The 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was held recently, in January 2021, and it saw a historic end to the three and a half years of an embargo on Qatar. In this article, you can read all about the GCC and its relevance, and also about India’s relationship with the Gulf trade bloc. This is an important topic for the UPSC international relations segment.
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GCC Latest News
Gulf states signed a ‘solidarity and stability’ deal at the 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit held in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia.
- The deal is signed to remove all the sanctions over Qatar and re-open their land, sea, and air borders to Qatar.
- To unite efforts to promote the Gulf region and to confront challenges that surround them, especially the threats posed by the Iranian regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and its plans for sabotage and destruction.
- Days before the 41st GCC Summit in January 2021, there was full restoration of ties between the five countries. India welcomed the restoration of ties between the countries.
- Background of the solidarity and stability deal – In 2017, four countries, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain had imposed a partial blockade on Qatar on allegations that Qatar was supporting terrorism.
- The other countries were angry with Qatar for siding with Iran.
- Qatar had dismissed the allegations.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Background & Origins
The GCC was formed in 1981 by an agreement among Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that was concluded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
- It is an economic and political union comprising of all the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf except Iraq.
- Although its current official name is Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, it is still popularly and unofficialy known as the Gulf Cooperation Council, its former official name.
- The grouping was formed in view of the similar political establishments in the countries based on Islamic principles, their geographical proximity, joint destiny and common objectives.
The Gulf Cooperation Council is an important topic in the international relations segment of the IAS Exam.
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The six members of the GCC are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. There are also discussions for possible future memberships for Yemen, Jordan and Morocco.
The members comprise:
- 2 absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia, Oman)
- 3 constitutional monarchies (Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait)
- 1 federal monarchy (UAE)
The GCC members are some of the fastest-growing economies of the world. It has a total GDP (nominal) of $1.638 trillion.
The chief objectives of the GCC are to have integration, coordination and interconnection between the member countries in all fields, and:
- Strengthen people-to-people ties.
- Formulate similar regulations in finance, economy, customs, trade, tourism, administration, legislation.
- Foster scientific and technical cooperation in the areas of agriculture, mining, industry, animal resources and water.
- Have a unified military.
- Set up scientific research centers.
- Establish joint ventures and encourage private sector cooperation.
The GCC had aims of integrating into a single market with a common market being established in 2008. However, the implementation of this objective has been lagging behind. The customs union has been operational since 2015. However, some barriers remain in the free movement of goods and services. There are also plans to have a single currency (the proposed name is Khaleeji).
The GCC consists of the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council and the Secretariat General.
- Supreme Council: It is the highest GCC authority and comprises the heads of state of all the member states. It meets once a year and resolutions are taken by a majority vote. The Supreme Council determines the overall policy of the GCC.
- Ministerial Council: It consists of the foreign ministers of the members and meets once in three months. It frames policies and makes recommendations on means of developing cooperation and coordination amongst the Member States in the economic, social and cultural spheres.
- Secretariat General: It prepares reports, budgets, etc. for the Council. It assists the members in implementing decisions made by the Supreme and Ministerial councils. It is headed by the Secretary-General, who is appointed for a three-year term.
GCC and India
For India, the GCC countries are significant because of many reasons.
- GCC countries, with large hydrocarbon reserves, are crucial for India’s energy requirements while the region has been a good market for Indian products.
- There is also a huge presence of Indians in the GCC countries particularly Saudi Arabia and UAE, in the form of skilled and unskilled workers.
- For the past four decades, energy and manpower have been the two major drivers of India’s relationship with the region.
- Negotiations for the India-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Free Trade Agreement (FTA) are in a crucial phase of talks.
- Recently, after the revocation of Article 370 and the CAA, both the UAE and Saudi Arabia had not taken hostile positions against India on the issues.
- India and GCC members are members of the FATF.
- India has multilateral and bilateral military exercises with most of the GCC countries.
- The economic and political relationship of India with the GCC has improved in recent years.
- GCC suppliers account for around 34% of India’s crude imports.
- The friendly relation has been reflected in the bilateral trade of around USD 121 billion and remittances of USD 49 billion from a workforce of over nine million.
India’s Overall Role in the Gulf Region:
- The Gulf is among India’s top trading partners. The deepening energy interdependence is marked by growing volumes of energy imports into India. There is also the prospect of substantive investments from the Gulf into the Indian hydrocarbon sector.
- India has avoided involvement in local or regional disputes in the region since Indian interests do not entail power projection but necessitate peace and regional stability. The number of Indian migrant workers in the region stands at more than 7 million.
- The expansion of 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.
- For example participation of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and others in India’s mega multilateral Milan Exercise.
India’s Way Forward with the GCC
- It has been assessed that Saudi Arabia is a fading power whereas UAE, Qatar, and Iran are emerging as the new regional leaders. Oman and Iraq will have to struggle to retain their sovereign identities.
- The Gulf region has historical, political, economic, strategic and cultural significance for India. India-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) can provide a boost to the relations.
- Thus, Indian interests would be best served if the stability in the region is ensured through cooperative security since the alternative, of competitive security options, cannot ensure durable peace.
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