GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
Gupta (Retd.)
First Name:
Amb. Ranjit
Title of Paper:
Relevance of Setting up an ARF-type Security Dialogue Forum for the Gulf Region
Paper Proposal Text :
GRM 2012 Workshop on ‘The India-Gulf Strategic Partnership in a Pan-Asian Cooperative Paradigm’

Relevance of Setting up an ARF-type Security Dialogue Forum
for the Gulf Region
Amb. Ranjit Gupta

The 21st century is poised to be the Asian Century. Asian countries have posted the most rapid economic growth rates in the past decade and this process is likely to continue with China being the lead locomotive of Asian economic resurgence and India increasingly contributing too. In today’s globalised, economically interlinked and interdependent world a country’s economic strength will increasingly be the major platform for political influence and strategic clout.

As far as the Asian growth story is concerned hydrocarbons have been and will remain the main energy sources for the forseeable future. The major Asian economies, both developed and still developing, have collectively become the largest customer for hydrocarbons from the Gulf region. Indeed, overall economic links between the Gulf region and the rest of Asia are poised to overtake the economic relationship between the Gulf region and the Western world. The paper will establish these assertions empirically.

The Gulf region is an integral part of the Asian continent. Asian countries have a vital and growing existential stake in peace in and stability of the Gulf region. Therefore, the time has come to put in place pan-Asian cooperative security paradigms including in and for the Gulf region. The process is not going to be easy or even smooth and hiccups are inevitable partly because there are no real precedents for guidance.

Almost all existing security architectures and mechanisms have been created by Western countries primarily to serve their own interests. This is understandable given the ground realities of global power dynamics while Asia was riddled with multiple fault lines, rivalries and conflicts. However, in future, multi-polarity will be the norm as overweening Western dominance steadily fades and military alliances and military interventions become outmoded. Asia has displaced the West as the fulcrum of the global economy and should now be considering charting its own course in the political and security realms too based on its own latent reservoir of traditions, principles and strengths. New inclusive mechanisms should be the way forward and it is desirable not to be overambitious but move in a step by step incremental manner.

Even though there are no specifically security oriented Asian groupings, there are two entities which could serve as starting points – Asean in Southeast Asia and the GCC in West Asia. Even though the Charters of the two entities skirts the issue, in essence both were established in response to uneasiness felt by the founding members because of hegemonic neighbours. Asean has quite successfully incorporated China in multilateral engagement processes on all regional security issues and thus diminished threat perceptions and has exhibited commendable forward movement in economic integration. The GCC on the other hand has not quite succeeded vis-a vis Iran and had even failed vis-a vis Iraq earlier and has also been much slower in forging regional economic integration. Though the GCC has thus fallen short of its initial promise, it has been unusually proactive in the context of the unprecedented turmoil and unrest in the Arab world throughout 2011 by seeking to douse the flames and in insulating its members from the contagion. This experience suggests that the GCC as an entity has the potential to act as a workable mechanism in the interests of regional security and in protecting the security of its members. It is my view that the Asean experience which has involved close and regular interaction with all stakeholders in the Asia Pacific region could prove useful for the Gulf region.

With this objective in mind the paper would review the evolution of the functioning of the GCC and Asean with special reference to the establishment and functioning of the ARF with a view to culling best practices for possible replication in the Gulf region keeping in mind the GCC’s past experiences, the Gulf region’s uniqueness and in the context of the future evolution of the GCC as the linchpin of a potential regional security forum.

Bearing in mind the title of the Workshop, the paper will also dilate on the potential Indian role in the pan Asian context given that it has been very warmly welcomed in the Asia Pacific family including almost all countries in both East and Southeast Asia and is possibly more deeply involved in a multi dimensional broad based manner with the Gulf region than any other non regional country.