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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Indian diaspora in the Gulf: Can it generate a Tamil Eelam type situation?

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait are absolute monarchies that are threatened by internal instability due to the ever-growing awareness of their local populations as much as due to the external threat from Iran. They need The US, and now Israel also, to underwrite their rule. 

Srinagar, March 21: Ahead of the OIC meeting in Pakistan, a 36 member UAE delegation reached Srinagar to explore business opportunities. The development was interesting as the OIC summit was also scheduled to take place in Pakistan on 21 March. Islamabad has repeatedly raised the Kashmir issue at OIC, comprising 57 Muslim states, including UAE. Manoj Sinha, Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, said the Indian government is hopeful to bring an investment of over Rs 70,000 crores in the next six months.

Reportedly, UAE and Saudi Arabia plan to invest USD 100 billion in J&K if Pakistan agrees to declare the LoC in Jammu & Kashmir as a permanent border between Pakistan and India. We can understand the Saudi and UAE’s interest in finishing the Kashmir dispute. Saudi Arabia, under its crown Prince, has ambitious plans to enhance its Geostrategic reach.

Read more: Indo-US strategic partnership paradigm

The same is true in the case of the UAE

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Migration Report 2017, out of the total 28 million foreign workers in the Gulf countries, 16.9 million (60 %) comprised workers from South Asia. In total, 31.5 % of migrants were from India*, followed by Bangladesh (11 %), and Pakistan (10.8 %). A very insignificant number were from Srilanka, Nepal,  and Afghanistan. Other than these South Asian countries, the Philippines was another major source of foreign workers.


Indian workers encompassed the largest share of residency visas issued in Kuwait in 2011, they also constituted nearly 50% of the foreign workforce in the private sector of Oman, and were the largest group among migrants in the UAE. As per the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, in 2016 out of a total of 6 million Indians residing in GCC countries, Saudi Arabia had the highest number of overseas Indians, followed by the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and others respectively.

A leaf from India Sponsored Tamil Insurgency in Srilanka

Indian Tamils of Sri Lanka are Tamil people of Indian origin in Sri Lanka. They are partly descended from workers, sent during the British Raj, from South India to Sri Lanka in the 19th and 20th centuries to work in coffee, tea, and rubber plantations.

Under an agreement between the Sri Lankan and Indian governments in the 1960s, around 40% of Indian Tamils were granted Sri Lankan nationality, and many of the remaining were repatriated to India.

However, the ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamils led to the growth of a greater sense of common Tamil identity, and the two groups (Indian Tamils and Local Tamils) developed a shared outlook on a separate Tamil state – the Tamil Eelam. By the 1990s, most Indian Tamils had received Sri Lankan citizenship, but the rest were not granted citizenship until 2003.

The Sri Lankan Civil War was a civil war fought in Sri Lanka from 1983 to 2009. Beginning on 23 July 1983, there was an intermittent insurgency against the government by the Indian sponsored  Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), which fought to create an independent Tamil state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island.

Read more: Why Pakistan’s military switched over from the US-owned GPS to the Chinese BeiDou navigation system?

It is well known the world over that India abetted the Tamil insurgency in Srilanka, resulting in a civil war that wreaked havoc on this island nation. After about three decades of intense fighting, the Indians realized it was a futile war and decided to call it quits. In May 2009, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers, bringing the civil war to an end.

In the distant future, can India replicate such an insurgency in the Gulf?

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait are absolute monarchies that are threatened by internal instability due to the ever-growing awareness of their local populations as much as due to the external threat from Iran. They need The US, and now Israel also, to underwrite their rule. 

All these states owe their existence to the Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France during WWI. The boundaries of the modern Arab Middle East were drawn by the Sykes-Picot Line. These boundaries are like a permeable membrane that keeps expanding and contracting. We cannot be sure if these states will be there, say after half a century.

All the Gulf monarchies exist because they fulfill the present global order determined by the US. One day these monarchies will outlive their utility to the US. As the expatriate populations increase, and as the local population clamor for increased human rights and freedom, the US, may contrive a mass uprising in the Gulf similar to the Srilanka civil war choreographed by India during the 1980s.

The expatriates in the Gulf States, the majority of them being of Indian origin, may then spearhead a movement for grant of permanent citizenship in the Gulf States, similar to what India sponsored Tamils did in Srilanka.

Read more: Pakistan and its geopolitical turmoil

The feelers about a plan for the Saudi and Emirati investment in the IIOKJ, after brokering a peace deal between India and Pakistani, favorable to India,  are aimed at providing some sort of insurance for the rainy days to these monarchies.

Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.