The 41st Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit was held in January 2021, in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia. Several key decisions were made at this summit. During this summit, India also had a virtual meeting with the GCC members. Several key points were discussed, some of which are listed below:
- Transport Bubbles' or 'Air Travel Arrangements' between GCC nations to facilitate smooth travel for Indian workers post COVID-19
- GCC support for India's inclusion in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member from January 2021
- Supply of essential items, food, and medicines to the Gulf region
This article will help you understand how the Gulf Cooperation Council was formed and its importance in the Indian context.
Gulf Cooperation Council - Overview
Established in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council is an alliance of six Arabian countries - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The formation of this council was primarily led by the common goals, geographic proximity, and similar political structures of the nations based on Islamic beliefs.
The council promotes the economic, security, cultural, and social cooperation of the member nations and meets each year to discuss cooperation and regional affairs. The council structure consists of the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council, and the Secretariat General. The secretariat is located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
India and the Gulf Cooperation Council
Although India is not part of the GCC or located in the Arabian peninsula, GCC countries are friendly with India. Some of the many reasons for this include the following:
- GCC countries have significant hydrocarbon and oil reserves, vital for India's energy requirements. GCC nations also account for around 34% of India's crude oil imports
- There is a high presence of Indian-origin workers and businesses in GCC countries, particularly UAE and Saudi Arabia
- Both India and the GCC nations are the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) members
- GCC countries have a historical, political, economic, and cultural significance for India. It is also a central trading hub, and negotiations for India-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Agreement (FTA) are crucial for India and the GCC nations. Bilateral trade between GCC and India amounted to USD 121 billion with remittances of USD 49 billion from a workforce of over nine million
Some of the key activities that signify positive interaction between India and GCC include the following:
- The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was conferred the 'Order of Zayed', the highest civilian order of the UAE, and 'King Hamad Order of the Renaissance' by Bahrain.
- The lack of a hostile stance of GCC nations on India's domestic development includes revoking Article 370 for Jammu & Kashmir.
- Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait are part of India's mega multilateral Milan Exercise.
- India has a bilateral naval (In-UAE BILAT) and an air force exercise (Desert Eagle-II) with the UAE.
- India and Oman hold the annual bilateral exercises for the three wings of their armed forces: the Army, the Airforce, and the Navy.
- Oman has provided strategic access to the Indian navy to the Port of Duqm SEZ, one of the largest seaports in the Indian Ocean.
The GCC is important for India, given its long-standing relations with the countries in the Middle East. While Saudi Arabia was the major power in this region, new regional leaders like Qatar and UAE are now playing a significant role in the political situation of this region. Therefore, India-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the other initiatives are crucial for India and maintaining positive relations with GCC member nations to safeguard its large economic, political and demographic stakes in the region.
FAQs on Gulf Cooperation Council
Q.1. How many countries are there in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)?
There are six member nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), all of which are part of the Arabian peninsula. These include - Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
Q.2. What does the Gulf Cooperation Council do?
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is an economic and political alliance of six member nations in the Arabian peninsula. The GCC promotes economic, security, cultural, and social cooperation in these six countries (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Bahrain).
Q.3. Which is the only Arab country not part of the Gulf Cooperation Council?
The only Arab country that is not a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Iraq.
Q.4. Is Iran part of the Gulf Cooperation Council?
No, Iran is not part of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as it is not an Arab nation. The confusion is mainly because Iran is located in the Middle East, has a Muslim majority, and its language resembles Arabic.