for hindering strong political relations
between India and the GCC. While some of the factors are old and are of Cold War
origin, some new issues have also cropped up in the post-Cold War scenario.
Firstly, the Kashmir issue has been a big obstacle in building a strong IndiaGCC
relationship. In the past, support of the Gulf countries to Pakistan over the issue has

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irked India. They are also supporters of various Organisation of Islamic Conference
resolutions on Kashmir, which were pushed forward by Pakistan. They have also stood
with Pakistan over the issue in the name of human rights of the Kashmir people, their
Islamic identity, plebiscite, and so forth. But over the years, the GCC countries have
softened their stand and they now believe that the Kashmir issue should be solved
through bilateral negotiations and should be based on the Shimla and Lahore agreements.
Secondly, Pakistan has taken advantage of its close relationship with the GCC
countries and has depicted India as an anti-Muslim and Hindu-dominated country.
India has witnessed a number of communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims.
This fact has been exaggerated by Pakistan, which has repeatedly said that the Indian
Muslims are not safe. Communal incidents in India, particularly the demolition of the
Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 and the Godhra riots in Gujarat, has elicited a strong
response from the GCC countries against the secular image of India. In fact, the GCC
described the Ayodhya events as sacrilege and an unpardonable act. At the 13th summit of the GCC in Abu Dhabi in December 1992, the GCC adopted a resolution entitled
Aggression against the Babri Mosque in which it expressed its deep condemnation
of the Babri Mosque demolition, which was described as a crime against Muslim
Holy places. The resolution called upon the Indian government to uphold its responsibilities and take further measures to protect Muslims, their religious rights and places
of worship.19 India strongly reacted to the resolution and said that it is an internal
affair of India and the Gulf countries should not have issued a resolution although
they could have deliberated on the issue.20
Similarly, the Kashmir issue has been interpreted in a very narrow and partial
manner by Pakistan, and on that basis it has sought support of the GCC countries in
various international forums. Historically, while Indias relations with the Gulf countries
have been based upon trade and business, Pakistans relations with the region have
been mainly ideological and political. Pakistan has particularly enjoyed very good
relations with countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE.21 Thus, Pakistan has used its
religious and political affiliation with these countries to further its economic, political
and strategic interests, and at the same time undermine Indias secular credentials and
international image.
Thirdly, the Cold War international political scenario has had its implications on
Indias relations with the Gulf countries. While India was non-aligned but leaned
towards the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Gulf countries stood by the United
States and the West. Indias close relationship with Egypt, support for a socialist world
order and alliance with Soviet Union did not allow a stable IndiaGulf relationship to
build up.
Fourthly, Indias close ties with Israel, particularly the IndoIsraeli defence cooperation, which began in the 1990s, have irked the GCC countries. It has made them
apprehensive of Indias stand on the Palestine issue, even though India has supported
the Palestinian cause since the beginning and continues to do so even today. Gulf
countries have started complaining that India has toned down its voice against the
oppression of the Palestinians. Although India has time and again assured of its undiluted
stand over the issue, there still remains some scepticism among the Gulf countries
regarding Palestine.
Fifthly, in the recent times, Indias growing relationship with Iran has made them
apprehensive. India is attempting to re-engage Iran, looking at an increased quantum
of energy supply from Iran and at the same time broadening the trade basket and
improving political and strategic partnership. Although Indias opposition to the Iranian

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nuclear programme in the United Nations must have given some relief to the Gulf
countries, Indias desire to build up a strong political and economic relationship with
Iran has irritated them. Irans nuclear ambitions have made the GCC countries feel
insecure as it increases their vulnerability and at the same time threatens to change the
balance of power in the region.
Time for enhanced political engagements and to look beyond business
In recent times, the GCC has undergone several changes and transformations in its
reach and outlook. The GCC has taken some decisions that broaden the horizon of its
engagements with the outside world, including India, both in economic and political
fields. India should take advantage of such liberal moves and engage them more seriously to further its interests in the region.
The GCC countries have acknowledged the growth of their big Asian neighbours
and have adopted a Look East policy to promote cooperation with them. It must be
mentioned here that Indias growing economy, increasing demand for energy
resources, need of the GCC countries to diversify their investment, and so forth, has
made them look eastward, and India along with China is a major target country under
their Look East policy.22 Recently, the GCC has also shown some flexibility in
dealing with the outside world. The GCC took a decision in 2008 to connect to Europe
by train. It is expected that the project work will start soon and take five to six years to
complete, which will connect the Gulf to Turkey. The GCC is dealing with a number
of countries around the world like the European Union, Japan, China, Australia, New
Zealand, South Korea, Jordan, and so forth, and is signing FTAs with these countries.
The GCC has also signed a document with the Organisation of Islamic Conference in
2008, which aims to promote cooperation in the political, cultural, media, economic,
social and environmental areas. The GCC formed a customs union in the year 2003
and a GCC common market in 2008. A GCC Monetary Authority is also in the pipeline,
which if approved would run parallel to the central banks in the region, improve policy
coordination and promote convergence of national financial systems.23 For furthering
their trade and to add more weight to their bargaining power, the GCC is planning to
introduce a single currency by the year 2010.
Thus, it is in Indias interest to engage the GCC politically and diplomatically. In
the world scenario, India desires to be a major world power and therefore it needs to
engage its extended neighbourhood more productively. The active support from these
neighbours will not only provide India the much-needed political and diplomatic
standing, but will also positively change Indias image in rest of the Muslim world.
Building a cordial relationship with the GCC will be a very useful platform to begin
that process. Also, Indias longstanding demand for permanent membership of the
Security Council will receive a boost with the support of the countries in our extended
neighbourhood.
The geo-strategic importance of the Gulf region is widely acknowledged and
every country wants to have its influence in the region. The United States is the dominant player in the Gulf today and other big powers, like Russia, China, Japan, and so
on, are seriously vying for their respective spaces in the Gulf. While India should not
compete with the big powers for exercising supremacy in the region, a policy of continuing friendship and diplomatic engagement in the Gulf will be beneficial for it.
Thus, apart from maintaining healthy trade and commerce relations, India should opt
for political and strategic engagements with these countries.

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During the last decade, the strategic environment in the Gulf region has undergone
several changes. The events of 9/11, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were found to be
Saudis, the US attack on Iraq, the continuing stand-off between the United States and
Iran over the nuclear issue, and the Israeli threat to attack Iran has given a new dimension to Gulf security and strategic environment. Political stability and security in the
Gulf region is in the interest of India, which should forge closer ties with the Gulf
countries. New threats and conflicts in the region have thrown fresh challenges to India,
and it is time for New Delhi to convert these challenges into opportunities by enhancing
cooperation with the GCC.
Terrorism is an important issue over which India can engage with the GCC. Of all
the GCC countries, Saudi Arabia is the biggest victim of terrorism, with the scourge
of Al Qaeda continuing in the country. In recent times, Al Qaedas movement has also
been noticed in countries like Kuwait, Qatar, and so forth. As far as India is concerned,
there is evidence of a number of Pakistani and Kashmiri militant groups getting financial
support from the Gulf. Militant groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jammaat-e-Islami have
got financial support from Saudi Arabia and several charity organisations in the
Gulf.24 Thus, India should seek to work in close cooperation with the GCC in terms of
intelligence sharing, tracking the movement of the terrorists, money, arms, and so forth.
Maritime security is another area of cooperation between India and the GCC.
Although terrorists have been attacking India mainly on land, the November 26, 2008
Mumbai attacks clearly exposed the weakness of Indias maritime security and the
possibility of terrorist threats emerging from the sea. Similarly, securing sea lanes
from pirates is also another area of concern for both India and the GCC. In the recent
years, both India and the GCC countries have been victims of piracy off the Somali
coast. A joint effort on the part of the navies of India and GCC countries to check
piracy in the region will be beneficial for both. Primary concerns of India lie in the
safety of oil tankers in the Arabian Sea, Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Aden. India has
expressed its interest in undertaking naval exercises with the GCC at both bilateral
and organisational levels. To date, India has already held naval exercises with countries
like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Illicit trafficking remains a major concern for both India and the GCC, as trafficking
of narcotics and small arms takes place frequently. It has been found that narcotics
produced in Afghanistan make their way to the GCC countries and as well as India.
Narcotics are supplied from Afghanistan to India via Pakistan and to the Gulf via
Pakistan, Iran and Iraq. Dubai is a major port of transit for these illicit drugs, while
Saudi Arabia is emerging as a potential consumer in the region.25 According to the
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2009 of the US State Department,
Dubai is a major regional transportation, financial, and shipping hub. Hashish, heroin,
and opium shipments originate in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, and are smuggled
in cargo containers, via small vessels and powerboats, and/or sent overland via Oman.26
In recent times, some individual GCC countries, like UAE, Oman and Qatar, have
introduced some measures to check and regulate the flow of narcotics and are devising
ways to prohibit their land being used as a transit or as a destination. India and the GCC
need a joint effort in this regard to check the flow of drugs into their territories.
Similarly, illicit supply of small arms has been a cause of worry for both India and
the GCC. Identifying the supply routes, breaking into the arms supply networks and,
finally, identifying the receiving groups will require a joint effort. Money laundering
is also a concern and there has not been complete success on the part of both India and
the GCC to regulate and put curbs on that. While expatriates use the hawala channel

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to avoid banking hassles, terrorists and criminals use it for safe and untraceable transfer.
Further, the nexus between terrorists and criminals with the narcotics smugglers and
the hawala channel makes it further difficult for the governments to control the threat.
The November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai exposed loopholes in the current
Indian engagements with the Gulf region. One saw two contradictory kinds of responses
from the region to the attacks. All the leaders of the GCC countries were quick to condemn the incident severely and appealed to India to observe restraint and not initiate any
military action against Pakistan. Without supporting Indias accusation of Pakistans
involvement in the incident, they asked both countries not to get involved in a military
conflict. Against this, public opinionas reflected through the newspapers and
mediawas not very supportive of Indias concerns. It rather sympathised with Pakistan
and said that Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism. And some even went to the
extent of saying that, after the Mumbai attacks, the stage had been set for military action
against Pakistan by the new US President Barrack Obama. Some sections of the media
implied that India was already in the Western camp and will be an active player in
redrawing the geo-political map of the region.27 Such responses highlight the absence
of civil society interaction with the GCC countries. In this case, apart from the usual
interaction at the government and diplomatic levels, people-to-people contacts hold
the key to understand Indias viewpoint, outlook and principles on a variety of issues.
The Mumbai attacks not only challenged the security of India, but also threw serious
challenges to our political and strategic engagements with the Gulf region. After the
Mumbai carnage, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal visited India and reiterated Saudi Arabias offer to jointly fight against terror. Later, India sought Saudi
help to pressurise Pakistan to check extremist elements operating from its territory.
The Foreign Minister of Oman, Yusuf Bin Alawai Bin Abdullah, also visited India
after the Mumbai incident. Although sympathetic towards Indias concerns, he did not
accuse Pakistan of harbouring terrorists; rather, he appealed to Pakistan to dismantle
the terror networks operating inside its territory. At this point of time, India needs the
vocal support of the GCC countries on the issue of terrorism and must devise ways with
them to deal with the problem.
Common political and security concerns and threats to both India and the GCC
require a more rigorous engagement between the two going beyond a trade and business relationship. There are serious existing issues, which need immediate attention,
and a joint effort will yield the desired results. India should take advantage of the
new-found outlook of the GCC as it is opening up for the world as well as making
strides for the development of the organisation itself. India should re-engage the GCC
on the issues like political cooperation, intelligence sharing on the activities of terrorists and criminals, safeguarding the interests of the Indian migrant workers, cultural
exchanges and technological cooperation.
Indias options
There are a number of options available to India to broaden its engagement with the
GCC. India should keep in mind that Cold War calculations and the strategic environment are over, and initiatives should be taken without any prejudice. While Indias
engagement with the Gulf countries during the Cold War era was based on necessity
(imports and exports), the rise of India as a reliable democratic, military and economic
power in the era of globalisation has changed that perspective and made them to look
at India on multiple fronts.

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Step up bilateral visits


India must play a proactive role and come up with a broad agenda of engagement
rather than waiting for the GCC to take the initiative. India should step up high-level
bilateral visits with the GCC countries, as frequent bilateral visits erase misunderstandings, bridge the communication gap and, more importantly, instil faith in the
minds of the Gulf rulers to deal with India.
Signing the FTA
Today, concluding the FTA with the GCC remains the biggest challenge for India.
Although talks on an FTA have been going on for the last four years, both parties have
not been able to reach a consensus. The negotiations were expected to be over by the
end of 2008 but it seems to be taking more time. Signing a FTA with the GCC will
increase Indias trade with the bloc and provide India with long-term access to the
Gulf market. It will also draw more foreign direct investment to India, creating a
mutually beneficial environment of trade between India and the GCC countries.
Identify common issues
Apart from trade and business, India should identify issues of mutual concern and
interest, and engage with the GCC over them. In recent times, terrorism has been an
issue of common interest to both India and the GCC. India and Saudi Arabia have
been victims of terrorism and Islamic radicalism; other smaller Gulf countries are very
prone to radical Islamic ideologies and terrorism. Similarly, issues like piracy, money
laundering, illicit drug trade, arms trade by criminal groups, and so forth, are of mutual
concern for India and the GCC. Cooperation in these fields can yield more practical
results for both the parties.
Using soft power
People-to-people contacts and cultural exchange programmes with the GCC countries
should be established. In this regard, setting up cultural centres across the region will
be a constructive idea for India. Also, the exchange of academics, media persons and
intellectuals, and the distribution of books, journals, newsletters, and so on, can lead
them to understand Indias viewpoint better and remove any ambiguities they may
have. At present, a number of Indian schools and educational institutions are already
operating in the Gulf region. More institutions should be encouraged to open branches
in the Gulf, and students from GCC countries should be encouraged to come and
study in Indian colleges and universities.
Strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia
Initiating and taking forward the partnership with the most influential GCC member
(i.e. Saudi Arabia) will strengthen Indias bargaining power with the organisation.
Saudi Arabia is not only the largest in terms of size and population, it is also a major
financial power. IndoSaudi relations were taken to a new height with the visit of
King Abdullah to India in 2006. Saudi Arabia has expressed keen interest to broaden
its engagements with India, and it is time for us to make the most out of it.

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Broadening regional cooperation


At a broader level, India also can propose regional cooperation between the Gulf and
the South Asian region. In this regard, cooperation between the two regional
organisationsthe Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the South Asian Association
for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)can be seriously considered. As India is the biggest power in South Asia and enjoys considerable influence over the SAARC, it can
benefit from contacts with the GCC. Again, establishing formal relations between the
two regional organisations will help in stabilising the relationship in the longer run
and make both understand each other better.
Conclusion
Historically, India has enjoyed good neighbourly relationship with the Gulf countries.
Much of this has been eroded due to a number of reasons. India should try to restore
its lost respect and influence, and bridge the communication gap with her extended
neighbourhood through frequent interactions. Despite the large volume of bilateral
trade, political relations have not stabilised between the two. But, for the future security
of trade as well as the other mutually beneficial relations, a firm political relationship,
will and commitment must be reflected in the bilateral relations from both the sides.
Now, as the GCC is opening up to the world for various economic, strategic and security
reasons, India should take it as the right opportunity to improve its relationship with
them and mend its lost grandeur in that part of the world.
Economic relations remain the mainstay in the IndiaGCC relationship. Signing the
FTA with the GCC will be a major achievement for India, as it will give India immense
economic benefits and will widen the scope and opportunity to further improve its bilateral relations. While maintaining the momentum in the trade and business front, India
faces the challenge of improving her political and strategic relationship with the GCC
countries. The stable economic relations should be supplemented by political, strategic
and cultural relations to take the IndiaGCC relations ahead. A stable Gulf is not only
important for India from an economic point of view, but also Indias future strategic and
security goals in the extended neighbourhood to a large extent are dependent on it.
Apart from that, the pressing issues like terrorism, piracy, trans-national criminal activities, and so forth., also need active cooperation between the two. Thus, at this crucial
juncture, when the GCC is looking East and India towards the West, both should
take it as the right opportunity to improve their relationship with each other.
Acknowledgements
The author thanks the two anonymous referees for their valuable comments and suggestions on the
paper.

Notes
1.
2.
3.

The GCC was formed in 1981 by the states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates.
Trade Talk: A Newsletter of Confederation of Indian Industries, 2(5), June 2007, available at
http://cii.in/documents/TradeTalk_%20June_2007.pdf
The imports figures do not include import of petroleum products and crude oil. ExportImport
Data Bank, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of
India, available at http://commerce.nic.in/eidb/default.asp (Accessed January 27, 2010).

Strategic Analysis
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.

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10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
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22.
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27.

419

Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, at http://meaindia.nic.in/onmouse/gcc1.pdf


Ibid.
Press release, Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of
India, May 30, 2007, available at http://commerce.nic.in/pressrelease/pressrelease_detail.asp?
id=2062
PM Launches Look West Policy to Boost Cooperation with Gulf, Press release, Prime Ministers
Office, July 27, 2005, available at http://pmindia.nic.in/prelease/pcontent.asp?id=278
Prakash C. Jain, An Incipient Diaspora: Indians in the Gulf Region, in Prakash C. Jain
(ed.), Indian Diaspora in West Asia: A Reader, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 2007,
pp. 198199.
N. Janardhan, GCCIndia FTA Talks Give Fillip to Asian Community, Arab News, January 5,
2006.
N. Janardhan, Managing Foreign Workforce in the Gulf: Redefining the Rules of Engagement, in N. S. Sisodia and Ashok K. Behuria (eds), West Asia in Turmoil: Implications for
Global Security, Academic Foundation, New Delhi, 2007, p. 436.
Rafiullah Azmi, GCC Looks East: Saudi Arabias Engagements with India, India Quarterly, 62(4), 2006.
Bansidhar Pradhan, Changing Dynamics of Indias West Asia Policy, International Studies,
41(1), 2004, p. 69.
The Financial Express, November 8, 2008, available at http://www.financialexpress.com/
news/india-oman-ink-100mn-fund-to-finance-projects/383132/
Pacts Signed with Qatar Very Significant, Says PM, Gulf Times, November 12, 2008.
India, UAE Ink Accord on Defence Tie-up, The Hindu, July 2, 2003.
Atul Aneja, India, UAE Consider Shoring Up Military Ties, The Hindu, May 14, 2008.
India, Oman sign MoU on Defense Cooperation, available at http://www.globalsecurity.org/
wmd/library/news/india/2005/india-051207-irna02.htm
For a profile of the Pakistan-based jihadi organisations and their external funding sources, see
Muhammad Amir Rana, A to Z of Jihadi Organisations in Pakistan, Marshal Books, Lahore,
2004.
A. K. Pasha, India and the GCC, in Riyaz Punjabi and A. K. Pasha (eds), India and the
Islamic World, Radiant Publishers, New Delhi, 1998, p. 38.
Ibid.
For an elaborate discussion on Pakistans relations with the Gulf countries, see Faryal Leghari
(ed.), GulfPakistan Strategic Relations, Gulf Research Center, Dubai, 2008.
Javed Ahmed Khan, India and Arab Gulfs Look East Policy: Strengthening Economic
Relations since 1995, in Anwar Alam (ed.), India and West Asia in the Era of Globalisation,
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Middle East Economic Survey, 51(37), 2008.
For a detailed profile of the terrorist organisations operating in Kashmir, see K. Santhanam,
Sreedhar, Sudhir Saxena and Manish (eds), Jihadis in Jammu and Kashmir: A Portrait
Gallery, Sage and IDSA, New Delhi, 2003.
Faryal Leghari, Narcotics Trafficking to the Gulf States, Gulf Research Center, Dubai, available at http://www.grc.ae/data/contents/uploads/WMD_-4th_Issue_faryal_9441.pdf
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2009, State Department of the USA, available
at http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2009/vol1/116525.htm
Atul Aneja, How West Asia Views Mumbai Attacks, The Hindu, December 17, 2008.