India’s relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudia Arabia and the UAE – have turned very cordial in the last two decades. Frequent visits, trade and energy pacts, exchange of gifts and honours between Indian officials and royal family members sketch quite a symbolic picture of closeness of GCC countries with India.
In the aftermath of Cold War, the Gulf nations started setting their goals with new partners to bolster their countries on economic lines. In this changed scenario, they extended a hand to India, which was emerging as an economic power in the region. In 2001, the Indian external affairs minister Jaswant Singh reached Riyadh to mark the commencement of fresh relations, symbolically strengthened by the gift of two precious horses to the minister. The strategic partnership between India and Saudi Arabia got a boost in 2010 when the “Riyadh Declaration” was signed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
No Indian Prime Minister has made as many efforts to build links with Gulf countries as the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Gulf countries also reciprocate with warmth and support, even on controversial political issues so as to get benefits from the bilateral trade pacts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Oman in 2018 developed close bilateral relations, with enhanced cooperation in trade and investment, energy, defence, security, food security and regional issues. Recently, Oman has allowed India, including its navy, access to its Duqm port, about 550 km south of the capital, Muscat.
In August 2019, the UAE conferred on PM Modi its highest civilian award, “Order of Zayed”. Bahrain did not want to lag behind in this race, so it bestowed the highest civilian award, “The King Hamad Order of the Renaissance” upon Mr. Modi. Saudi Arabia had already given him its prestigious award, “The King Abdulaziz Sash”.
Now head towards another angle of this India’s relationship with GCC countries. In last 20 years, a huge number of Indians have reached and settled in these Gulf countries for business purposes. Many of these business tycoons have links with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). These business men have also funded the election campaigns of Mr. Modi.
Abdul Majid Zargar, while writing for the Kashmir Watch Magazine, has exposed in detail the presence of the supporters of RSS, a Hindu paramilitary organisation, in the Gulf countries. He says that business and service sectors are dominated by nationalist Hindus based in oil-rich Gulf countries. He adds that every year, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat holds a closed-door meeting with these Hindu business tycoons operating in Dubai, UAE and other Middle East countries. These activities in Gulf countries carry covert support of Indian embassies.
The planned dissemination of hate from behind closed chambers cannot remain hidden for long. The hate-ideology came to the surface just recently when an Indian who heads a consultancy firm in UAE tweeted abusive messages about the members of Tablighi Jamaat in India. The tweet became viral and then received a response from a member of the Sharjah royal family, Sheikha Hind Al Qassemi. She snubbed the offensive tweet and warned that such an attitude would not go unnoticed. The princess also wrote an article in the Gulf News, in which she said, while referring to persecutions of the Muslims in India, “Killing your brethren doesn’t make you a hero, it makes you a dictator and murderer.”
This initiated a barrage of tweets on social media by Hindutva ideologues targeting the princess and supporting those Indian Hindus living in UAE. The print and social media brigade also came to the rescue of their dear ones in UAE.
But the campaign against hate cannot be one-faceted. Many other members of royal families and officials from GCC countries started reacting to this deluge of hate against the Muslims coming from Gulf countries.
A very significant statement in this regard was released by the General Secretariat of the Kuwait Council of Ministers, which stated that Muslims in the world will not remain silent over theses crimes. The council stresses upon the need to move politically, legally and economically against hate-seekers.
The OIC has also issued statement urging India to take urgent steps to stop the growing tide of Islamophobia in the country.
As tensions mounted, PM Modi was brought back to earth when he had to clarify that COVID-19 wreaks havoc with no discrimination to race, religion and caste.
Then on the directions of PM Modi, the Indian embassies in Qatar, UAE and Oman issued messages about the values of tolerance and pluralism between India and Arab countries.
Hate for Muslims lurked in India before 2014, but it was never so venomous. Many analysts opine that hate-ideology has been nurtured under the official patronage of the Prime Minster Narendra Modi.
India, which was built on the foundations of secularism and tolerance as envisioned by its elders, is mutating fast into an intolerant society dominated by the ideals of Hindu supremacy. Hyper-nationalism has permeated almost every section of society – judiciary, military, media, parliament, police, politics and academia.
There has been a realisation in Pakistani circles about this brewing hate in India against the Muslims; and it is quite positive now that GCC countries have also woken up to this ideology that has extended its wings in Gulf countries as well. There is a need to exert diplomatic, economic and moral pressure on India so that the cinders of this smouldering fire of hate may calm down and the Muslims may live there as peacefully as the Indian Hindus exist and subsist in GCC countries.
Muhammad Tahir Iqbal
The writer is an educationist and historian. He can be reached at tahiriqbalstars
@gmail.com and tweets @TahirIqbal87.