Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – UPSC Notes

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), also known as the “Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf“, is an intergovernmental, regional, political, and economic union of six countries in the Arabian Peninsula. These 6 Member States include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The GCC Charter was signed on 25 May 1981, formally setting up the Gulf Cooperation Council. The main headquarters of the Council is located in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

Overview of Gulf Cooperation Council

Establishment25 May 1981
HeadquarterRiyadh (Saudi Arabia)
Member Countries1. Bahrain
2. Kuwait
3. Oman
4. Qatar
5. Saudi Arabia
6. the United Arab Emirates
Official languageArabic

GCC – Background

Iran and Iraq had a war in 1981. The six Arabain Gulf nations: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE, successfully shielded many of their people from the adversities of the war. The Kuwait government formulated a proposal for an organisation to link the six Arabain Gulf countries, which have unique cultural and historical ties.

Accordingly, the GCC was set up in May 1981 by an agreement concluded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This agreement was among Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE in view of their special relations, geographical proximity, and similar political systems based on Islamic beliefs and common objectives. The grouping was formed to foster socio-economic, security, and cultural cooperation.

The unified economic agreement between the countries of the GCC was signed on 11 November 1981 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Member States of GCC

  • All current six member states are monarchies, including:
    • Three constitutional monarchies (Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar).
    • Two absolute monarchies (Oman and Saudi Arabia).
    • One federal monarchy (the United Arab Emirates).
  • Yemen was in negotiations for GCC membership in 2007. Yemen is already a member of the GCC Organisation for Industrial Consulting (GOIC), the GCC Council of Health Ministers, the GCC Education and Training Bureau, the GCC Council of Labour & Social Affairs Ministers, the GCC Auditing and Accounting Authority, the Gulf Radio and TV Authority, and the Gulf Cup Football Tournament.
  • The Council issued directives that all necessary measures to be taken so that Yemen would have the same rights and obligations as the GCC member states in those institutions.

Organization Structure

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) consists of the Supreme Council, the Ministerial Council, the Cooperation Council, the Secretariat General, and various Committees on social, economic, industrial and trade, and political affairs.

The Supreme Council

The Supreme Council of the GCC is the highest authority of the organisation. It consists of the Heads of the Member States. The presidency of the Supreme Council rotates periodically among the Member States in alphabetical order. It meets in an ordinary session annually and determines the organisation’s policies.

The meeting, to be valid, must be attended by two-thirds of the Member states. Each Member State has one vote. Resolutions in substantive matters require unanimous approval of participating member states in the voting. However, the decisions on procedural subjects are taken by the majority vote of the Supreme Council.

Beneath the Supreme Council is the Dispute Settlement Commission, constituted by the Supreme Council for each case of dispute arising out of the interpretation of the terms of the Charter.

The Ministerial Council

The Ministerial Council includes the Foreign Ministers of all the Member States. The Council is presided over by the Member State, which presided over the last ordinary session of the Supreme Council. It meets once every three months to prepare for the meetings of the Supreme Council. A session is valid if attended by two-thirds of the Member States.

The functions of the Ministerial Council include formulating policies, making recommendations for the promotion of cooperation, and achieving coordination among the Member States for implementing the ongoing projects. It submits its decision to the Supreme Council for approval. The voting procedure in Ministerial Council is the same as in the Supreme Council.

The Secretariat General

The Secretariat General is the executive arm of the GCC. It consists of the Secretary-General, eight Assistant Secretaries-General, the Directors-General of the functional divisions of the Secretariat, and all other subordinate employees.

The Supreme Council appoints the Secretary-General for the tenure of three years, which is renewable for another term. The Ministerial Council appoints the Assistant Secretaries-General on the nomination of the Secretary-General for a renewable tenure of three years.

The functions of the Secretariat General include several specialised and supportive areas like economic, political, military, security, finance and management, humanitarian and environmental affairs, strategic dialogue and negotiations, intellectual property rights, etc. The delegates of the missions of GCC to the United Nations and European Union form part of the administrative personnel of the Secretariat.

Peninsula Shield Force

The Peninsula Shield Force, formed in 1984, is the military arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It intends to deter and respond to military aggression against the GCC Member States. The first significant deployment of the Peninsula Shield Force was in 2011 in Bahrain to guard government infrastructure against an uprising during the Arab Spring protests.

Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting

The six GCC Member states founded the Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting (GOIC) in 1976. Yemen joined the organisation in 2009. Its headquarters is in Doha, Qatar. It is a market research organisation whose activities involve preparing economic feasibility studies, researching socio-economic statistics, and promoting regional coordination between industrial institutions.

Gulf Union Proposals

During the Arab Spring in 2011, Saudi Arabia proposed to transform the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) into a “Gulf Union” with tighter economic, political, and military coordination, a move considered to counterbalance Iranian influence in the region. However, other countries raised objections.

In 2014, the then Baharain Prime Minister said that current events in the region highlighted the importance of the proposal.

Objectives of GCC

The GCC Charter states that its primary objectives are:

  • To effect coordination, integration and inter-connection among the Member States in all fields in order to achieve unity between them.
  • To deepen and strengthen relations, links and areas of cooperation now prevailing between their peoples in various fields.
  • To formulate similar regulations in several fields, including the following:
    • Economic and Financial affairs.
    • Education and culture.
    • Social and Health Affairs.
    • Commerce, customs, and communications.
    • Information and tourism.
    • Legislative and Administrative Affairs.
  • To stimulate scientific and technological progress in fields of Agriculture, industry, mining, water and animal resources.
  • To establish joint ventures and encourage cooperation by the price sector for the good of their peoples.

India-GCC relations

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a collective entity has tremendous significance for India. The Gulf constitutes the immediate neighbourhood of India, separated only by the Arabian Sea. India, therefore, has a vital stake in the stability, security and economic well-being of the Gulf.

As a group, the GCC has been increasingly determining the economy, political and security policies of its Member States. The GCC countries are moving ahead rapidly with their economic integration efforts. The GCC has emerged as a prominent trading partner of India. It has vast potential as India’s investment partner for the future.

The GCC’s substantial oil and gas reserves are of utmost importance for India’s energy needs. The GCC countries collectively host a large Indian expatriate community, with over 6 million Indian nationalists living and working in the region. In short, the GCC offers tremendous potential for partnership in trade, investment, energy, workforce, etc.

Strategic relations

From a strategic point of view, India and GCC share the desire for political stability and security in the region. The common Political and Security concerns of GCC and India translate into efforts for peace, security and stability in the Gulf region and South Asia.

The emerging common security perceptions create further opportunities for GCC-India cooperation in the future. The GCC countries are going through vital changes and transformations; the process of understanding and integration is coming of age. Along with it, the areas for cooperation are also widening beyond investments, trade & commerce and sharing & development of human resources to security.

Political Relations

The Governments of the GCC Member States are India-friendly. In 2019, the Prime Minister of India received the “Order of Zayed” (the highest civilian order of UAE) and the “King Hamad Order of Renaissance” (the third-highest civilian order of Bahrain).

Security relations

Both India and the GCC are members of the Financial Task Action Force (FTAF).

Apart from the participation of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and others in India’s mega multilateral Milan Exercise, India also has bilateral exercises with most of them.

  • India and Oman hold annual bilateral exercises across all three wings of the armed forces: Army exercise “Al Najah“, Naval exercise “Naseem al Bahr“, and Air Force exercise “Eastern Bridge“.
  • With the UAE, India has a bilateral naval exercise “IN-UAE BILAT” and air force exercise “Desert Eagle-II“.

Economic and Commercial Relations

India enjoys traditionally cordial relations and cooperation with the GCC. India’s old and historical ties with the GCC States, along with increasing imports of oil & gas, growing trade & investment, and the presence of approximately 6.5 million Indian workers in the region, are of critical interest to India.

India’s economic linkage with the GCC has increased steadily, primarily due to the growth in oil imports. During 2020-21, India’s exports to GCC were US$ 28.06 billion. The bilateral two-way trade during the period was US$ 87.36 billion, registering a decline of about 27% over the previous year.

India-GCC Industrial Conference

The first GCC-India Industrial Conference took place in Mumbai in February 2004, followed by the second in Muscat in March 2006, the third held in Mumbai in May 2007, and the fourth held at King Abdullah Economic City (Jeddah) in November 2015.

India- GCC FTA

India and GCC signed a Framework Agreement for enhancing and developing economic cooperation between the two sides in New Delhi in August 2004. Two rounds of talks for finalizing aspects like tariff rules, rules of origin, etc., have been held. The India-GCC FTA is under negotiation.

Source: India-GCC Relations.

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