The historical ties between India and the Gulf region are witnessing an evolutionary change, transcending the traditional economic interests of trade, energy, and employment. The multitude of geopolitical developments within and outside the region are also reshaping the Gulf’s engagement with India and the world.
The pandemic and the heightened geopolitical uncertainty have led to tumult—countries are exploring avenues to transform the crisis into opportunity spurring digital transformation and reconfiguration of supply chains at an unprecedented pace and manner. It has also led to the reimagination and reorganisation of partnerships, such as the I2U2, Quad, and AUKUS, as countries work towards greater synergy and enhanced cooperation.
Given their shared interests, the Gulf states and India are reenergising and revitalising their historical connections, imparting an unprecedented impetus to the partnership. The renewed dynamism in India-GCC relations has presented an opportunity for India and the GCC countries to engage better for more significant mutual benefit and greater global good.
This scenario forms the backdrop of the 2022 edition of the Arabian Sea Dialogue. The Dialogue brings together policymakers, business leaders, civil society, and the youth of the region to deliberate on a blueprint for an ‘Arabian Sea Community’ to shape and reinvigorate the vibrance, passion, and potential among the peoples of India and the Gulf—provided, nourished and united by our shared connection, the Arabian Sea.
Geopolitics and Security: New Floats on the Global Chessboard
West Asia is not new to geopolitical upheavals and great-power rivalries. From the oil age of the mid-20th century turning the region into a fulcrum of global power and influence, to the Gulf War in 1991 and the Iraq war in 2001, this region has been critical to international politics and economics, and particularly so for western foreign policy. However, recent developments are shaping new security dynamics in the region. The Gulf states are hedging their bets: China is the new power player on the block; the Russia-Ukraine war has further pushed the idea of ‘strategic autonomy’; and struggles of some deals, such as the JCPOA, and the success of others, such as the Abraham Accords, represent the changing political paradigm in a historically fraught geography. Meanwhile, external major powers are reassessing their priorities. How are the GCC states responding to this new security environment? What fundamentals have the Abraham Accords altered in West Asia and intra-Arab politics? What does the emerging I2U2 equation portend for future of this region?
Beyond Traditional Economics: Expanding Investments, Financial Flows and Trade
The relationship between India and the GCC has fundamentally changed over the last few years. There has been a significant increase in economic engagement and the setting of deeper trade and investment ties between the two regions. The recently concluded CEPA with the UAE and the highly anticipated FTA with the GCC are testament to the advancing relationship. Beyond the deepening trade links, the emergence of global value chains and supply chains has allowed the two regions to integrate further and reap the benefits of their comparative advantages. India’s ascension to G20 presidency in December 2022 also provides an opportunity to bring issues of mutual priority to the global high table. In this backdrop important questions arise. What are the expectations of the GCC from India’s G20 presidency? How can partners reshape their economic relationship through the value chain approach? How can digital technologies be harnessed to bolster the resilience of the supply chains in the region? How can India and the GCC leverage their complementarities to create a more conducive investment environment in the region?
India-Gulf Climate Cooperation: Walking the Green Talk
Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity today. It will also decisively influence the global geopolitical fabric – and shape the choice facing India and the GCC nations. A shared strategy to deal with energy transition, and a renewed focus on green mobility and finance mobilisation is essential for the success of the global fight against climate change. Sustainable investment choices will also affect the future of jobs and growth in the region. What guiding principles should define the evolution of India-Gulf climate cooperation? Which sectors should assume focus? How can the power of the sun be harnessed in galvanising energy transition in India and the Gulf region? How can India-Gulf climate cooperation be manoeuvred to positively influence climate justice at the upcoming COP 27 and COP 28?
Youth, Inclusion and Innovation
With a rich and diverse tradition of contribution through the ages to the arts, culture, mathematics, science and medicine, the transformative potential of the people of the region is immense and well documented, with women and young thinkers often at the forefront. However, the disruption caused by colonialism upended several social structures that enabled this. As the world changes rapidy and in hugely transformative ways, how we engage, harness, and empower this constituency will determine and shape our collective future, and indeed our aspiration to retake our rightful place as cradle of innovation, thought and civilizational leadership. Important questions arise from this; How should we reorient our approaches and practices to further gender equity and women leadership? How can we leverage the tremendous youth capital of the region to secure a shared prosperous future? What should we do to make the region a global hub of ideas, thought and innovation?