Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a regional political organization comprising the energy rich Gulf monarchies – following are members of GCC
And the United Arab Emirates.
When and why was it founded?
- GCC was Establishment in 25 May 1981
- Head Quarters is in Riyadh-Saudi Arabia
- Secretary-General Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani
- The founding charter focused more on issues of social and cultural cohesion, environmental and scientific coordination and economic cooperation
- Recently, Morocco and Jordan have applied for the GCC membership which is currently being studied by the Expert Committee
India and GCC: Contours of cooperation
- The Gulf constitutes the “immediate” neighborhood of India separated only by the Arabian Sea
- The Gulf, as the principal source of India’s energy requirements, is central to our energy security interests: it meets 75% of our oil needs at present; as our demand increases in coming years, India’s dependence will go up to 90% by 2035.
- GCC is India’s largest trading partner as an economic grouping, with two-way trade being more than our ties with the European Union, ASEAN and North America
- Four GCC countries figure in India’s top 10 trade partners.
- The India-GCC Free Trade Agreement which is under negotiation could usher in a new era of trade
Important Dimensions of GCC
Although India and the GCC countries share a strong economic relationship, there is much progress to be achieved on the political front. Let’s have a close look at some of the important dimensions –
- Defense Diplomacy : India’s defense diplomacy with countries of the GCC is well reputed.
- India has signed a military protocol with Oman which has facilitated joint military exercises
- India has also signed a defense cooperation agreement with the UAE
- Our new naval diplomacy document increases our focus on west Asian countries.
- Counter Terrorism :
- The meteoric rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) in neighboring countries like Iraq and Syria pose a huge threat to the peace and stability of the GCC countries.
- Maritime Security
- Primary maritime security threatsinclude piracy at sea, smuggling of narcotics and arms and the imminent threat of maritime terrorism.
- These threats pose major challenges to the Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs)that India depends heavily on to carry out trade by sea
- India’s international trade by sea amounts to about 90% of the foreign trade, and it takes place through 13 major ports and several minor ports
- In recent times the term “Indo Pacific era”has gained currency.
- Culture & Diaspora
- We have an eight-million strong community in the GCC that remits annually $35 billion to the national exchequer
- Minor concerns –If you remember, in 2013 Saudi Arabia issues a Nitaqat Law – The ‘Nitaqat’ law makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers
- There had been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.
Together, the GCC countries possess almost half of the world’s oil reserves. However, a swift depletion of oil and gas reserves, coupled with population increases in many GCC countries in the last decade, has resulted in attempts to expand beyond the energy sector into other fields, such as tourism, construction and finance.
The International Monetary Fund has projected a stronger growth outlook in 2018, although low oil prices are expected to continue hamper the Gulf States’ GDP growth. According to a report published this year by the World Bank, Bahrain is the most vulnerable GCC country due to low oil prices, limited savings and high debt levels.
In 2009, a monetary council was established to take the necessary measures for issuing a single currency, but this was dropped after the UAE pulled out and Oman stated it did not want to be part of it.
The GCC comprises six main branches that carry out various tasks, from the preparation of meetings to the implementation of policies.
The Supreme Council is the top decision-making group that meets once a year and is made up of the GCC heads of state. For important matters, decisions taken must be unanimous.
The Ministerial Council is formed of foreign ministers or other ministers, who meet every three months to propose policies and execute decisions.
The Secretariat-General is an administrative body that organizes meetings and observes the enactment of policies.
The Consultative Commission advises the Supreme Council and is composed of five representatives from each member state.
The Commission for the Settlement of Disputes is formed to look for diplomatic solutions to problems among member states.
The Secretary-General is appointed by the Supreme Council for three years. The term can be renewed only once. The current role has been filled since 2011 by Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, a retired Bahraini lieutenant general.