World has to deal with ‘new GCC intellectual elite’

February 23, 2012

Countries keen on boosting cultural and intellectual relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries should appreciate that they are dealing with a new elite of thinkers, the head of Bahrain’s main think-tank has said.

“They have received their education in the world’s outstanding universities and have become remarkable contributors in strategic studies and international studies,” Dr Mohammad Abdul Gaffar, head of the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies and Special Adviser to King Hamad Eisa Al Khalifa, said.

“This new elite of intellectuals from the GCC states are different from the previous generation at the cultural and educational levels Britain dealt with during the early stages of the formation of modern Gulf states.

They have a strong desire to achieve new perspectives for cooperation and coordination to encounter common threats that may arise in the foreseeable future,” he told a roundtable dedicated to the discussion of “external factors influencing British-Bahraini relations and the prospects for trans-regional cooperation.

Around 160,000 British nationals live and work in the GCC, he said.

Abdul Gaffar said that Europe, after an era of imperial superiority, now has to deal with a more pluralistic and competitive world in which regional entities have an important economic role and compete in trade.

“Undoubtedly, the ever-growing trade movement will pave the way for more political and economic cooperation between the main powers in Asia, such as India, China and Russia, and the Arabian Gulf states,” he said.

“In the future, these powers may aspire to exercise a more effective and influential political role in the affairs of the region and to secure a role with regard to security and defence issues,” he said.

However, Abdul Gaffar, a former ambassador in Washington and the state minister for foreign affairs, said that the regional powers, and despite their growing role, still face substantial hurdles in the development of their relations with the GCC “because they have not been able to secure a cultural presence.”

“They need to strengthen relations with the peoples of the region, rather than simply promote trade.

“Japan, for example, is a clear cut case for the sophisticated model of industrial production and trade exchange. Yet, it did not make similar strong efforts to consolidate its cultural and scientific presence, an integral factor to its strategic presence,” he said.

The same situation applies to China, India and Russia, although with different proportions, he said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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