Gulf States See Shift In Geopolitical Focus


(MENAFN- The Peninsula) M Mazharul Haque | The Peninsula

Doha, Qatar: The 21st edition of Doha Forum, a two-day event being held at Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel, organised yesterday a panel discussion titled 'Asia and the GCC: A Deepening Partnership.'

The topics of discussion encompassed a wide spectrum of issues on the Asia-Gulf relations spanning from energy issues to cooperation in technology, climate change, and especially the dynamic shift in Asia-GCC relations which has transcended their conventional trade ties centred on energy resources to other forms of cooperation.

"The Gulf states' increasing engagement with Asian nations including with organisations like Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS reflect a significant shift in their geopolitical focus. China's growing involvement in the Gulf region is evidenced by its mediation efforts between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which signifies a move from purely commercial interests to a more prominent political role," said Dr. Dania Thafer, the moderator of the discussion and Senior Fellow, Middle East Council on Global Affairs.

"The India-Middle East-Europe Economic corridor, which challenges the China's Belt and Road Initiative, is ironically backed by the United States, seeks to promote economic collaboration and development between the European countries, Israel, with the GCC states at the centre of it all," she added.

Dr Thafer noted that however, the harrowing war in Gaza introduces complexities. "Japan's extension into security and defence cooperation in the region, driven by concerns about regional stability amid rising tension, adds another layer of complexity, especially concerning the freedom of navigation and critical waterways," she said.

GCC Secretary General H E Jasem Mohamed AlBudaiwi, who was on the panel, said,“The strengthening of ties with Asian countries, doesn't mean that the GCC countries are moving away from their strategic and historical partners such as the United States and other countries. This is a new development in the relationship. This is opening up.

The ties with Asian countries are logical. The GCC countries before discovery of oil reached to India and other countries for merchandise, so we are in a very familiar zone.”

As for our engagement with Asia, we can start with GCC-China summit in December last year, then we held a summit with Central Asian states, a summit with Asean and ministerial meeting between Kuwait and Japanese foreign ministers.”

“The effort by GCC to get more integrated with Asia comes into a wider context. We are working on several partnerships within Europe and outside Europe and Africa. So this is a comprehensive effort by the GCC. In 2021, the trade volume between GCC and Asia stood at $516bn,” he added.

When asked about the impact of competition between US and China, another panellist Prof Wu Bingbing, Director, Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, Peking University, said,“In China, we don't see there is a strategic competition between US and China. We believe that we can coexist based on our mutual understanding. I think the Middle East and the GCC is not the main arena for China-US competition, so China never wants the GCC countries to take sides.

“We think that our relations with GCC countries are based on mutual interests, but in some cases US pushes GCC countries to stop or have less cooperation with China. China has very good relations with GCC countries and the GCC organisation and this relationship is getting even stronger.

We import 40 percent of our oil from GCC countries including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE and we import 25 percent of energy (LNG) needs from Qatar. Beyond that, in digital economy, healthcare, medical science and defence sector, China has very close relations with the GCC countries.”

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