GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
A Potential Indian Role as part of an Asian Role in a 'post-US-centric' Gulf Region
Paper Proposal Text :
The primary objective of the United States' presence and role in the Gulf was to protect American interests in the region, more than enhance regional security. The chosen instrumentality was to protect friendly regimes willing to serve US interests. A variety of defence and military cooperation agreements were signed at different times with all GCC countries, Iran and Iraq and military bases were established with permanent presence of US troops, aircraft and ships in selected countries of the region.

Whether this approach is sustainable in the post Arab Spring environment particularly given the financial strain on the United States, and the 'Obama Doctrine' of avoiding military engagements in the Muslim world, is open to question.

In this milieu and in the context of an economically vibrant and politically assertive Asia, and improving Gulf-Asia relations over the last decade, launching a conscious search for alternative or supplementary security arrangements may be desirable for the GCC countries and for the US involving Asia, preeminently China, India, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Simultaneously, this may require the United States to revisit its longstanding approaches while space opens up for other countries deeply involved with the region to step up to the plate. The emerging thaw between the United States and Iran may encourage a search for additional supplementary arrangements involving these other powers too.

Given that few non-regional countries have as vital a stake in the stability of the Gulf region as India, it is natural that New Delhi would become an actor in the process of identifying new mechanisms to ensure security in the Gulf region which is growing increasingly fragile day by day.

In India's view, a predominantly military-oriented approach to security, which may have had some validity during the Cold War period, is wrong, undesirable and unsustainable in the 21st century and certainly so in as volatile a region as the Gulf region is. Given its non-confrontational approach, India may add to the discourse on 'post-US-centric' Gulf security by encouraging templates akin to the OSCE and Asean ARF.

In any case, the greatest security threat in the region today arises not from state-to-state rivalry but the alarming proliferation of heavily armed extremist Islamic militant groups such as Al Qaeda and its affiliates who are not under the control of states. An international effort involving all concerned countries is urgently necessary.

The paper would stress that whatever the constraints the United States is currently facing or the continuing strain between the United States and some of the regional countries, there is little scope or possibility for Washington to just pack up and leave. On the other hand, it can continue its intrusive involvement as before. Therefore, the paper would argue that the best way forward for major Asian powers, including India, is to work together with the United States in developing a mechanism for shared strategic engagement. This also appears to be the best option for India and its strategic relevance in the Gulf because there is absolutely no likelihood of New Delhi getting intrusively involved unilaterally in security issues of the Gulf region.

Thus, the critical questions that would be examined in the proposed paper are 'if' and 'how' India can be involved in the evolving regional security framework of the Gulf region in concert with other major Asian powers and the United States in the context the considerations adumbrated above.