08 June, 2020
7 Min Read
In Persian Gulf littoral, cooperative security is key
Hamid Ansari is the former Vice-President of India, 2007-2017
GS- Paper-II West Asia
India’s interests would be best served if stability in the region is ensured this way
The United Nations defines this body of water as the Persian Gulf. The lands around it are shared by eight countries (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates)(PT SHOT), all members of the UN.
There is a commonality of interest among them in being major producers of crude oil and natural gas, and thereby contributing critically to the global economy and to their own prosperity. This has added to their geopolitical significance. At the same time, turbulence has often characterised their inter se political relations.
The essential ingredients of such a framework would thus be to ensure:
The GCC and the U.S. link
The past two decades have revalidated William Fulbright’s observation that statesmen often confuse great power with total power and great responsibility with total responsibility. The war in Iraq and its aftermath testify to it. The U.S. effort to ‘contain’ the Iranian revolutionary forces, supplemented by the effort of the Arab states of the littoral (except Iraq) through the instrumentality of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC (May 1981), to coordinate, cooperate and integrate to ‘serve the sublime objectives of the Arab Nation’ initially met with success in some functional fields and a lack of it in its wider objectives.
In the meantime, geopolitical factors and conflicts elsewhere in the West Asian region — Yemen, Syria, Libya — aggravated global and regional relationships and hampered a modus vivendi in U.S.-Iran relations that was to be premised on the multilateral agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme agreed to by western powers and the Obama Administration but disowned by U.S. President Donald Trump whose strident policies have taken the region to the brink of an armed conflict.
Perceptions of declining U.S. commitment to sub-regional security have been articulated in recent months amid hints of changing priorities. This is reported to have caused disquiet in some, perhaps all, members of the GCC, the hub of whose security concern remains pivoted on an Iranian threat (political and ideological rather than territorial) and an American insurance to deter it based on a convergence of interests in which oil, trade, arms purchases, etc have a role along with wider U.S. regional and global determinants.
An evolving transformation
Record shows that the alternative of exclusive security arrangements promotes armament drives, enhances insecurity and aggravates regional tensions. It unavoidably opens the door for Great Power interference.
The relationship with Iran, complex at all times and more so recently on account of overt American pressure, has economic potential and geopolitical relevance on account of its actual or alleged role in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Iran also neighbours Turkey and some countries of Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea region. Its size, politico-technological potential and economic resources, cannot be wished away, regionally and globally, but can be harnessed for wider good.
India has eschewed involvement in local or regional disputes. Indian interests do not entail power projection; they necessitate in their totality, peace and regional stability, freedom of navigation and access to the region’s markets in terms of trade, technology and manpower resources. Indian interests would be best served if this stability is ensured through cooperative security since the alternative — of competitive security options — cannot ensure durable peace.
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