Saturday 22nd of June 2024

GCC’s ‘Vision For Regional Security’
Prasanta Kumar Pradhan
Region : GCC,
Issue : Security,
For the first time since its inception, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced its ‘Vision for Regional Security’ at a ceremony held in its headquarters in Riyadh on 28 March 2024. While announcing the launch of the document, GCC Secretary General Jasem Mohamed Al Budaiwi stated that the “Vision for Regional Security is not just a political commitment, but an ethical dedication that unites us all.”1 He also stated that “our common security is the foundation upon which we build our hopes and dreams for a better future.”2 Similar sentiments have been previously expressed by the leaders of the GCC on multiple occasions. However, the national interests of the individual countries, the fluid nature of regional security and the complex geopolitics have hindered unity against the common security challenges.

Principles, Objectives and Commitments
The ‘Vision for Regional Security’ emphasises that it is based on the principles of shared destiny and indivisible security of the member states, and any threat to one is a threat to all the member States.3 This was also earlier mentioned in the Joint Defence Agreement of the GCC signed in 2000. 4 The vision document is based on the principles of respecting sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of the States. Based on these principles, the GCC aims to preserve regional security and stability, tackle the challenges facing them and settle the disputes through peaceful means. It also intends to build regional and international partnerships to deal with the regional threats.5
To achieve these objectives, the vision document emphasises joint efforts on the part of all the member states to avoid the use of force and prioritise dialogue and negotiation to resolve their differences. The Vision for Regional Security enlists a number of old and some new issues affecting regional security of the GCC. The document reiterates the traditional concern of the GCC countries on terrorism and extremism. It urges the member states to combat terrorism and extremism, stopping the flow of money to the hands of the terrorists and combat money laundering.6
The concern of the GCC countries over maritime security has also been reflected in the document. It calls for regional and international coordination to ensure maritime security and ensure trade and energy supply routes. As all the GCC countries are key suppliers of energy, any disruption in the sea lines of communication will directly affect their national economies.

As the threat of a nuclear arms race in the region looms large with Iran and Israel having nuclear programmes, the GCC has urged to make the region a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ). It calls for a nuclear non-proliferation regime in West Asia, and at the same time, supports the right of the States to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.7
With growing digitisation and the use of the internet, the number of cyber-attacks has also increased. They are also apprehensive that in case of any conflict, they would be highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks from their adversaries. Therefore, the vision document urges the member states to take effective steps to combat cyber security challenges.
Apart from the traditional security issues, climate change, water and food security, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), energy security, defending economic resources and creating investment opportunities have also been prioritised and included in their conception of regional security.8 Historically, the GCC has consistently emphasised the imperative of collaboration among the member states in addressing these shared challenges. These non-traditional security issues have increasingly occupied the attention of the GCC rulers in recent years and have been articulated in the vision document.
This is a clear reflection of the widening ambit of the GCC’s conception of regional security. The GCC has moved beyond the traditional interpretation of regional security and its analysis of regional security has become more comprehensive in nature and scope. Previously, the regional security issues were primarily articulated through official communiqués issued after the high-level summit meetings of the GCC. The unveiling of the vision document constitutes a formal and unambiguous articulation of their regional security vision and a reiteration of their commitment to work together in this regard.

Geopolitical Context
The document has come at a time when the West Asian region is engulfed in a turmoil since the beginning of the Israel–Hamas War in October 2023. The vision document makes explicit reference to the Israel–Palestine issue and calls for activating the Arab Peace Initiative.9 Among others, it calls for a two-State solution, the withdrawal of Israeli forces to the pre-June 1967 borders and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. It seems like the devastating consequences of the ongoing Israel–Hamas War and its regional implications have had an impact on the formulation of the vision document. The GCC often expresses its concerns over other regional issues such as the crisis in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon etc., but the Israel–Palestine issue is the only regional issue which finds a mention in the vision document.
The Israel–Hamas War has impacted the wider region as well, spilling over into the neighbouring Red Sea. The Houthis, whom the GCC member countries except Oman have fought against, have again become active. They have been targeting the ships in the Red Sea and as a result, a new tension has been created in the high seas. A coalition of more than 20 countries led by the US has started ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ to ensure the freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. The tensions in the Red Sea affects all the GCC countries, more specifically Saudi Arabia, as it shares a long border with the Red Sea. While Riyadh’s engagement with the Houthis was moving in a positive direction following the Saudi–Iran rapprochement, the Houthis involvement in the Israel–Hamas War has brought the Houthi trouble back for the Kingdom.
The Israel–Hamas War has once again brought the US–Iran tension in the region to the fore. Recent months have witnessed an increasing number of attacks on the US forces by different militia groups in GCC’s neighbourhood in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. The US has alleged that these groups are backed by Iran. The GCC countries are worried about any further military escalation between the US and Iran in their neighbourhood.
The announcement of the document at this point is a conscious move on the part of the GCC to reaffirm its cohesion at the time of fast-evolving regional crises. It proposes a comprehensive framework of regional security which promotes negotiation and dialogue to overcome disagreements, violence and conflict. Furthermore, it reinforces the role of the organisation in mediating as well as resolving regional conflicts. While the vision document is an effort in the right direction, executing this framework in a volatile geopolitical and security environment will test the commitment of the individual member states and the unity of the GCC as a collective.
About the author: Dr Prasanta Kumar Pradhan is Research Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
This article was originally published by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA).
The views expressed above belong to the author(s)
• 1.“His Excellency the GCCSG Launches the Vision of the Gulf Cooperation Council for Regional Security”, Gulf Cooperation Council, 29 March 2024.
• 2.Ibid.
• 3.“Gulf Cooperation Council Vision for Regional Security”, Gulf Cooperation Council, 2024.
• 4.“The Joint Defence Agreement of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG)”, Ministry of Justice, State of Qatar, 13 March 2002.
• 5.“Gulf Cooperation Council Vision for Regional Security”, no. 3.
• 6.Ibid.
• 7.Ibid.
• 8.Ibid.
• 9.Arab Peace Initiative also known as Saudi Initiative is a proposal to end the Arab–Israeli conflict which has been endorsed by the Arab League.

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