GCC opens new chapter of hope and unity

By Syyed Mansoor Agha

As the departure of Donald Trump from the White House become imminent, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stepped up to end three years old rift with Qatar. The patch-up, negotiated by Kuwait, was firmed up in the 41st GCC summit on 5th January in AlUla (KSA). Saudi Arabia reopened its borders with Qatar a day before the meeting. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman received Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani at AlUla airport with warmth. The Emir was wholeheartedly welcomed at the conference.

GCC, comprising six Gulf States, KSA, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman was formed in 1981. It is a non-combatant intergovernmental political and economic union. A Saudi proposal in 2011 to transform the Council into a “Gulf Union” to “counterbalance the Iranian influence in the region” did not materialise. Several GCC states have diplomatic and economic ties with Iran. Their proximity with non-Arab neighbouring Muslim country desists them to share KSA persistence to nail down IRI in line with the USA, especially under Trump administration.

However; Saudi Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed hope that the emergence of the united front will promote solidarity in the face of “regional challenges”. His perception is true. But if it indicates “challenge from Iran”; sure past incidents to de-stabilise some gulf regimes need alertness, but the likelihood of any state compromising her ‘sovereignty’ in deciding bilateral relations with other countries, especially for Qatar with Iran, is dismal. Qatar shares a huge natural gas field with Iran in the Persian Gulf. Kuwait and Oman also have diplomatic and economic ties with IRI. These tiny states cannot afford hostility with a shrewd regime, playing shots with big powers.

This is a vital assurance from KSA, Faisal Bin Farhan, Foreign Minister and Prince of KSA assured, “The Gulf States affirmed that sovereignty of any state would not be violated or its security ‎targeted.”‎ It will instill confidence in GCC states.

Addressing a press conference with the GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf at the end of the conference Prince Farhan said, “This summit sends a message to the world that no matter how much disagreements are there, it takes wisdom to overcome them and take the region to a safe land.”

As the media reported, “The members of the council underscored the need to refrain from infringing on the security ‎and sovereignty of any country.” Saudi Gazette reported that the joint communiqué stressed enhancing mutual cooperation in combating ‘terrorist entities’. The communiqué also affirms the “solidarity of the Gulf states in the face of any direct or indirect interference in the affairs of any of them.”

However; the AlUla summit added a new dimension of “strengthening military integration among the member states.”  It means the revival of the spirit of 2011 Saudi proposal and will need further elaboration and wait for future developments.

Turkey, Sudan, Egypt, Amman, US, European Union, and Arab League lauded the end of the rift between KSA, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt with Qatar. The US also thanked “Kuwait for its mediation efforts and support in resolving the Gulf dispute.”

In Ankara, the Turkish MEA said, “Turkey stands ready to further develop the institutional cooperation with the GCC of which Turkey is a strategic partner.” Head of the Turkish opposition Future Party, Ahmet Davutoglu also welcomed the AlUla declaration.

Welcome End

End of a rift is always welcome. But look at other aspects also. Ranking 13th among the world’s largest economies, the GCC controls a large proportion of global oil and natural gas production. The total spending of the GCC countries in 2019 was about $ 559.9 billion, while revenues were about $ 527.8 billion. In spite of abundant resources, their standards and standing in education, science, technology, innovation, and standards of educational institutions are below the mark. A researcher Julie Vardhan divides the countries that compete in the educational services market into four groups. GCC countries are bracketed in the last fourth group. Reports on human rights also show Arab countries in poor light.

Beyond Material World   

With due respect, it may be underlined that leaders of the Muslim world are also duty-bound by Allah to look beyond the material world and lead the people for puritan life beyond rituals. Unfortunately, this aspect has been left far behind. The echo of the teachings of Allah and His Prophet Sallallahu Elehi Wasallam is hard to be noticed. In his last sermon, Prophet SAW said, “O People, lend me an attentive ear.. Just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust.” He further said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa) and good action.” This concept of ‘unity of mankind’ needs to be revived in our policy and practices.

The Prophet SAW further said, “Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”

Today we see killing and bloodshed has become routine. Instead of strengthening the spirit of “Muslim-Ummah”, we are divided into sects, sub-sects, and in the name of race, region, and nation. The line between the call to revive Islamic system and terrorism has been blurred.

The Lesson

The world should take lessons from GCC events of the last three years. Mr. Abdullah Bishara, the first GCC Secretary-General (1981-1993), pointed out “the rift within the GCC has benefited ‘other sides’ only.” in fact rifts make foes happy. Invoking the Islamic spirit of “Ummat e Wahida” and “Muslim Ummah” we pray Allah to endow upon us courage, passion, and wisdom to enlarge our efforts of mutual understanding and endurance beyond race, region, and nation. We are ordained to care for our neighbour and share with them whatever Allah has bestowed upon us. GCC has shown a light to overcome disputes by mutual understanding. Spread this message and imply this wisdom to solve all differences with our foes, whoever they may be.

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