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Volume :7 Issue : 25 1981      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

HISTORICAL SURVEY OF EUROPEAN INTEREST AND CONTROL IN THE ARAB GULF REGION

Auther : Dr. Sayed Farouk Hasnat

 

         The initial phase in the historical development of European interests in the Gulf region began with the Portuguese discovery of the Cape route in 1497, which was followed by their effective control, which lasted over a century.  Their expulsion was brought about in 1622 by the combined forces of the British and Persians, which compelled them to abandon their strongholds in the region.  Hence, a period of European rivalry over the control of the Gulf region began.  The Dutch appeared on the scene when they opened a trading post at Bandar Abbas, where the headquarters of the British East India Company had just been established.  In 1765 they were forced to evacuate the region after 140 years of occupation.  With the termination of Dutch influence a period of almost two centuries of British political and commercial domination opened.

        Britain’s grand design in the Gulf region was to support the independence of Persia and Afghanistan as buffer areas between India and the expanding Russian influence in Asia.  Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, British maritime presence was challenged by the (Gulf pirates) who extended their control from Abu Dhabi in the south-west to Ras Musandam in the north.  The British retaliated by imposing a firmer grip on the area and in 1819 the pirate stronghold at Ras Kheima was overrun and destroyed by the British navy.  From 1820 onwards a succession of treaties were imposed upon the various Shaikhs of the pirate coast and with the Shaikhs of Bahrain who pledged to refrain from piracy against any third party, and not to enter into agreement or correspondence with any power other than Britain.  In return, the government of British India undertook to conduct their defence and external relations.  Such mutual commitments came under what was known as the (Exclusive Agreement) which was first signed by Bahrain in 1880 followed by the Trucial States, Kuwait and Qatar in 1892, 1899, and 1916 respectively.  Another important engagement was concluded in 1847 concerning the prohibition of the slave trade in the Trucial coast and similar engagements were made during the two decades that followed, with the rest of the Gulf rulers.

         British authority in the Gulf was dual in nature; being run simultaneously by both the Foreign Office and the Government of British India, with the India Office acting as a liaison.  This has occasionally lead to some from of friction and contradiction between the two.

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