GCC-Pakistan relations: An upward trajectory

GCC-Pakistan relations: An upward trajectory

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Pakistan and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are linked by geographical proximity, spiritual and cultural ties, manpower and commercial exchanges and common security interests. GCC represents the collective will of the member states for co-operation leading to economic integration and to ward off external threats. It is a block that is vital for international energy needs. This is the region where a large Pakistani workforce is gainfully employed and thousands of Pakistanis go to redeem themselves spiritually. Peace and security in this important region is vital for international prosperity and Pakistan’s geographical location assumes traction from that angle. 
GCC Secretary General Dr. Nayef Al Hajjraf has paid two visits to Pakistan, in quick succession. His first visit was in the context of the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting held recently in Islamabad to discuss the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. The second visit last week was undertaken to widen the scope of Pak-GCC co-operation and to provide it with an institutional framework. The current humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan was also discussed in delegation level talks. Pakistan’s foreign minister apprised the guests about a deteriorating human rights situation in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. Discussions on the conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between GCC and Pakistan have dragged on for years. During this visit, the two sides have decided to accord it priority. 
A wide range of sectors has been identified as possible segments of strategic dialogue to be held in an institutionalized framework. These include political, security, trade and investment, agriculture and food security, transport, energy, environment, health, education and culture. A Joint Action Plan for Strategic Dialogue has been finalized. The time period fixed for this dialogue is five years, starting now. So the future co-operation would be extensive and wholesome. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) appears to have given a new impetus to this co-operation as it has opened new vistas of energy transport and movement of goods between China and GCC member states overland Pakistan. 

Pakistan enjoys excellent bilateral relations with all member states based on a commonality of culture, values and religion. 

Javed Hafeez

Dr. Al Hajjraf from Kuwait is a highly educated person with wide experience in accounting, finance, banking and investments. As geo-economics gains greater traction, he is the right person to promote co-operation among the member states and other important countries with stakes in the Gulf region. And the number of such countries, of which Pakistan is certainly one, is quite large. With the addition of new areas like environment, the scope for international co-operation has vastly increased. 
For Pakistan, security, stability and safe flow of energy resources are high priority areas. Hundreds of oil and gas laden vessels pass through the Hormuz Strait every day and they sail quite close to Pakistani territorial waters. The bulk of Pakistan’s energy, be it oil or gas, comes from GCC countries. Vessels going westwards have been facing threats like piracy near the Horn of Africa. Pakistan has been an active member of the Bahrain based Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 and CTF 151, both international naval contingents for promoting navigational security and countering threats at high seas. It has also extended technical training facilities to the navies of GCC countries, under bilateral arrangements. 
Upon arrival, the Secretary General and his delegation were received by Special Representative of Prime Minister Imran Khan on Religious Harmony Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi and HE Nawaf Al Al-Maliki Kingdom’s Ambassador to Pakistan. Saudi Arabia accords high importance to this Riyadh based organization. In addition, the Kingdom also holds current presidency of this intergovernmental regional organization. Pakistan enjoys excellent bilateral relations with all member states based on a commonality of culture, values and religion. 
The Secretary General also met Foreign Minister Shaukat Tarin who welcomed proposals to enhance mutual cooperation in the economic and trade arenas. Gulf countries import numerous food items including rice, halal meat, fruits and vegetables. Pakistan’s vast agricultural potential could meet part of GCC food needs. If tourism infrastructure is developed in Pakistan’s northern areas, it could attract Arab family tourism in good measure. 
Gulf waters are still not as calm as these should be in an ideal situation. Such a scenario would obviate the need for foreign military bases in this region. Any clash here will not only wreck the international economy but also deal a grievous blow to the Islamic world. 
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi defined Pak-GCC relations as fraternal and abiding. This is a relationship that has endured and has vast potential for growth. Areas of future cooperation have now been clearly identified, and the institutional framework established during this visit should ensure that various groups of experts meet regularly to take decisions and ensure follow up action. Pak-GCC relations are now on an upward trajectory.

- Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst.
Twitter: @JavedHafiz8

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