3 November 2021
Arabian Sea Dialogues Boasting a gilded heritage of trade ties going back to the Dilmun and Indus Valley civilisations, the Gulf states, united under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and India have emerged as crucial strategic, economic, and cultural partners. The multidimensional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic across the world, however, did not leave the partners untouched. While the Indian economy contracted by over 7 percent in 2020, the GCC, then experiencing bearish growth due to the tanking oil prices, shrunk by nearly 5 percent in the same period. Rapid vaccinations, early containment strategies, an uptick in consumer demand, and comprehensive economic recovery plans have upended the trend, but attaining pre-pandemic robustness in economies and bilateral ties is still a far cry. Given the uncertainty surrounding economic recovery, the long-impending Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations between India and the GCC is also hanging in the balance. In this context, where the Gulf and India are exploring paths to retain dynamism in bilateral ties, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Arab Planning Institute, Kuwait, convened a webinar on 27 October 2021 titled “India-GCC: Prospects for Post-Pandemic Trade Cooperation and Economic Recovery.” This edition of the Arabian Sea Dialogues featured the participation of distinguished experts in policy, diplomacy, and economics. The webinar began with the welcome remarks of Mr Akshay Mathur, Director, ORF Mumbai; Dr Belkacem Laabas of the Arab Planning Institute moderated the discussions. The panellists were Dr Ila Patnaik, Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi; Dr Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman, Gulf Research Centre, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Ambassador Anil Wadhwa, Distinguished Fellow, Vivekananda International Foundation; Dr Hasan Alhasan, Research Fellow for Middle East Policy, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Bahrain; and Ms Jhanvi Tripathi, Associate Fellow, ORF.