Both India and Pakistan are deepening and diversifying their ties in the Gulf region amidst competitive bilateral relations, while balancing their ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, noted IISS Senior Fellow for South Asia, Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, and IISS Consulting Senior Fellow and former British High Commissioner to Pakistan, Philip Barton, at an IISS corporate members meeting on 28 June.
With Pakistan seeking a leadership role in the Islamic world, Saudi Arabia remains its closest Gulf ally, where more than 1,000 Pakistani military personnel are engaged in training. India’s intends to boost its trade ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – currently worth US$60 billion – by an ambitious 60% in the next four years, while the UAE has targets of US$75b in investments in India.
Although economic and energy ties, as well as expatriate remittances, remain critical to Pakistan’s prosperity, India–Gulf relations are currently diversifying into security and defence cooperation. New counterterrorism and counter-extremism cooperation pledges targeting Pakistan are expected to bring dividends in India’s ties with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Pakistan has indicated a significant naval commitment to the Gulf, most notably participating in – and occasionally commanding – the Combined Task Force 150, based in Bahrain. Despite India’s deepening military-to-military relations, it has no intention of becoming a ‘net security provider’ in the region or providing ‘boots on the ground’, preferring instead a pragmatic policy that avoids the risk of any political or security misadventures.
The May 2016 tripartite agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan on the Iranian port of Chabahar, and India’s pledge of US$500 million for its development, seeks to bypass Pakistan’s denial (to India) of the land route access to Afghanistan, while seeking to counter China’s construction of port facilities at Gwadar, lying 70 nautical miles eastward.
Rahul Roy-Chaudhury is Senior Fellow for South Asia at the IISS, where he heads its South Asia programme. He served in the National Security Council Secretariat in the Prime Minister's Office in the previous BJP-led administration in India. His research interests include regional-security issues, India’s foreign policy, and maritime security in the Indian Ocean. He organises several ‘track 1.5’ conferences on South Asia, which are held in New Delhi, Islamabad, Oman, Singapore and Bahrain.
Philip Barton is currently an IISS Consulting Senior Fellow, on secondment from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Until mid-May 2016, he was the Director General in charge of the UK Prime Minister's Anti-Corruption Summit. Prior to this, he was the British High Commissioner to Pakistan (2014-16) and before that the Deputy British Ambassador to the US (2011–13). He was the Director for Foreign Policy and Af/Pak Co-ordinator in the National Security Secretariat at the peak of the UK's engagement in Afghanistan, and was closely involved in the establishment of the UK's National Security Council in 2010. He also spent three years at Number 10 as Private Secretary to John Major and then Tony Blair. Philip has a particular interest in South Asia, having served in New Delhi earlier in his career and been the FCO Director responsible for the UK's relations with the region. He has also been Deputy Governor of Gibraltar and Deputy High Commissioner in Nicosia.
The meeting took place in the fourth-floor Council Room at Arundel House, 13-15 Arundel Street, Temple Place, London WC2R 3DX.
This Corporate Breakfast was offered by IISS Consulting.