(MENAFN - Arab News) Eminent UAE-based experts and intellectuals have joined the opinion leaders across the Gulf in enthusiastically welcoming the clarion call given by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah this past week for a Union of Gulf states. Newspapers across the country, both Arabic and English, have carried special features and opinion articles hailing King Abdullah's proposal terming it as historic, long due and timely move.
Popular Emirati commentator and author Mohammad Al-Asoomi, who is considered an authority on GCC affairs, lauded it as a "qualitative leap for joint action on many levels." He said: "By making this historic call, GCC leaders have sent several messages. The most important is that the bloc is inseparable, and is determined to push ahead with its plans toward complete integration and creation of a powerful entity that is equal to other blocs in the world. This move is in line with the spirit of the age and rapid global changes which call for the creation of big blocs to tackle present world realities."
In an opinion article in Gulf News, Al-Asoomi said the GCC countries are determined to achieve economic unity. He warned the countries that viewed the differences in GCC stances as a chance to interfere in their domestic affairs must reconsider their decision. "The GCC states are seeking to create societies based on equality. This move will stop those who try to destabilize any GCC country by inciting sectarian or tribal extremism that would hinder development," he said. As Gulf citizens, we look forward to this expected shift that has been widely welcomed by all of us, as it would be good for the future, he said.
Emirati journalist and columnist Mohammed Al-Hammadi agreed with Al-Asoomi and said: "The creation of this union has become such a pressing necessity for every GCC state, big or small, in order to protect both national and foreign fronts. Gulf states feel the GCC has offered them a degree of protection. So it's only logical they see the Union as a greater degree of protection and security from future shocks and surprises."
Emphasizing the proposed Union is not going to form one state, he said: "Now, the process to make the shift to a union should not take very long."
N. Janardhan, a Dubai-based political analyst and author of "Boom Amid Gloom: The Spirit of Possibility in the 21st Century Gulf," agreed pointing out that King Abdullah's call coincides with the various ramifications of Arab Spring, which is certainly one of the most volatile political phases in the region's recent history. It is also a reflection of the GCC's keenness to reinvent itself. Speaking to Arab News, he said: "Since the perception of external factors influencing the goings-on in the GCC countries and the Arab world is gaining ground, there is now a new reason for the grouping to close ranks."
Arguing that the common denominator for the GCC since its formation in 1981 is its preoccupation with security concerns, he said: "While security interests may again entice the bloc to consider becoming a union, the political and economic differences between and among members could elude consensus. The clincher really lies in the details. But irrespective of the rationale and efficacy, the call for a union is a good example of collective responsibility. It serves as a point of introspection of how the bloc could move forward. And, whether or not a union materializes, the GCC's survival and utility as a buffer against the insecurities of small states remains indisputable."
Al-Asoomi agreed: "We believe this move will contribute to preserving our interests and gains that were achieved following immense efforts. The move will also herald a better future for the younger generations."
Pakistan's former ambassador at large, television host and editor of International Diplomat Javed Malik welcomed King Abdullah's call saying at a time when the Arab world is experiencing a wave of changes and challenges, this is a very positive and encouraging step in the right direction, and reflects his wisdom and vision as a leader. In a chat with Arab News, he said: "As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah is held in high esteem not only by Arabs but across the entire Muslim world. Only he could give practical shape to this bold idea. I am certain the Arab people and leaders would respond positively to it." Malik hoped that in the future this union would extend to include other Muslim countries too.
While welcoming the Saudi call for greater unity in his oped column, Francis Matthew, editor at large of Gulf News and author of "The Rise of a Nation", called for strengthening institutions for a stronger GCC and union. "To make this work, the GCC's central institutions need to become more effective. Projects like unifying import and export tariffs for all types of goods requires both political will to agree on how it should be done and a strong GCC technical team to ensure that all six member states implement what they promise," said Matthew.
Christian Koch, director of the Gulf Research Center, described the move as the "right and urgent one." He told Arab News: "Three decades after its establishment, the GCC has emerged as a functional and effective organization despite many of the criticisms that it always receives. It's a project in motion whose work and effectiveness needs to be continuously reviewed and assessed. As a result, the king's call comes at an appropriate time to take the GCC to the next level to deepen further regional cooperation and provide an example of how countries in the volatile Middle East can work together despite the obstacles they face. For the Gulf's future stability and security, an integrated and relevant GCC is absolutely essential and the Gulf Union is certainly the way forward."