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India-Gulf Counterterrorism Cooperation: Opportunities, Barriers, and Challenges

India-Gulf Counterterrorism Cooperation – Opportunities and Challenges

Policy brief to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. November 2018.

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Issue at Hand

India has managed to alter its security landscape through governmental measures, which resulted in fewer people leaving the territory to launch assaults. Islamic State and Al Qaeda have also become weaker; nevertheless, the threat of transnational terrorism persists.

Main Themes

Indian intelligence agencies work closely with different domestic organizations to achieve greater security. The complexity of the situation lies in the fact that this threat has roots both in domestic and international elements. The setting has pushed the country’s government to seek counterterrorism cooperation from the Gulf Arab countries.

Overview of the Setting

The geopolitical relations between India and the Gulf Arab nations continue to evolve. The countries have been working intensely on building economic ties between regions, and their cooperation mode has expanded to include the realm of security (Siyech, 2017). The Muslim community has contributed greatly to changing the international security landscape. They joined the effort of India in fighting against terrorism since criminal groups receive support from the side of organizations functioning outside India.

According to the information provided by Indian intelligence agencies, counterterrorism cooperation of countries should focus on minimizing the treat coming from Saudi Arabia and the UAE (Siyech, 2017). Many Indian citizens, who joined the Islamic State, had already built connections with the Gulf residents. This means that many citizens are at risk of radicalization. The activities of such organizations as Indian Mujahideen further complicate the situation (Siyech, 2017). Their goal is to facilitate networks between terror groups and Pakistani nationals. Intense travels between India and Pakistan have made it hard to detect terrorist activity and networks.

The economic relations between India and Gulf Arab countries are becoming stronger, and the states have already become partners (Siyech, 2017). The parties have built their cooperation based on mutual trust and respect. Therefore, the environment is favorable for establishing counterterrorism cooperation from which all the nations will benefit greatly. The main objective of the policy is to address the heightened security risks that are transnational in character. The counterterrorism effort focuses on three main areas, which are:

  1. financing of terror groups and their activities;
  2. persons of interest;
  3. travel routes.

It is crucial to consider the possible barriers to policy execution, as well as opportunities and recommendations, from the point of view of the government.

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Barriers to Policy Implementation

  1. There is a significant obstacle to the creation of the anti-terrorist alliance. In particular, the main barrier is the existing contradictions between the members of the Gulf nations and Qatar (Siyech, 2017).
  2. In order to achieve effective cooperation, it is necessary to include all countries in joint activities. It is essential to overcome the existing isolation of Qatar in the Arab world. The prospective cooperation will allow countries to improve their relations at the regional level.
  3. It is difficult for the authorities to detect persons of interest due to the fact that Gulf territories are actively used as transit points. For example, 21 Keralites, who joined the Islamic State, stopped at UAE, Kuwait and other locations on their way. Many Indian citizens travel through these territories as well, and this makes it hard to notice any suspicious individuals. Nevertheless, India-Gulf cooperation may potentially facilitate better information sharing and earlier detection of persons of interest.


  1. The Arab countries have large forces and means that will enable them to strengthen the existing economic and diplomatic ties in the region. In order to achieve the goals of the counterterrorism cooperation, states need to join the common effort without leaving any regions behind.
  2. The international policy will allow achieving greater cross-border security. To reach this goal, it is necessary to create a unified regional air defense and missile defense system. Also, countries will need to conduct military training and joint exercises.
  3. The counterterrorist services of India and the Persian Gulf should establish close cooperation in order to take control of not only domestic but also transnational criminal elements that pose a threat to the national security.
  4. In case the work of the inter-ethnic alliance proves its effectiveness, countries may consider the possibility of establishing closer military contacts (Siyech, 2017).
  5. India and the Gulf Arab world will have an opportunity to conclude an agreement on collective security, mutual aid and form joint military contingents.
  6. Common databases may be developed to detect persons of interest quicker. Joint training for intelligence agencies and authorities may be introduced to reach this objective.


  1. One of the pressing issues that remains unresolved is the fact that Gulf nations are used as a hideout by criminal elements. India seeks collaboration in that matter since it will allow easier and more effective information sharing.
  2. Cooperation between the regions should aim at establishing robust extradition strategies (Siyech, 2017). The counterterrorism cooperation will ensure that the human rights of people will not be infringed. Therefore, the transnational collaboration will allow treating terrorists justly while also decomposing and preventing terror plots.
  3. Terrorist financing is another challenge, which poses a significant threat to the success of the international collaboration. The persisting institutional vulnerabilities do not allow restraining financing within the national frontiers.

Policy Recommendations

  1. India should develop its cyber capabilities and then seize them to achieve greater security and detect online propagandistic activities. Intelligence agencies already have the tools to determine susceptible population groups. After identifying the criminals, agency workers should work with them closely to deradicalize these terroristic elements (Siyech, 2017).
  2. Cross-national cyber training may additionally reinforce the Gulf-India cooperation.
  3. Counterterrorism summits in which all the Gulf nations will participate may be a great way to mitigate the intra-Gulf conflict (Siyech, 2017). Joint meetings and conferences will provide a platform for a dialogue between Qatar and the Gulf Arab nations. The advantage of this strategy lies in the fact that the parties will be able to coordinate their responses. In particular, states will have a chance to agree on extradition treaties.
  4. Apart from the region-level measures, the government should consider ways to address urban terrorism as well. The past experience allows assuming that training in urban warfare will be helpful in combating this issue in India.


The Gulf Arab nations and India should continue cooperating closely to address the issue of transnational terrorism. The complex situation will not be resolved in the nearest future, and it is crucial to avoid its escalation. Close collaboration with other nations will allow India to prevent extremism and radicalization of the population and further its economic relations with the Gulf Arab nations. The burden sharing effort is of paramount importance since transnational extremism cannot be eliminated through the strivings of India solely.


Siyech, M. S. (2017). India-Gulf counterterrorism cooperation. Web.

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