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Turbulence in the Gulf nations & India

Turbulence in the Gulf nations & India

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s

Gulf nation: eight countries (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates)


  • They are all members of the UN.
  • Major producers of crude oil and natural gas, and thereby contributing critically to the global economy and to their own prosperity.

These have added to their geopolitical significance.

At the same time, turbulence has often characterised their inter se political relations.


Post decolonisation of the Persian gulf nations, the imperatives of rivalry and cooperation became evident.

The logic of Saudi-Iranian cooperation is being affected by psychological, nationalistic, and prestige factors, which are likely to persist for a long time.’ A United States State Department report put it.

Efforts for cooperation:

  • Early effort for collective security, attempted in a conference in Muscat in 1975, was thwarted by Baathist Iraq.
  • The Iranian Revolution put an end to the Twin Pillar approachand disturbed the strategic balance.

United States role:

  • The Nixon and the Carter Doctrines were the logical outcome to ensure American hegemony.
  • The Iraq-Iran War enhanced U.S. interests and role.
  • Thus, Gulf regional security was an external issue long before it was an issue among the Gulf States themselves.
  • The U.S. took effort to ‘contain’ the Iranian revolutionary forces.
  • This was supplemented by the effort of the Arab states of the littoral (except Iraq) through the instrumentality of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
  • The GCC had the objective to coordinate, cooperate and integrate to ‘serve the sublime objectives of the Arab Nation’.
  • This effort initially met with success in some functional fields. However, it lacked in its wider objectives.

Declining US commitments:

  • Geopolitical factors and conflicts elsewhere in the West Asian region — Yemen, Syria, Libya — aggravated global and regional relationships.
  • It hampered a modus vivendiin U.S.-Iran relations.
  • Iran’s nuclear manoeuvre was limited through the multilateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear programmeagreed to by western powers and the Obama Administration. 
  • This agreement was disownedby U.S. President Donald Trump. And his strident policies have taken the region to the brink of an armed conflict.
  • Perceptions of declining U.S. commitmentto sub-regional security have been articulated in recent months amid hints of changing priorities.
  • This is reported to have caused disquietin some members of the GCC.
  • Their security concernremains pivoted on an Iranian threat (political and ideological rather than territorial) and an American insurance to deter it.

US and Middle east relations is based on a convergence of interests in which oil, trade, arms purchases, etc have a role along with wider U.S. regional and global determinants.


  • Divisions have developed within the GCC.
  • These have been aggravated by the global economic crisis, the immediate and longer term impact of COVID-19 on regional economies, the problems in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the decline in oil prices.

Emerging shape of the region:

  • Saudi Arabiais a fading power, UAE, Qatar and Iran are emerging as the new regional leaders and Oman and Iraq will have to struggle to retain their sovereign identities.
  • The GCC is declining, and OPEC is becoming irrelevant as oil policy moves to a tripartite global condominium.
  • The Arab states of this sub-region are left to individual devicesto explore working arrangements with Iraq and Iran.
  • These could set the stage for a wider dialogue. Both Iran and the GCC states would benefit from a formal commitment to an arrangement.

India’s relationship with the west asia:

  • The bilateral relationship, economic and political, with the GCC has blossomed in recent years.
  • The governments are India-friendlyand Indian-friendly and appreciate the benefits of a wide-ranging relationship.
  • Bilateral trade of around $121 billion and remittances of $49 billion from a workforce of over nine million.
  • GCC suppliers account for around 34% of our crude imports.
  • National oil companies in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi are partners in a $44 billion investment in the giant Ratnagiri oil refinery.
  • In addition, Saudi Aramco is reported to take a 20% stake in Reliance oil-to-chemicals business.
  • The current adverse impact of the pandemic on our economic relations with the GCC countries has now become a matter of concern.

Iran in particular:

  • The relationship with Iran has been complex.
  • But it has economic potentialand geopolitical relevance on account of its role in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • Iran also neighbours Turkey and some countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea region.
  • Its size, politico-technological potential and economic resources, cannot be wished away, regionally and globally, but can be harnessed for wider good.

India has eschewed involvement in local or regional disputes. Indian interests do not entail power projection; they necessitate in their totality, peace and regional stability, freedom of navigation and access to the region’s markets in terms of trade, technology and manpower resources. Indian interests would be best served if this stability is ensured through cooperative security since the alternative — of competitive security options — cannot ensure durable peace.

Source:” The Hindu“.

Possible UPSC CSE Mains Question:

The turbulence in the Persian Gulf has been surging and will aggravate in the post Covid world. In this context, discuss the challenges India face in maintaining cordial relationship with the region.