The Arab Gulf States and the Indo-Pacific: The Geo-economics of Strategic Autonomy


The large Asian economies of the Indo-Pacific – China, Japan, India, and South Korea – are vital to the long-term economic prosperity of the Arab Gulf states. They are the Arab Gulf states’ largest trading and energy partners; in the decades to come, they are likely to continue to constitute a principal source of demand for Gulf hydrocarbons despite the global transition to a net zero carbon economy. Meanwhile, the Gulf states have embarked on ambitious economic modernization visions that are meant to prepare them for a post-oil world. The large Indo-Pacific economies are also positioning themselves as providers of technology and know-how to the Gulf states, forging partnerships that the Gulf states view as being key to their own economic modernization strategies. Although trade, investments, migration, and technology are likely to remain the backbone of the Gulf states’ relations with the large Indo-Pacific economies, nascent defence and security cooperation suggests that these relations are already spilling over into the strategic realm.

From a geostrategic perspective, the Gulf states consider their Indo-Pacific ties as being instrumental to building up their geo-economic power through trade, investments, and the transfer of knowledge. Given the US’s waning security commitment to the Gulf region, the Gulf states are conscious of the strategic imperative of building up their national economic and military capabilities to achieve autonomy. For now, strategic autonomy remains partial and elusive as the Gulf states are still dependent on their defence and security partnership with the US. The Gulf states consider economic diversification particularly into high-tech sectors and localizing defence industrial production – areas where their Indo-Pacific partnerships may serve them well – as prerequisites for acquiring strategic autonomy in a post-American order.

Speaker :
Dr. Hasan Alhasan is a Research Fellow for Middle East Policy at The IISS. He specialises in the Gulf region's geopolitics, geo-economics, and relations with South Asia. His current research examines the Arab Gulf states' 'bailout diplomacy' in the MENA region, their Indo-Pacific strategies, and their foreign and security policies towards Iran and Afghanistan. He is the co-editor of "India and the Gulf: Theoretical Perspectives and Policy Shifts" (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). Hasan previously served for five years as senior analyst on foreign policy and national security at the Office of the First Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain. He has earned a PhD in International Relations from King's College London. He is also a graduate of Sciences Po Paris (cum laude) and the London School of Economics and is a 2007 recipient of the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program in Bahrain.

Chair & Moderation:
Nicolas Blarel, Leiden University
Eckart Woertz, GIGA 

Scientific coordinators : Christophe Jaffrelot, Sciences Po-CERI / CNRS, David Camroux, Sciences Po - CERI, Patrick Köllner, GIGA and Amrita Narlikar, GIGA.

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