NEW DELHI: “India has rebranded itself in the Gulf,” and like a lot of countries has “taken advantage of U.S. security architecture,” to play a much greater role in recent years, Jonathan Fulton, Assistant Professor at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed University tells Amitabh P. Revi, StratNews Global Associate Editor in this interview. “India is seen as a very important economic partner, he says, taking note of the over 8.5 million workers, billions of dollars in remittances, trade ties and anti-terror deportations while there are “set perceptions of China’s great power and India’s popular power.”
The reported Iran-China $ 400 billion strategic deal over 25 years is being “overhyped” he insists, as it misses the point that China’s interests are already more deeply integrated with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Professor Fulton illustrates that by highlighting that China’s crude imports from Saudi Arabia were at an all-time high in June, 2020, while deliveries from Iran fell to zero for the first time on record.
The author of the book ‘China’s Relations with the Gulf Monarchies’ points out that countries in the region don’t want to be forced to make a “stark choice” between the U.S. and China despite Washington’s pressure and want “flexibility” to work with Beijing. This “Cold War like atmosphere won’t change, possibly till after U.S. elections in November,” Professor Fulton concedes.
Taking note of the July 27 China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal Foreign Ministers virtual meet, the scholar says Beijing has been using the Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) to try and “encircle and challenge India in countries where it sees itself as a natural leader.” On pushback against China’s aggressiveness, Professor Fulton argues, in the Gulf region, “countries don’t have the same types of concerns about China as those in South and South-east Asia.”