Bahrain India Forum 2015: The Changing Geo-Economics of Gulf and Asia. Session I: Changing Dynamics of Gulf-Asia Economic Links

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1 Bahrain India Forum 2015: The Changing Geo-Economics of Gulf and Asia Session I: Changing Dynamics of Gulf-Asia Economic Links Prof P R Kumaraswamy Middle East Institute, Jawaharlal Nehru University

2 P R Kumaraswamy * T he Middle East, especially the Persian Gulf region, is the most important for India than it is commonly recognized and understood. Unlike other sub-regions, the Gulf not only provides opportunities but also presents challenges to India s ability to play a leadership role in the world. New Delhi s ability to shoulder greater responsibility both political and diplomatic would be tested by its ability to manage some of the sensitive issues that dominate the region. Some of the vexed issues that dominate the current global political agenda are located in or could be traced to the Persian Gulf. Diverse issues such as popular disenchantment with existing political order and growing demands for good and transparent governance, accountable leadership and empowerment of women and youth have been dominating the Middle Eastern landscape. The Gulf region has to face additional burdens in terms of falling oil prices, sectarian tensions, deprivation of minority rights, Saudi-Iranian competition for regional hegemony and above all concerns over Iranian nuclear ambitions. Despite the historical ties and geographical proximity, the primacy of the Gulf region is not reflected in New Delhi s attitude and policies towards it. The region continue to evoke attention within the country only for controversies, recurring violent political upheavals, external interventions, civil wars, internal tensions within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and of late, fears over the emergence of Islamist parties. This state of affairs exists against the backdrop of India maintaining strong economic relations with Gulf region, especially the GCC. India s engagement following the economic liberalization of 1991 means two things for the hydrocarbon-rich GCC countries; a guaranteed market for their energy resources and a potential alternate destination for investments. The former is manifested in the form of growing Indian import of oil and natural gas from the Gulf region and their dominent role in the Indo-GCC bilateral relations. The latter is yet to take concrete shape and investments from oil-rich Arab countries continue to be in the realm of potentials than a reality. For a variety of reasons and misgivings, India is yet to emerge as an attractive destination for Arab investment. * Paper for the Conference on The Changing Geo-Economics of Gulf and Asia, organized by IISS and Bahrain-India Forum 2015, on 6 April 2015 at The Oberoi Hotel, New Delhi. Professor P R Kumaraswamy teaches contemporary Middle East at Jawaharlal Nehru University and is the Honorary Director of Middle East Institute, New Delhi and author of the Annual series on Persian Gulf that deals with India s relations with the region. 2

3 The Gulf region, especially the GCC, continues to be India s largest trading partner. During India s imports from GCC stood at US$ billion as against the total imports of US$450.2 billion and this accounts for 22.6 percent of total goods imported by India. During the same period, India exported goods worth US$ 48.2 billion to GCC while its total exports stood at US$314.4 billion. This accounts for 15.3 percent of total exports. Thus, India s trade with GCC countries during stood at US$150.0 billion as against its total trade of US$764.6 billion. In other words, the GCC accounted for close to one-fifth of India s total trade during Since , six out of India s top 25 trading partners are to be found in the Persian Gulf region. Except for smaller economies such as Bahrain, Oman and Yemen, rest of the countries in the region are its principal trade partners. During , six Gulf countries are among India s top 20 trading partners. They are UAE (3); Saudi (4); Iraq (9); Kuwait (11); Qatar (15) and Iran (19). Indeed, only Oman (37); Yemen (52) and Bahrain (63) fall way behind. For some time, the UAE was India s largest trading partner before losing that status to China and in it fell behind China and the US. The booming trade was largely spurred and led by the hydrocarbon sector. Until the introduction of economic liberation, India was relatively self-sufficient in meeting its crude oil-requirements. Nearly two-thirds of its demands were met domestically and the rest were imported. As economic liberalization accelerated demands for oil and gas, domestic supplies remained static thereby forcing India to rely heavily on imports, especially from the Gulf region. The prognosis on hydro-carbon self-sufficiency is rather bleak. Various national and international estimates suggest that India s import dependency would only increase in the coming years. According to India Hydrocarbon Vision 2025, a document prepared by the now-defunct Planning Commission in 2000, The gap between supply and availability of crude oil, petroleum products as well as gas from indigenous sources is likely to increase over the years. Likewise, in 2007 the Paris-based International Energy Agency estimated that 90 per cent of India s crude oil need would have to be met through imports by It is widely recognized that India would soon overtake Japan and emerge as the largest oil importer after China. Since when country-wise data became available, the Gulf countries were among the top five energy suppliers to India. With the US-led sanctions disrupting the oil imports from Iran, Iraq has emerged as a major energy supplier. Hence, since largest supplier of oil and gas came from the GCC, namely, Saudi ; Kuwait, Qatar and UAE. 3

4 Energy imports also mean that the trade is heavily loaded against India. This is most visible vis-à-vis the GCC and the top ten countries with whom India has huge trade deficits include four from the region, namely, Saudi, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. This is largely due to the excessive domination of fissile fuel in the Indo-Gulf trade and India s inability to diversify its exports to the region. The Indo-GCC trade is highly skewed and dominated by a single commodity oil and gas. Last year, the energy component of India s imports was per cent for Bahrain; percent for Iran; percent for Iraq; percent for Kuwait; percent for Oman; percent for Qatar; percent for Saudi ; percent for the UAE; and percent for Yemen. In other words, with the exception of UAE and to a lesser extend Oman and Bahrain, the Indian imports are exclusively energy related. It is essential recognize that oil imports do not only cater to growing domestic demand but also play a key role in India s export trade. A significant portion of crude oil is processed and re-exported as different types of oil products. Thus, since 2000, the export of oil products have been on the rise and it crossed US$11 billion during Oil exports have overtaken other export commodities and last year, more than one-fifth of India s export were oil-related and stood at over US$64.8 billion. Interestingly, during , India s overall exports to the Persian Gulf countries were US$55 billion whereas its total oil exports were US$64.8 billion. The oil crisis of 1973 and resultant construction boom have spurred the flow of Indian expatriate workers to the Gulf region. While there are no accurate figures, current estimates suggest the presence of around seven million Indian expatriates in the Gulf countries. They are engaged in productive employment and contribute to the economic development of host Arab countries and in the process they earn livelihood and contribute to a substantial amount to their families back home. According to the World Bank, during , India received US$68.8 billion in the form of overseas remittances from its expatriate population and out this at least US$ 32.6 billion (or 47 per cent) came from the expatriate labour force in the Gulf. Indian laws require emigration clearance for certain types of workers and this ECR requirement is mandatory for workers going to 17 countries; out of them 13 are located in the Middle East. Hence workers seeking employment in all the six GCC countries as well as in Iraq and Yemen require ECR. In terms of destination, Saudi, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain Oman, Bahrain and Iraq are the most favourable destination in that order. Because of the domestic turmoil, since 2013 no ECR has been issued to those seeking employment in Yemen. According to various estimates there over 400,000 Indian expatriate labourers in Bahrain; over 500,000 in Kuwait; 500,000 in Oman; close 4

5 to 500,000 in Qatar; 2.8 million in Saudi and 2.6 million in UAE. Estimates suggest that despite the travel advisories and civil war conditions, there were about 100,000 in Yemen during Conclusion Discussions on the economic relations between India and the GCC would not be complete recognizing the political neglect between the two. Robust economic relations were never converted to significant political engagements and Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit Kuwait and UAE in May Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Oman and Qatar in November 2008 and Saudi in February-March Last prime ministerial visit to Iraq took place in January 1975 when Indira Gandhi paid a state visit. Unfortunately, no Indian Prime Minister had ever visited Bahrain and also Yemen since India became independent. Therefore, political indifference to a region of considerable importance does not bode well for India s aspirations to be a responsible international actor. 5

6 Table-1: India Bahrain Bilateral Trade (in US$ million) India s Exports to Bahrain India s Imports from Bahrain Total bilateral Trade , , , , Share of Bahrain in India s Total Trade Source: P R Kumaraswamy, (ed.) Persian Gulf 2015: India s Relations with the Region (forthcoming) Table-2: Share of Oil in India s Imports from Bahrain (in US$ million) Year Oil Imports from Bahrain Total Oil Imports Bahraini Share in Total Oil Imports Imports from Bahrain Per cent of Oil in Imports from Bahrain , , , , ,

7 Table-3: India s Energy Imports from Bahrain (in US$ million) Energy Imports from Bahrain Total Energy Imports 96, , , , , Total Energy Imports from Persian Gulf 55, , , , , Share of Bahrain in Total Imports Share of Bahrain in Imports from Persian Gulf Source: P R Kumaraswamy, (ed.) Persian Gulf 2015: India s Relations with the Region (forthcoming) Table-4: Place of Persian Gulf countries among the top 25 trading partners of India during Country Ranking Imports from Exports to Total trade Percent of total trade UAE Three 29, , , Saudi Four 36, , , Iraq Nine 18, , Kuwait Eleven 17, , , Qatar Fifteen 15, , Iran Nineteen 10, , ,

8 Table-5: India-GCC Bilateral Trade (in US$ million) Country Bahrain , , , , Kuwait 9, , Oman 4, , Qatar 5, , , , , , , , , , , Saudi 21, , , , , UAE 43, , , , , Total Trade with GCC 83, , , , , India s Total Trade 467, , , , , Share in Total Trade Table-6: India s Energy Imports from GCC (in US $Million) India s Total Energy Imports 96, , , , , Energy Imports from GCC 36, , , , , Total Imports from Persian Gulf 55, , , , , GCC Share in Total Imports (in per cent) GCC Share in Imports from Persian Gulf (in per cent)

9 Table-7: Persian Gulf share in India s total imports (in US$ million) Year Total imports Imports from Persian Gulf Share per cent , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Table-8: Persian Gulf share in India s total exports (in US$ million) Year Total exports Exports to Persian Gulf Share in per cent , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Table-9: Trade deficit-oil import linkages Year Total exports Total imports Trade Deficit Energy imports Per cent of Oil Imports to Trade Deficit , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12 Table-10: India s energy imports from the Persian Gulf region (in US$ million) Country Bahrain , Iran 10,048,97 11, , , , , , Iraq 6, , , , , , , Kuwait 7, , , , , , , Oman , , , , Qatar 1, , , , , , , Saudi 17, , , , , , , UAE 7, , , , , , , Yemen 1, , , Total Persian Gulf Total imports Percentage of Persian Gulf Imports to total Imports 54, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

13 Table-11: Top Five Energy Suppliers Year First Second Third Fourth Fifth Nigeria Saudi UAE Kuwait Australia Saudi Saudi Nigeria Australia Kuwait UAE Kuwait Nigeria UAE Australia Nigeria Saudi UAE Kuwait Iran Saudi Saudi Saudi Saudi Saudi Saudi Saudi Saudi Nigeria Iran Kuwait Iraq Iran UAE Nigeria Kuwait Iran UAE Kuwait Nigeria Iran Kuwait Nigeria Iraq Nigeria Kuwait UAE Iran Iraq Kuwait UAE Nigeria Iraq Kuwait UAE Qatar Iraq Kuwait Qatar Nigeria Note: Non-Gulf suppliers are identified in Italics. 13

14 Table-12: Share of oil-products in India s exports (in US$ million) Year Total exports Energy exports Share in per cent , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

15 Table-13: Share of energy in India s total foreign trade (in US$ million) Year Total trade Energy exports Energy imports Total oil Percentage of oil trade , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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