GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
The GCC and the Indian Ocean: Trade Dependence, Strategic Balance and Frameworks of Cooperation
Paper Proposal Text :
This paper is intended to provide an overview of the GCC’s economic and strategic interests in the Indian Ocean. This will be done, first, by providing data on GCC trade with the coastal states of the Indian Ocean, and also with the sea-borne trade which the GCC countries conducts with the major (non-coastal) users of the Indian Ocean. In order to make an assessment of the significance of this trade, both from the perspective of the GCC and of the other states concerned, the scale of the trade needs to be put within a comparative framework: i.e. What percentage of GCC trade is accounted for by which states? What proportion of the seaborne trade of the other concerned countries goes to the GCC? And are the goods transported of strategic importance to each side?

Having covered the economic side, the paper will then go on to outline the strategic/security presence in the Indian Ocean of the GCC states and the same coastal and non-coastal states. The focus will be on the overall size and scope of the naval strength, the extent to which that strength can be/has been deployed in the Indian Ocean, the areas where naval forces could be (or would be most likely to be) deployed, and the likelihood that the state concerned would wish to engage its forces to defend its own interests or those of other regional states. The latter element of the assessment will be described in terms of existing naval strategic plans. The comparative dimension is also important in this part of the paper: making clear the nature of the overall balance and how GCC naval capacity relates to that of the other states. Iran necessarily figures among the “other states” in this perspective. The assessment of the balance with Iran, however, will be placed within the context of the present and ongoing confrontation across the Gulf. The substantial differences of capacity among the GCC states will also be covered in the analysis.

The third and final major section of the paper will document the existing frameworks of strategic cooperation around the Indian Ocean, involving both coastal and user states. The frameworks covered will encompass the whole range of possible cooperative naval-based engagements: formal treaties, practical naval cooperation, general arrangements aimed at avoiding conflict and promoting naval coordination, cooperation to counter specific non-state threats (anti-piracy; drugs control etc). The object here will not be to describe in detail how these frameworks operate or assess their significance, but simply to list their existence.

The conclusion of the paper will seek to summarise some of the “danger points” which can be discerned on the basis of the information which has been presented. The paper will not, however, go on to suggesting how these danger points can be addressed. The assumption is that the rest of the workshop will be focused on how the situation is viewed by the GCC and other states concerned, and how the problems in the existing and developing situation could be resolved through the emergence of new frameworks of cooperation – or perhaps the further activation and strengthening of those which exist at the moment.