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Concurrence of Pak-Gulf strategic ties

Concurrence of Pak-Gulf strategic ties

The Gulf region is one of the world’s most security-critical locations, where stakeholders from outside the area work together or compete with each other on security apparatus for the region. The Gulf area includes six Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates under the flag of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The GCC. For Asian governments, the area has taken on particular significance. This is seen in the two areas growing relationships and partnerships between nations.

The GCC and Pakistan have traditionally maintained cordial relationships, which were primarily founded in religion but have now expanded to include political, strategic, and economic ties as well. Pakistan’s approach to the Gulf nations is largely influenced by the substantial influx of foreigners into the area. However, Pakistan’s heavy reliance on the GCC for energy is becoming more and more significant. Pakistan is a natural ally of the Gulf nations due to its strategic location, vital geographic location, and the efforts of its immigrants who have worked on innumerable construction projects there so, Gulf nations will always depend on foreign workers. GCC nations not only host a large Pakistani labour force but hold the second largest expatriate community after India encompassing professionals, businessmen, and skilled and semi-skilled labourers.

Official statistics from State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reveal that Pakistan received more than 54% of remittances from the Gulf region in 2022 including the remittances of Pakistani diaspora in Saudi Arabia who remitted $6.67 billion in 2022, which was closely followed by its citizens in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who sent $5.10 billion as remittances are the lifeblood for Pakistan’s economy amid perennial balance of payment (BoP) crises.

If we review the relationship of Pakistan with GCC countries then we realise the fact that it has several facets. Undoubtedly noteworthy are the Gulf’s contributions to Pakistan’s economy and Pakistan’s assistance to the GCC nations in terms of their militaries and security. However, geopolitical objectives have permeated even the relationship’s economic sides. Almost all of the military doctrines in the Gulf feature Pakistan’s profile in military terms and nuclear capability, the latter of which is seen as a bulwark against any infringement from the East (for example from Iran) to the Gulf.

History highlighted that, after gaining independence in 1947, Pakistan joined Western alliances like SEATO and CENTO, which made it more advantageous for the GCC in terms of security and strategic affairs than any other country at the time with open socialist tendencies like Egypt or a secular state like Turkey. At that time, neither the United States nor the United Kingdom served as the GCC’s first security suppliers, the oil boom in the 1970s marked the start of Pakistan’s increasing influence in the Gulf area partly because the suddenly oil-rich GCC nations invested their new-found cash in boosting their security by investing in state-of-the-art armaments. The locals lacked the tools’ technical know-how, too. In this context, personnel of the Pakistani defence forces, including the air and naval forces, were sent to the GCC nations to work with sophisticated machinery like radars while also primarily training the local security forces there.

The Saudi navy force was also created and trained with assistance from Pakistan. Pilots from the Pakistani Air Force assisted the Saudi air force in the 1960s in repelling an invasion by South Yemen from the Kingdom’s southern border. Pakistani troops have consistently served in advising and training capacities with Saudi security services. The combat effectiveness of forces against terrorist activities in low-intensity conflict situations is a major emphasis of training. Thus, Pakistani labourers contributed to the growth of these nations in several ways once they arrived.

There is no disputing the presence of Pakistani military personnel in Saudi Arabia, although the details of their military collaboration are rarely made public. If we fast forward the Pakistan-GCC strategic relationship in the 21st century then joint exercises, training, deployment, and sale of weapons are the proof of coordination. Thus, the area of common interest includes training and intelligence sharing. It also includes the purchase of weapons.

The GCC is the world’s largest importer of arms, but as budgets are set to remain tightened in an era of low oil prices, its members are also looking for cheaper alternatives. Pakistan is a perfect fit for this. Already talks of joint production and defence mechanisms are in place. Islamabad sees the GCC as a key market for this expansion. The Pakistan Ordnance Factory a few years back opened an office in Dubai, which covers the entire Middle East.

Asia’s reliance

For Asian states, the GCC nations are becoming more important. The main reason for this is that Asian nations are in the process of diversifying their economies and commerce away from dependence on the West. The growing high-level bilateral engagements between the two sides over the past ten years reveal such predispositions.

Increased collaboration on security, defence and counterterrorism is another sign of the new, developing alliances. Additionally, the major source of hydrocarbon imports from the GCC has been a huge number of Asian nations. Given that this need is expected to keep rising in the near future, the GCC will gradually play a larger role as an energy supplier to the Asian area. In addition, the GCC and Asian nations’ commercial relations are expanding quickly. Both the large number of Asian immigrants who work there and the investments the GCC nations are making in Asian states are covered by these linkages. Maintaining both regions’ security and stability is crucial for both sides.

In addition, if we look at the relationship of GCC countries in the context of BRI then we conclude that, even after China views the BRI as apolitical, several of its projects might have geopolitical ramifications that alter the balance of power in the area. States that might ordinarily be eager to work with China on the BRI may feel that some aspects of the programme conflict with their interests. This is the case of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations as well where all GCC nations have close relations to China and have endorsed the BRI as two major BRI projects, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the China-Central-West Asia Economic Corridor (CCWAEC), has important strategic implications for the GCC. The nature of these bilateral connections fits with China’s BRI cooperation aims of policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, financial integration, unrestricted trade, and people-to-people links. China-GCC nation’s collaboration has increased dramatically in recent years. Investment opportunities are another reason CPEC participation could be beneficial for GCC states. CPEC is expected to draw significant flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Pakistan, with one estimate projecting as much as $150 billion.

All GCC states feature as sources of FDI into Pakistan, with the UAE playing a leading role; Emirati investments in Pakistan are estimated at $20 billion in sectors such as telecommunications, finance, real estate, and energy. CPEC would provide further investment opportunities in mining, infrastructure construction, information technology, and software. In short, CPEC participation presents an opportunity for the GCC, as well as a chance to increase its strategic relationship with China.

The GCC nations should be aware that Pakistan is a necessary component of any new security bilateral trade architecture. Therefore, it is crucial that both parties assess their strategic interests and work together to build on common ground in order to protect their economic prospects by developing a more comprehensive and integrated future policy.

The Author is MD IRP/ Faculty Department of H&SS, Bahria University Karachi

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