GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL (GCC)
Basics and Backgrounds
- The Kuwait government formulated a proposal for an organisation to link the six Arabian Gulf States which have special cultural and historical ties.
- Accordingly, the Riyadh Agreement was issued which proposed cooperative efforts in cultural, social, economic, and financial affairs.
- A Constitution was initiated in March 1981 and was signed by the Gulf Heads of State (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) on May 25-26, 1981 at Abu Dhabi, the UAE. Consequently, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) came into existence.
- The GCC is a political and economic alliance of countries in the Arabian Peninsula.
- It was established in 1981 to foster socioeconomic, security, and cultural cooperation.
- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are its members.
- They gather every year to discuss cooperation and regional affairs.
- All current member states are monarchies, including three constitutional monarchies(Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain), two absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Oman), and one federal monarchy (the United Arab Emirates).
- The GCC consists of the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council, the Cooperation Council, the General-Secretariat, and various Committees on economic, social, industrial, and trade and political affairs.
- The highest authority is the Supreme Council, consisting of heads of the member-states. It meets annually and determines the policies of the organisation.
- The Ministerial Council comprises foreign ministers of the member-states.
- It meets every three months to prepare for the meetings of the Supreme Council and draw up policies, recommendations, studies, and projects aimed at developing cooperation and coordination among member-states.
- The Cooperation Council has a commission, the Commission for the Settlement of Disputes, which is attached to the Supreme Council.
- The Secretariat is headed by the Secretary-General, appointed by the Supreme Council for a renewable three-year term.
- The Secretariat, consisting of several specialized sectors, implements the recommendations given by the Supreme Council and the Ministerial Council.
Peninsula Shield Force
- The Peninsula Shield Force (Peninsula Shield) is the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
- It is intended to deter, and respond to, military aggression against any of the GCC member countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
Objectives of GCC
- To achieve coordination, integration, and cooperation among the member-states in all fields to bring about their unity
- To deepen and strengthen the bonds of cooperation existing among their peoples in all fields
- To draw up similar systems in all fields
- To promote scientific and technical progress in the fields of industry, minerals, agriculture, sea wealth and animal wealth for the good of the peoples of the member-states.
Gulf Union Proposals
- A proposal in 2011 to transform the GCC into a “Gulf Union” with tighter economic, political and military coordination was advanced by Saudi Arabia, a move meant to counterbalance the Iranian influence in the region.
- Objections were raised against the proposal by other countries.
The Gulf is widening between GCC Countries
- Oman continues to keep ties open with Qatar and Iran. The blockade made Qatar more independent in foreign policy decisions.
- The cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi created ripples. The blockade last year triggered tensions among the GCC countries.
- Qatar also strengthened its alliance with Turkey, which stepped in as provider of security for Doha.
- And Turkey checkmated any plans that Saudis and Emiratis might have had to use force to bring the Qatari emir down on his knees.
- Saudi Arabia is upset that Oman and Kuwait did not join the embargo. Kuwait is in fact trying to mediate.
- Qatar stepped up assistance for Hamas in Gaza strip. It accelerated a plan to allow Turkey to set up military camp in the country.
- Qatar also resisted calls to cut ties with Iran.
GCC and Iran
- The UN, the USA and other armament experts have accused Iran of providing arms to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
- Iran allegedly arms Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon and Syria and also provides weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq and terrorist groups in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
- The letter also mentioned Iran’s shoot down of a Ukrainian passenger plane and its navy accidentally killing 19 sailors in a missile strike during an exercise.
- Iran also is suspected of launching an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in September 2019.
- Iran has denied the various accusationsof its involvement in arms supply.
- Iran has condemned the GCC letterand called it an irresponsible statement that serves the USA’s interests.
- It has also criticized the GCC countries for being “among the largest arms buyers in the region and the world,”even amidst the economic downturn caused by the Covid 19 pandemic.
- Qatar crisis, which saw Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and launch a boycott of the nation beginning in 2017.
- Qatar has had good relations with Iran and has used its airspace while sharing a vast offshore oil and gas field with Tehran (Iran’s capital).
- Qatar is home to the massive Al-Udeid Air Base and the forward headquarters of the USA military’s Central Command.
India’s priorities in the Gulf
- The Gulf is an integral part of India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’, both by way of geographical proximity and as an area of expanded interests and growing Indian influence.
- Securing long term energy supplyis of primary importance for India in the region.
- India is currently the fourth largest energy consuming countryin the world and it may go up to third position in next couple of decades.
- India’s annual GDP growthat the rate of eight per cent would require further industrial growth which would demand more energy supply for the country.
- The growing energy necessityhas undoubtedly dictated India’s initiative of building up a ‘strategic energy partnership’ with the region to secure long-term energy supply for the country.
- The Gulf countries look at India as a fast growing economywhich holds the potential to compete with the major world economies.
- Realising the trade potential of the Gulf countries, India has entered into a negotiationwith the GCC to finalise a Free Trade Agreement.
- The Gulf countries have huge potential for investing in different sectors in India as FDI for mutual benefit.
India’s relations with GCC region:
- The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a collective entity has tremendous significance for India. The Gulf constitutes the “immediate” neighbourhood of India separated only by the Arabian Sea. India, therefore, has a vital stake in the stability, security and economic well-being of the Gulf.
- As a group, the GCC has been increasingly determining the economy, political and security policies of its member States. The GCC countries are moving ahead rapidly with their economic integration efforts.
- The GCC has emerged as a major trading partner of India. It has vast potential as India’s investment partner for the future.
- The GCC’s substantial oil and gas reserves are of utmost importance for India’s energy needs. The GCC countries are collectively host to a large Indian expatriate community.
- In short, the GCC offers tremendous potential for cooperation in trade, investment, energy, manpower, etc.
Economic and Commercial Relations:
- India enjoys traditionally cordial relations and cooperation with the GCC. India’s old, historical ties with GCC States, coupled with increasing imports of oil and gas, growing trade and investment, and presence of approximately 6.5 million Indian workers in the region, are of vital interest to India.
- During 2015-16, India’s exports to GCC were US $ 41.71 billion. The bilateral two-way trade during the period was US$ 97.46 billion, registering a decline of about 27% over the previous year.
- From the strategic point of view, India and GCC share the desire for political stability and security in the region. The common political and security concerns of India and GCC translate into efforts for peace, security and stability in the Gulf region and South Asia.
- The emerging common security perceptions create further opportunities for GCC-India cooperation in the future. The GCC States are going through important changes and transformation; the process of understanding and integration is coming of age.
- Along with it the areas for cooperation are also widening beyond investments, trade & commerce and sharing & development of human resources to security.
India-GCC Industrial Conference
- The first GCC-India Industrial Conference was held in Mumbai in February 2004, the second was held in Muscat in March 2006, the third was held in Mumbai in May 2007 and the fourth was held at King Abdullah Economic City, Jeddah in November 2015.
- India and GCC signed a Framework Agreement for enhancing and developing economic cooperation between the two sides in in New Delhi in August 2004. Two rounds of talks for finalizing aspects like tariff rules, rules of origin, etc. have been held. The India-GCC FTA is under negotiation.
- India has acquired a large and rewarding regional footprint, particularly as the preferred source of manpower, food products, pharmaceuticals, gem and jewellery, light engineering items, etc.
- Indians are also the biggest stakeholders in Dubai’s real estate, tourism and Free Economic Zones.
- In the evolving scenario, there may be scope for a profitable trilateral synergy, but India cannot take its preponderance as a given.