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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Gulf looks East amid fears of European instability, hopes of Asian unity (Global Times)


By M.D. Nalapat
Global Times | 2012-10-17 21:10:03

The countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have traditionally "looked West" in their geopolitical preferences. Historically, the US, France and the UK have been very closely involved in the GCC.

However, since the dawn of the 21st century, certain events have shaken the trust between the GCC and the West.

The wars in Afghanistan from 2001 and Iraq since 2003 annoyed public opinion throughout Asia, especially in countries where Muslims are dominant.

In 2011, it was the way in which Washington, London and Paris washed their hands of Hosni Mubarak, after more than three decades when the Egyptian leader ensured that the policies of the US, Israel and the EU were implemented faithfully.

And although Muammar Gaddafi gave away his WMD programs and his intelligence secrets to NATO from 2003 to 2005, that did not save him from overthrow and eventual death in 2011.

It is not only in geopolitics that NATO has taken the GCC for granted, getting concessions without giving anything in return except goods for which cash has to be paid, such as Saudi Arabia's purchases of $50 billion worth of US and EU defense equipment during the past five years.

Investors in the GCC are estimated to have lost $1.3 trillion as a consequence of the greed and mismanagement of Western banks and investment vehicles.

It is clear that New York, Frankfurt, London and Paris are no longer safe destinations for putting money in.

Christine Lagarde, IMF Managing Director, appointed to promote and protect European interests, has publicly warned that for the next three years at least, Europe will continue to suffer economic slowdown.

In other words, Asia will need to take on the major responsibility for global economic recovery.

Over the decades, the GCC countries have become the home of several high-class universities and think tanks, and these are increasingly of the view that the alliance ought to "Look East" rather than only to the West, as they have traditionally done so far.

The Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), hosted this week by Kuwait, is the first major organization begun within Asia that includes the key countries of both West Asia and East Asia.

Interestingly, while the Kuwait has invited journalists from several Asian countries to attend the ACD, they have not invited media from the NATO countries.

It should not be forgotten that the ACD was begun in 2002 by ASEAN as a forum that would work out Asian solutions to Asian problems.

For the first time, the GCC countries are spearheading a move to get Asian countries to unite behind a common economic, cultural and educational agenda.

The last is very important, as there is a growing realization among Asian countries that they have till now outsourced much of higher education to Western educational institutions, which naturally focus on their own welfare, often at the expense of Asian interests.

Syria is an important issue facing the region, and Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi is clear that Iran has to be part of the solution rather than be excluded from discussions as part of the problem, the way NATO wants.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has also attended the Kuwait summit.

The Kuwait summit promises to usher in an era of Asian cooperation, in a world where the unity of Asian countries has become indispensable for world peace, economic progress and social stability.


The author is director and professor of the School of Geopolitics at Manipal University in India.

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