GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Prof. Tim
Title of Paper:
The Role of Asian Countries in the Evolving Security Dynamics and Architecture of the Gulf Region
Paper Proposal Text :
There are currently a number of factors which raise the question as to whether the security dynamics of the Gulf region are likely to undergo substantial change over the next few years, and if so what alternative forms of security architecture could take the place of existing arrangements. The central factors are:
1. Decreasing US (and perhaps EU) dependence on Gulf oil and gas. The issue arises as to whether this means that the US will have less interest in future in maintaining a security presence in the Gulf. Such a trend may be enhanced by an element of “war-weariness” from the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2. Increasing Asian, especially Chinese and Indian, dependence on the Gulf’s hydrocarbon resources. Will this cause these powers to seek direct engagement in the security of their oil and gas supplies?
3. The change in the “pivot” in US defence policy. This suggests that the US will in future be focusing more on the Pacific than on either Europe or the Middle East.
4. European financial problems. This may preclude European powers from taking up any space vacated by the US.
5. The growing naval strength of India and China. This will strengthen the capacity of these two powers to respond to requests for strategic support from the Gulf region – if that is requested.
6. Possible transformations of regional relationships. The current external strategic presence in the Gulf stems in large part from intra-regional hostility (especially that between Iran and Saudi Arabia). While at present it seems unlikely that there will be any immediate lessening of tension (indeed, an intensification of regional conflict looks a more likely scenario), it is nonetheless possible that domestic and regional changes may create the basis for more settled and stable relationships. In such a perspective there would no longer be the same need for any Gulf country to rely on a direct external strategic presence.
7. The positive experience of recent maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean (over piracy). This would seem to provide a model whereby Asian navies take on increasing strategic roles in protecting the sea lanes which carry hydrocarbons from the Gulf to the Far East. In other words, an Asian role can develop in cooperation with the Western powers rather than in conflict with it.

Given the rapidly increasing economic engagement in the Gulf of China and India, and the continued significance of that of Japan and South Korea, it is clearly important to understand how these Asian countries might respond politically and strategically to the Gulf countries’ security interests, needs and objectives. This paper seeks to lay the basis for the discussion which will take place on these issues during the workshop – providing an overall framework which may be of use to others.
The paper contends that the best security setting for the Gulf states is one where they will be collectively responsible for their security (and for the sea lanes leading out into the Indian Ocean), within the framework of a regional collective security organisation. In such a scenario, the framework and the resulting organisation could benefit from the support of external powers, but without any direct security presence. External support, in this case, would need to be balanced, with the involvement of Asian as well as Western powers. The paper presents an initial analysis of whether such a security framework is indeed likely to emerge.