Why we welcome a closer relationship with our Gulf neighboursPosted on Mar 13, 2012 in Articles | 0 comments
Predictably, the Western media has started warning about Saudi hegemony over Bahrain. The Washington Post talks about Bahrain as a Saudi colony and describes this as a “counterrevolutionary” measure. Do any of them care what Bahrainis think?
On 14 March 2011 as Peninsular Shield forces crossed the Saudi causeway into Bahrain, law and order in our country was in a state of near collapse; armed groups were prowling the city, there were frequent attacks against expatriates; neighbourhoods were setting up ad-hoc checkpoints and citizens of other sects were subject to attack. Many feared civil war.
Thus, there was nothing strange in many of us feeling a huge sense of relief at seeing these troops entering Bahrain. Although Gulf troops weren’t involved in countering the violence, they provided the much needed capacity and within a couple of days levels of sectarian violence had significantly decreased.
While some figures were talking hysterically about a Saudi invasion; most Bahrainis felt intensely grateful that the worst was over and our Gulf neighbours had shown such solidarity in our time of need.
There is similar hysteria over the idea of a closer union between Gulf states; even though leaders on all sides have confirmed that this means no loss of sovereignty. We should take this hysteria no more seriously than the paranoia of Eurosceptics who see the EU as a malevolent superstate invented to swallow up their little nation states.
We are proud Bahrainis and would never accept such a thing. However, an even closer relationship between our countries is very much in harmony with the political direction of travel over the last three decades in the context of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Closer union is good for our struggling economy, it is in harmony with our close cultural traditions, and is appropriate to the tough political challenges facing our region. We in the Gulf should speak with one powerful voice about the risks of war between Israel and Iran; instability in Yemen; regime atrocities in Syria and the other huge changes shaking the region to its core.
On the other hand, geography has dictated very different political traditions across these countries. In contrast to the relatively insular Saudi Kingdom, our tiny islands have been a constant stopping point for different cultures and traditions, giving rise to the open, tolerant and liberal society Bahrain enjoys today. This cannot and will not change.
When allied with our brothers and sisters across the Gulf, Bahrain can flourish through strengthening opportunities for trade and making the Gulf a more attractive environment for investment and doing business.
The causeway to Saudi Arabia is a tangible symbol of how we have already made important and beneficial strides towards greater unity. Bahrain can have the best of both worlds; allowing our tiny islands to have greater political and economic clout on the world stage through closer ties with our larger neighbours; while maintaining all that is good about our social and political traditions. Let’s not let irrational fears and suspicions prevent us from doing what is best for Bahrain.