External Factors Influencing British-Bahraini Relations – Prospects for Trans-regional Co-operation

The closed-door roundtable held on 21st February, 2012 in Manama, the Kingdom of Bahrain, is part of a series of events being held between the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) and the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies, that will discuss the various facets of British-Bahrain relations in the context of regional realities and extra-regional interests. The event brought together over forty experts from key countries such as Turkey, India, Russia, China and Japan as well as participants from the Gulf and of course, Bahrain and Britain. The aim of the collaboration between Derasat and RUIS is to create a forum for the discussion of questions that are fundamental to Bahraini-British relations and future cooperation. Britain and Bahrain have maintained close cooperative relations for over two hundred years since the first Maritime Treaty was signed in 1820. The relationship has undergone significant changes as Bahrain gained independence and began a gradual process of democratic reform. Regional conflicts and the impact of international events such as the recent global financial crisis, the rise of global terrorism and energy security are of constant concern to both countries. The Roundtable comprised three closed-door sessions held under Chatham House rules. Discussions were open and honest and some very different perspectives came to light for consideration and debate. There was recognition for the potential of greater commercial partnerships with mutual benefits. The role of new partners such as India and China drew mixed responses as to the influence this will have on regional relations. Discussions considered the extent to which these new partners have a future security role to play in the region as well as to Britain’s commitment and capacity to maintain its own security role in Bahrain and the region.
Opening Ceremony
Introduction: H.E. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar Opening remarks by:
Major General Tariq Al-Hassan, Public Security Chief, Kingdom of Bahrain
H.E. Iain Lindsay, British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain
Dr. Jonathan Eyal, Director of International Security Studies, Royal United Services Institute, UK.
Question-and-Answer Session: Introduced and chaired by H.E. Dr. Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar and Dr. Jonathan Eyal.
Session 1
Introductory overview Title: ‘Iran as a Gulf actor’ Synopsis: Iran has long been a major political force in Gulf politics. Its disposition towards Bahrain is but one aspect of its foreign policy, the more prominent at present being its nuclear ambitions. Yet Iran is also an important Gulf trading partner, and an economic actor with whom non-Gulf states have a strong interest in maintaining ties. What are the implications for Arab Gulf states of Iran’s continued activism and of extra-regional players’ relations with it?
Session 2
Introductory Overview Title: ‘Trade, investment and how they affect Bahraini security’ Synopsis: Gulf countries are extremely keen on diversifying their economies in order to maintain growth, improve employment prospects, encourage foreign investment and enhance resilience to economic downturns. The efforts of Bahrain and its neighbours to do so have attracted significant interest outside the region. How will their thriving extra-regional trade relations promote their stability and security – and change their perceptions of what both concepts mean? What trends are likely to characterise economic growth in the Gulf in the coming decade?
Session 3
Introductory Overview: Title: ‘British-Bahraini security relations in a time of austerity and political change’ Synopsis: The United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Bahrain have enjoyed close ties for over a century, and the West more generally has figured prominently in the Gulf for almost as long. How have political developments in the Middle East and the Gulf, coupled with the rise of important new interlocutors, affected each country’s perception of the other as a security partner: has the calculus changed, or does it remain largely constant? In light of today’s discussion, how are Britain and Bahrain’s relations with each other likely to evolve in the medium and long terms?

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