June , 2017
Strategic isolation of Qatar
16:09 pm

Anustup Roy Barman

American President Donald Trump has confirmed that pressure from the US has compelled six West Asian states to suspend their relations with Qatar. According to Trump, “This is the beginning of the end for the horror of terrorist activities.” The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia had cut off their air, land, and water ties with Qatar on June 6, 2017.Surprisingly, Maldives has also followed suit, indicating exactly how much the current government has become indebted to Saudi Arabia. The countries have started withdrawing their diplomats from the embassies in Doha. Qatari diplomats have been ejected from their capitals. These countries have also asked their citizens to leave Qatar and have asked Qataris to leave their country within a couple of weeks.

Trump is trying to create an alliance of the Sunni Arab countries targeting Shia Iran and terrorism (though the Al Qaeda and the Daesh/ISIS are Sunni extremist/terrorist groupings). Qatar has been side-lined because it showed softness towards Iran. Recently, Trump went to Saudi Arabia and tried to expedite this process. Trump twitted on terror funding, “So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding….”

Countries like Turkey and Kuwait had taken a proactive role in solving the terror funding issue originating from the West Asian countries. The US Foreign Secretary, Rex Tillerson informed that the US is ready to help in solving the difference of opinion among the Arab countries. But according to many political commentators, this could be difficult after Trump’s public posturing on the issue. This is the most serious rift that the Arab world and the six-member Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) have witnessed in recent times over allegations of Qatar’s continuing support to the ‘Ikhwanul-Muslimeen’, also known as the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’.

Qatar also owns and funds the influential satellite channel, Al-Jazeera, which has locked horns with Egypt and other Arab countries over its critical and provocative media coverage of events in Arab countries. Al-Jazeera was already blocked in several Arab countries. The channel was praised for its coverage of the initial months of the Arab uprisings in 2011, but since then it has been transformed in the minds of many in the region into a tool for furthering the Qatari foreign policy and promoting the views of Islamist groups.

India is keeping a close watch over the ongoing problem. In a press conference, Prime Minister Modi has stressed on the smooth diplomatic relation that India shares with the West Asian countries. He mentioned that cutting off ties with Qatar by the Arab countries was an internal matter of the Arab coalition. But the Indian government has realised that this problem will affect India sooner or later. According to an official from the foreign ministry, the bilateral relation between India and the Arab countries are good. This will help India to secure the future of the Indian diaspora in Qatar, even after this announcement.

New Delhi is not sure about the well-being of the Indian diaspora in Qatar.  Almost 6.5-7 lakh Indians live in Qatar. India earns around $500crore foreign exchange from these NRI’s living in Qatar. Investment of Qatar in India is not much but efforts are on to increase this. The Indian corporate sectors had shown interest in Qatar in the last few years. 8-10 Indian companies are working in the IT, infrastructure and other sectors of Qatar. The Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was supposed to visit Qatar in July which has been postponed after the announcement. This year, India was supposed to receive investments from Qatar in sectors like housing, airport, airlines, docks, oil, petrochemical, fertilizer, tourism and others. In light of the present situation, the future of these investments looks gloomy. Experts feel that India will be affected by tension in the region. Modi’s Arab policy will be affected by this. While talking to BE, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, and Former Secretary, MEA and Former Ambassador, mentioned, “It is unlikely that the LNG gas supply from Qatar, which has the world’s third largest gas reserve, will be affected. The Indian PSU, Petronet LNG, imports around 8.5 million tonnes of LNG from Qatar. If the LNG supply from Qatar is interrupted, it will badly affect India’s domestic energy market.” He added, “India is unlikely to take sides given its friendly relations with Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.”

Qatar Airways has said that no passengers flying from India to West Asia, Europe, or the United States will face problems. According to the sources from Qatar Airways, Kolkata, there is no problem for the passengers flying to countries other than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates. They will fly from Kolkata to Doha as per their schedule but the passenger booked in any Qatar Airways flight to those four countries will be shifted to flights of Emirates Airline or Etihad Airways.

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