The relationship between Gulf countries and India has gradually improved in the past few years. Due to the climate, the world is moving away from oil; therefore, gulf countries are diversifying their economic relations. Gulf countries are increasing their investment in India because India is a huge market as well as the largest country in terms of population. Increasing relations between Gulf countries and India is going to have implications for Pakistan.
Gulf countries remained a vocal supporter of Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan can also try to increase diversifying relationships with Gulf countries to counter Indian influence. There has been a gradual, yet visible, transformation in India’s relationship with the Gulf countries. Recently, in Saudi Arabia, US National Security Adviser met with Indian National Security, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and UAE National Security Adviser to advance their shared vision of a secure and prosperous Middle East region. The conference marks the first-ever rise in India-US collaboration in West Asia. They highlighted relationships, deterrence, diplomacy, integration, and ideals. The talks centered on bilateral and regional issues, such as the Abraham Accords and future collaborative infrastructure projects.
India’s desire to expand its strategic presence in the Indian Ocean region, it plans to broaden its military-to-military contacts with GCC countries, including joint exercises and defense industrial collaboration. UAE and Saudi Arabia have become its pivotal partners, alongside Oman, which is considered India’s “closest defense partner in the region.”.A collaboration between Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI) and Indian armed forces in the domain of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS).
India’s defense partnerships with these countries are gaining attention. From merely training security personnel in various military institutes, they have expanded ties to other areas such as intelligence sharing, counterterrorism, artificial intelligence, electronic warfare, and cybersecurity. They are also promoting collaborations in manufacturing cutting-edge defense technologies.
China was able to mediate the conflict between Saudi Arabia and India; the US perceives China as a leader of the Middle East by negotiating. The US is bringing India, Israel, and other countries together for its own national security purposes. US, Israel, and India’s presence is increasing in the Middle East to counter China which can be a challenge for Pakistan.
When it comes to the GCC members, there have been a few developments in collaboration in defense technology. For instance, in February 2023, during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) held in Abu Dhabi, India’s Hindustan (HAL) and the UAE’s defense firm, EDGE, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore the possibility of joint design and development of missile systems and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Pakistan has maintained cordial ties with most Arab countries, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE are by far the most significant Saudi Arabia partners of Pakistan. Whether it was the wars of 1965, 1971 or sanctions after nuclear tests, Saudi Arabia came forward and helped Pakistan. Both countries have remained close allies.
Strong growing relations between India and GCC countries, can create complex interdependence between them which can lead to a change in their foreign policy towards Kashmir.
GCC countries could stop their support for Pakistan over Kashmir in the UN, we have seen that in the case of UAE. According to a report, UAE invested worth $60m in Illegally Occupied Kashmir. According to the report, the number of Pakistani migrants in the GCC states is approx. 3.4 million. Their cooperation could cause a threat to Pakistani laborers working in the Gulf States. They could lose their jobs as GCC could hire Indian laborers for working together because of increasing ties between them. Pakistan should focus on its cooperation with GCC and ensure that India doesn’t take this opportunity to damage their relationships with Gulf Countries.
The author is a Research Assistant at CISS AJK working on emerging technologies, nuclear politics, and new trends in warfare. She tweets @HiraBK5090