Amidst the fragile world order and great power competition, the recent GCC-CAR summit aims to strengthen political and strategic relations
Amidst the current fragile world order and great power competition, the summit intended to strengthen political and strategic relations between the GCC and CARs based on shared values, deep historical ties, and mutual interests.The Jeddah Summit followed the GCC-CARs’ first joint ministerial-level strategic dialogue on regional and international issues in September 2022, which laid the groundwork for cooperation between the two sides at bilateral and multilateral levels to effectively address contentious regional and international issues. The next GCC-Central Asia Summit will be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, in 2025 to strengthen the growing parallels on diverse fronts.
The intense rivalry between China and the United States, while being detrimental to global problems like terrorism, Islamophobia, radicalisation and armed conflicts, has also created a tense geopolitical environment.The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has forced the CARs to rethink their foreign policy regarding sovereignty, safety, and stability. They are looking to seek international investors for mega infrastructure projects to diversify their economy and trade and establish inter- and intra-regional connectivity. So far, the GCC member states have acted independently of each other in the CARs, primarily via investments in energy and culture. Saudi Arabia has invested in Kazakhstan. Recently, Uzbekistan also secured investments of US$14 billion from Riyadh in agriculture, pharmaceuticals, transport, and information technology etc. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has invested in infrastructure in Kazakhstan, oil in Turkmenistan, and signed a US$10-billion agreement with Uzbekistan for distribution and power generation. On the other hand, Qatar has donated US$100-million for the construction of a mosque in Tajikistan. However, compared to China, Russia, and the European United (EU), the GCC countries have negligible trade and investment ties with their northwestern neighbours. For example, in 2021, the trade between GCC and CARs was a minimal US$ 3.1 billion, compared to China’s US$ 70 billion, in 2022. The ancient Silk Road provided the conduit for trade and cultural convergences, building the socio-economic ties between the CARs and GCC. Both regions have expressed the urgency for flexible supply chains, food security, and energy security. Furthermore, they have also stressed on efficient transportation and communication links to facilitate trade and commerce. Recently, Saudi Arabia and Iran re-established diplomatic ties, which could lead to a significant political and diplomatic realignment in West Asia and further aid GCC-CAR relations. This diplomatic thaw in West Asia can boost the development of the International North-South Transport Corridor via Central Asia and the India-led Chabahar Port in the Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan.
Saudi Arabia and Iran re-established diplomatic ties, which could lead to a significant political and diplomatic realignment in West Asia and further aid GCC-CAR relations.In the Jeddah Summit, the GCC countries attempted to formalise a unified approach towards CARs based on historical ties, including deeply ingrained values, cultural heritage, and religious beliefs. The shared religious beliefs between the two regions are underpinned by the Bukhari Sharif—sayings of the Prophet—the most revered book after the Quran, written by religious scholars from the CARs. At the summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman highlighted enhanced GCC-CARs cooperation as pivotal to regional security and stability. The leaders stressed on “respect for the sovereignty of states, their territorial integrity and political independence, non-interference in their internal affairs” and the protection of the global order based on the United Nations Charter. They called for greater synergy in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for securing reliable food supply chains for needy countries in the Islamic world during current geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges as well as due to climate change. The current global geopolitical contestations have strengthened terror organisations like the Deash and triggered the emergence of affiliates such as the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Eurasia and the Middle East. Emboldened after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, ISKP launched rocket attacks on Central Asian countries from the Af-Pak region. On 18 April 2022, ISKP fired 10 Katusha rockets towards the military base in Terme, Uzbekistan. Similarly, on 7 May 2022, the group launched seven rockets from Afghanistan's Khwaja Ghar district towards unspecified military bases in Tajikistan. In the joint statement following the Jeddah Summit, the leaders expressed their determination to support regional and global efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and their funding sources. They also expressed strong concerns about the rising rhetoric of racism and Islamophobia in the form of intolerance and violence against Muslim minorities and Islamic symbols; for example, the burning of the Quran in Sweden and Denmark.
Emboldened after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, ISKP launched rocket attacks on Central Asian countries from the Af-Pak region.Increased cooperation between the GCC and CARs is a significant development for the region, especially when other regional alliances, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), are far from delivering any concerted measures for regional and global peace. However, for the GCC-Central Asia cooperation to flourish, the CARs must first address their internal fault lines like border disputes, and protests against government that have widened in the last two years. Convergence within CARs is a precondition for regional peace, prosperity, and security. Finally, China and Russia, who enjoy a much more robust engagement with both CARs and the GCC, can play dominant roles in any regional collaboration, whether geostrategic or geoeconomic.
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Ayjaz Wani (Phd) is a Fellow in the Strategic Studies Programme at ORF. Based out of Mumbai, he tracks China’s relations with Central Asia, Pakistan and ...Read More +