India and the Gulf Cooperation Council

“India and the Gulf Cooperation Council: Nurturing a Comprehensive Partnership”

Foreign Policy, Gulf Cooperation Council, India's Foreign Policy, International Relations, Political Science

India and the Gulf Cooperation Council


The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has evolved into a significant geopolitical entity, comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, since its establishment in 1981. Positioned as a regional political and economic alliance, the GCC strives to achieve closer unity among the energy-rich Gulf nations. Against this backdrop, India’s Look West Policy has strategically engaged with the GCC, fostering a multifaceted relationship encompassing trade, investment, energy, and security.

Trade and Economic Partnership:

The GCC has emerged as a linchpin in India’s trade dynamics, with bilateral trade exceeding USD 154 billion in the fiscal year 2021-22. The GCC’s substantial oil and gas reserves are integral to meeting India’s burgeoning energy needs. Moreover, the presence of a substantial Indian expatriate community across GCC countries serves as a social and economic bridge. Currently, investments from the GCC in India stand at over USD 18 billion, underscoring the vast untapped potential for collaboration.

Strategic Relations:

The foundation of India-GCC relations rests on a shared vision for political stability and security in the region. This shared commitment translates into collaborative efforts for peace, security, and stability in the Gulf and South Asia. As the GCC undergoes transformative changes, the scope for cooperation has expanded beyond conventional sectors to encompass security and broader strategic initiatives.

Areas of Cooperation:

  • Political Cooperation:
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received recognition for his instrumental role in building strategic relationships, evidenced by prestigious awards such as the ‘Order of Zayed’ from the UAE and the King Hamad Order of the Renaissance from Bahrain.
  • Economic Ties:
    • The GCC states, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia, play pivotal roles as India’s third and fourth-largest trading partners, respectively.
    • Annual remittances from the vast Indian diaspora in GCC countries amount to approximately USD 4.8 billion, highlighting the economic interdependence.
  • Security Collaboration:
    • The collaboration in security has strengthened through bilateral and multilateral military exercises, exemplified by events such as Desert Flag VIII, Zayed Talwar, Desert Eagle-II, and annual exercises with Oman.
    • These initiatives underscore a shared commitment to regional security and stability.

Bilateral Agreements and Future Prospects:

  • The GCC-India Industrial Conference, held periodically, signifies a commitment to deepening economic ties.
  • Ongoing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) demonstrate a collective effort to remove trade barriers.
  • The signing of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the UAE is a landmark, aiming to boost bilateral merchandise trade to USD 100 billion by 2030.
  • The operationalization of CEPA in May 2022 and ongoing negotiations for an FTA with the entire GCC group highlight the momentum and optimism for the future.


The evolving partnership between India and the GCC transcends economic considerations, reflecting a robust alliance grounded in political, economic, and security cooperation. As both India and the GCC navigate geopolitical changes, the depth and breadth of this relationship hold the promise of mutual prosperity. The dynamic landscape of the region, coupled with the shared commitment to stability, positions India and the GCC for a thriving and mutually beneficial future.

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