INDIA AND GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL (GCC)

JUN 14

Mains   > International relations   >   India and Global Regions   >   International groupings

IN NEWS:

  • Recently, several member countries of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as well as Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have registered their protest against the comments made by two BJP functionaries about Prophet Muhammad.

ABOUT GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL (GCC):

  • The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf or GCC is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf except Iraq, namely: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates
  • It was originally known as the Gulf Cooperation Council.
  • The Charter of the GCC was signed on 25 May 1981, formally establishing the institution.
  • The GCC has extensive cooperation in political and economic fields.
  • The countries have together established a joint military arm known as Peninsula Shield Force.

                                          

 

ORGANISATION OF ISLAMIC COOPERATION (OIC):

  • The OIC, which was known as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference until 2011, is the second largest inter-governmental organisation in the world after the United Nations.
  • It was established by the First Islamic Summit Conference held in Rabat, Morocco, in September 1969, to marshal the Islamic world after an act of arson at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that year. The incident had plunged the Middle East into its worst crisis after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
  • The OIC has 57 member countries, all of whom have Muslim majority populations.
    • India with more than 200 million Muslim populations, is not a member, and does not even have an observer status.
    • India has the second largest Muslim population of any country, only next to Indonesia.
  • The OIC describes itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world”.
  • Its objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.
  • The OIC has consultative and cooperative relations with U. N. and other inter-governmental organisations to protect the interest of Muslims, and settle conflicts and disputes involving member states, among them being the territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the status of Jammu & Kashmir. 
  • Presently based in Jeddah, the organisation plans to permanently move its headquarters to East Jerusalem once the disputed city is ‘liberated’. Moreover, it aspires to hold Israel accountable for ‘war crimes’ and violations of international law. 

INDIA and OIC:

  • As the country with the world’s second largest Muslim community, India had been invited to the founding conference at Rabat in 1969, but was humiliatingly ejected at Pakistan’s behest.
  • In 2006 Saudi Arabia invited India to join as an Observer. But India stayed away because of a multiplicity of reasons, not least because as a secular country, it did not want to join an organisation that was founded on the religious identity of nations.
  • At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in 2018, Bangladesh suggested that India should be given Observer status. But Pakistan opposed the proposal.
  • In 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) invited then Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to address the Inaugural Plenary of the 46th Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Abu Dhabi as the “Guest of Honour”.
  • Supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir:
    • The OIC has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, and has issued statements criticising the alleged Indian “atrocities” in Kashmir.
    • New Delhi has long been used to combating these statements, and has consistently and forcefully put forward its position.
  • India has friendly relations with almost all member nations:
    • Except Pakistan’s position in the OIC aside, India has excellent relations individually with almost all member nations and this is a reason why it can mostly afford to not take the statements issued by the group as a whole seriously.
    • Other than Pakistan OIC includes two of India’s close neighbours, Bangladesh and Maldives and India has cordial relations with these countries.

 

 

WHY GCC IS SIGNIFICANT FOR INDIA?

  • India’s trade with Gulf nations:
    • India’s trade with the GCC countries nearly doubled in just one year since 2020-21, and is around 155 billion dollars presently.
    • The share of India’s exports that go to GCC is now above 10 per cent.
    • India imports predominately crude oil and natural gas from the Gulf nations and exports pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, metals, imitation jewellery, electrical machinery, iron and steel, and chemicals to these countries.
    • The GCC countries also constitute an important destination for software and other services exports.
  • Oil imports:
    • Oil imports from Gulf region are needed not only to meet India’s own consumption requirements, but also as feedstock for India’s huge export of petroleum products.
      • Petroleum product exports of India constitute nearly one-fifth of all manufacturing exports in dollar terms.
  • Presence of Indian diaspora:
    • Gulf nations are host to a sizeable Indian population. They are a big source of remittance from abroad for the Indian economy.
    • Out of about 32 million non-resident Indians (NRIs), nearly half are estimated to be working in Gulf countries.
    • For example, in the UAE alone, the population of people of Indian origin is nearly 40%, and a substantial proportion of these are Indian Muslims.
  • Gulf countries host large proportion of blue-collar work:
    • Gulf countries are host to a large proportion of blue-collar work, and people of Indian origin constitute a major proportion of this blue collar work force.
  • Civilizational ties:
    • Countries like the UAE and Oman can be natural allies to India due to a much older linkage between the people of these countries.
    • This linkage and alliance provides geostrategic advantages for India as it explore land links to Central Asia and the possibilities of energy pipelines.
  • National Security:
    • India needs effective coordination with Gulf countries to combat national security threats like terrorism which has its roots in the Middle East.

CHALLENGES IN RELATION:

  • Lack of a comprehensive policy:
    • Unlike the Act East policy, India has not established a comprehensive West Asia policy despite the regions having similar geopolitical significance.
  • Absence of cooperation beyond energy and oil needs:
    • Most of the bilateral & multilateral engagements of India with GCC countries are focused on energy and oil needs without much focus on other diverse sectors like renewable energy, higher education, technological innovation, smart cities, space commerce etc.
  • Security concerns emanating from gulf nations:
    • Security concerns emanating from gulf nations like the transnational terrorist linkages that exist between India and Gulf Arab countries.
  • Religious polarization in India’s domestic politics:
    • Experts criticized that the recent comments on Prophet Muhammad reflect the religious polarization that exist in India’s domestic politics and such incidents may adversely impact the cordial relation with Gulf countries and other Islamic nations.
  • Nationalization drives in Gulf countries:
    • The workforce nationalization in Gulf countries would adversely impact the Indian expatriates in the GCC countries.

WAY FORWARD:

  • India needs to focus on long-term plans for economic cooperation with GCC beyond oil, including finalizing the free trade agreement with GCC.
  • Also India needs to broaden the engagement domains to defence, culture, technology etc.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. The trade relations between India and the Gulf countries are of significance to India’s economy”. Discuss