Why relationships matter

India’s ties with the Arabian Gulf and peninsula date back to several millennia


Joydeep Sengupta

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Published: Sat 11 Jun 2022, 11:18 PM

India’s ties with the Arabian Gulf and peninsula date back to several millennia.

Numerous Indian sailors, merchants, intellectuals and men of faith had crossed the Indian Ocean and there was a free-flowing exchange of navigation skills, barter trade, and material and spiritual beliefs. India has deep-seated interests — both geo-strategic and economic — in the region and New Delhi has been making a concerted effort to bolster the relationship further. There are over eight million Indian expatriates working in the six Gulf Cooperation Councils (GCC) countries, including over 3.5 million and 3 million in the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), respectively, as professionals and blue-collar workers over the past four decades. Their contribution of over $35 billion in annual remittances accounts for an estimated one-third of India’s crude oil import bills.

The head of state or government of every GCC country visited India between 2005 and 2007 as trade and investments have flourished between New Delhi and the Arab states in the new millennium. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has focused on the region from the beginning of his first term in May 2014, visiting all the major regional capitals, such as Abu Dhabi (the UAE), Riyadh (KSA), Manama (Bahrain), Doha (Qatar) and Muscat (Oman) in 2015-16. The joint statements issued at the end of each high-level interaction celebrates New Delhi’s historic civilisational ties with the region, to forge a strategic and economic partnership.

India is largely dependent on the UAE, the KSA and Qatar for its oil and gas, and the reliance is likely to continue through this decade, despite gravitating towards renewables.


Renewable energy development provides for an exemplary synergy between India and the GCC, especially the UAE. Water conservation and food security are an integral part cooperation between India and the GCC nations that are charting ambitious roadmaps for sustainability, smart technology, artificial intelligence and cutting-edge innovation. For instance, the farm-to-port project in the works involves a special farming zone, where crops are grown for the UAE market and a dedicated logistics infrastructure to the port. Such path-breaking initiatives are further strengthening the cultural and economic ties between India and the GCC nations.

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