GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Prasanta Kumar
Title of Paper:
Rising India in the Gulf and competition from Asian powers
Paper Proposal Text :
For India, the Gulf region is her ‘extended neighbourhood’ and ‘natural economic hinterland.’ India has wide ranging interests in the region which among others include trade and investment, energy security, tackling terrorism, fighting piracy and checking the flow of small arms, narcotics and criminal elements etc. Cultivating ties with the region is important for India to further its interests and spread its influence to achieve its foreign policy goal of playing a role in the international arena.
India desires to be a major world power in the future and therefore it needs to engage its extended neighbourhood more productively. The active support from these neighbours would provide India not only the much needed political and diplomatic standing in the world but also positively change India’s image in rest of the Muslim world. Building a cordial relationship with the Gulf region would be a very useful platform to begin that process. Also, India’s longstanding demand for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council would receive a boost with the support of the countries in our extended neighbourhood. Countries like Oman and UAE have expressed their support for India’s membership in the Security Council as a permanent member and India expects other countries of the region to do the same.
Gulf region has immense geo-strategic importance for India. But also at the same time there are a number of other major powers who have also major interests in the region. The USA is the dominant player in the Gulf and other big powers like Russia, China, Japan etc. are seriously vying for their respective spaces in the region. India though should not compete with the big powers for exercising supremacy in the region, rather, a policy of continuing friendship and diplomatic engagement in the Gulf would be beneficial for it.
In order to, get closer with the Gulf countries, Government of India adopted a “Look West” policy in the year 2005, in line with the successful Look East policy. While announcing the new policy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that, “the Gulf region, like South-East and South Asia, is part of our natural economic hinterland … We must come closer to our western neighbours in the Gulf.”
Since the past, India’s relationship with the Gulf countries has been based on mutual trade and business which is growing fast every year. The Gulf region has been the main source of India’s energy needs as they supply around two third of India’s total energy requirements. The supply of oil from the region has steadily grown with the increase in the demand in India. Similarly, the Gulf region has been a lucrative market for Indian manufactured goods like textiles, spices, food products, and lately, electrical goods and machineries and IT products. The bilateral total trade between India and the Gulf region has crossed US$140 billion.
India’s 6 million strong work force in the Gulf form an important link between the two. Indian workers in the region are mostly concentrated in the GCC countries and the number of Indian population in Iran and Iran are negligible. In fact, expatriate workers from India constitute the largest work force in the region and are regarded as hard-working, sincere, efficient and respect the laws of the land. The flow of Indian workers to the Gulf seeking jobs has continuously gone up. Given the fact that India has huge manpower and the unemployment rate is also high suggests that the flow would continue subject to the policies adopted by the Gulf countries. The nationalisation policies of the Gulf countries which is intended to give more jobs to their own national has created a feeling in India that the number of Indian workers may not grow in the present rate if the nationalisation process picks up pace. But at the same time it is also felt that in the near future, the Gulf region will depend upon the man power from India for their development.
India has been granted the status of a ‘dialogue partner’ by the GCC. India is the first from the developing world and only fourth country after USA, European Union and Japan to have got the privilege. A GCC-India political dialogue was initiated in the year 2003 to boost interaction between the two parties. India is playing an important role in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of post war Iraq. India’s engagement with Iran at present has been inhibited by a number of factors. The controversy over the Iran’s nuclear programme, Iran’s deteriorating relationship with its Gulf Arab neighbours and Israel etc are some of the important reasons for a slow India-Iran relationship at present. India is interested to play a role in the strategic and security affairs of the region. India is of the opinion that the security of Gulf region and the Indian subcontinent is inseparable. Keeping in view the rising cases of piracy, increasing terrorist networks and other non-state actors an active cooperation between India and the region would be beneficial for both.
For India, China is the biggest competitor in the region. The Chinese forays in to the Gulf market undercut India’s. Chinese big budget investments in several projects throughout the region are both a wakeup call and a challenge for India. While India takes Chinese economic strides in the region as competition, Chinese attempts to supply arms to some countries in the region has made India think about the Chinese intention in the region. Similarly, China’s relationship with Iran, particularly, China’s contribution to the Iranian nuclear know how is often seen in doubt in New Delhi.
In the past, Pakistan has made deliberate attempts to deter India from building up a strong relationship with the region. Though there were several political and diplomatic constraints like Cold War political calculations, religion factor, Kashmir issue, the Gulf Wars and so on which were responsible for India’s lack of strong ties with the region, Pakistan has been an important factor in hindering India’s ties with the region. But India does not see Pakistan as an economic competitor nor a political or military rival in the Gulf. Rather, India sees Pakistan as a factor which retains the capability to spoil and hinder the smooth diplomatic engagement. For India Pakistan is too highly dependent on the Gulf region on aid and assistance because of its poor economic condition.
India can help the Gulf region in its development in a number of ways. The region can be benefitted from India from cooperation in the field of education and training, particularly in the higher education, IT, nanotechnology, space science etc. Secondly, India would be ready to forge security ties with the countries of the region to deal with threats like terrorism, piracy, criminal activities, illegal arms supply and narcotics. Thirdly, the growing profile of Indian manpower i.e. the increasing number of white collar workers contributing significantly to the economic development and progress of their nation. Fourthly, India’s growing economy is an inspiration for the Gulf countries to forge ties and invest in the country. Fifthly, true energy interdependence can be achieved through cooperation and collaboration between India and the Gulf countries in the petroleum sector.