Gulf countries should look East, not West

DUBAI - Countries in the Gulf region should focus on strengthening their ties with their Asian neighbours, especially India, as a lot can be learnt from their experiences, said a well-known writer and expert on Asian Studies.

By Prerna Suri

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Published: Sun 11 Apr 2004, 11:21 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:58 PM

Dr Abdulla Elmadani, a Bahrain-based academic researcher and lecturer and author of several books on India and its impact on the Gulf region, emphasised the importance of sustaining long-lasting ties with India, particularly in the realm of culture.

"India is fast becoming a rising power and the Gulf has had long economic, social and scientific ties with her. But despite their long historical relationship, their interaction has largely been confined to trade and labour, and there has been no systematic exchange of cultures. Greater cultural exchange needs to be encouraged as India has had a long lasting impact on this region since the beginning of the 20th century," he said.

The noted writer also said that looking after the interests of workers and labourers from the sub-continent becomes a pre-requisite in this day and age of globalisation, which all countries should abide by.

"We have to promote the idea of treating these labourers with greater respect and dignity within the Gulf region as we need to abide by international standards. Educating these people on their rights is a first step in this direction and one which should be promoted by the authorities," he said.

Calling on the Arab states to formulate their foreign policy on national interests rather than sentimental issues, Dr Elamadani said that by forging new ties, greater development can be achieved.

"The new diktats of international relations say that a country's foreign policy must be governed by what is in its national interest. Certain Arab countries need to realise this, and instead of basing their relationships with countries on ideology and religious beliefs, they must focus on what is in the countries' and their people's best interests."

He added that by studying the success stories of different Asian countries, countries in the Gulf region can steadily progress on the path to greater development, and that instead of focusing on the West, the region should be looking more towards the East.

"We can benefit by studying the experiences of our Asian neighbours, as Asia is the future of the 21st century. India's success as a vibrant democracy and a major player in the global IT industry, Malaysia's excellent example of juggling Islamic values and modernity with equal aplomb, Japan's pragmatism, and Thailand's tourism strategy are all great models which our region can greatly benefit from," he said.

Elaborating further on the subcontinent's role in the Gulf region, Dr Elamadani said that India's impact resonated on the daily dialect of the people, on the cuisine, clothes, music, and even furniture."

A study has proved that Hindi words make up at least nine per cent of the vocabulary of the Gulf dialect. Apart from this, India's influence can be seen in Middle Eastern cuisine and even largely on furniture. Peacock-embellished mirrors used by Arab women earlier are a testament to this, as the peacock is not found in this region, as well as the traditional Omani women's costume. So, the impact is widespread over a diverse spectrum and Arab states can benefit a lot by expanding their ties with their Asian neighbours," added Dr Elmadani.

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