Diplomatic crisis in QatarA recent episode in West Asia has put Qatar, a small but sovereign country, in the global limelight. Earlier in the month, several Gulf countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terror groups. Chief among those countries is Saudi Arabia, with which Qatar shares its sole land border. The rest of Qatari territory is surrounded by the Persian Gulf.
A recent episode in West Asia has put Qatar, a small but sovereign country, in the global limelight. Earlier in the month, several Gulf countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terror groups. Chief among those countries is Saudi Arabia, with which Qatar shares its sole land border. The rest of Qatari territory is surrounded by the Persian Gulf.
Qatar has about 2,700,000 inhabitants. Out of them, a little over 300,000 are native Qataris and the rest are migrant workers. The employers of these workers have been heavily criticised in recent years due to their exploitative and abusive activities. However, it is hoped that the latest amendment in Qatar’s labour laws will control such activities.
Though Qatar is very small, it is economically sound. It is well endowed with resources like natural gas and oil reserves. It is the third richest country in the world in terms of natural gas reserves (after Russia and Iran). It has as many as 162 aircrafts operating flights to 170 destinations in 100 countries. It is an international travel hub between Asian and Western countries. Its rich natural resources, robust infrastructure, political stability, stability in foreign exchange rate and the least corporate tax rate in the world have enabled it to attract huge foreign direct investments in mining, manufacturing, financial and insurance sectors from more than 60 countries, including the USA, and those in the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Qatar has also made huge investments in the financial, insurance, transportation, storage, communication and information, and trade sectors in more than 80 countries around the world. It has followed the policy of trade diversification. It imports food, clothing, machinery and chemicals from France, Japan, US, Germany, UK, Saudi Arabia, Italy and the UAE. The share of neighbouring Saudi Arabia and UAE in Qatar’s total import is only 6.7 percent and 4.5 percent respectively. Qatar’s per capita income is the highest in the world.
This small country has emerged as a significant power in the Arab World. It maintains 100 embassies abroad as well as 11 consulates and two other representatives. Its capital, Doha, hosts 99 embassies and one consulate. It has a globally expanding media group, the Al Jazeera media network. It is also hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, becoming the first Arab country to do so.
Unfortunately, it is facing an unexpected diplomatic crisis as its neighbouring countries—Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE—have cut off diplomatic relations and imposed economic blockades, accusing it of funding terrorists and manipulating the internal affairs of its neighbouring countries. These allegations have already been denied by the government of Qatar. It has also called for a dialogue to settle the diplomatic rift.
Naturally, the migrant workers in Qatar and their dependants back home are worried about the situation. But they need not worry, as the country has an adequate food stock and has made all the necessary provisions to tackle the crisis. It has already started importing foodstuffs from Turkey, Lebanon, Algeria and Iran. Such a blockade is not likely to last long as it is harmful not only for Qatar but also for its migrant workers, foreign investors and neighbouring countries themselves. Furthermore, the blockade is against international law and norms of humanity. No country has the right to play with the lives of their neighbouring countries’ inhabitants and the livelihood of their dependants.
As such, all the countries of the world should condemn the actions taken against Qatar. In particular, powerful countries should exert diplomatic pressure on Qatar’s neighbours to lift the blockade and settle disputes through meaningful dialogue. If their allegations are proved true, the government of Qatar should mend its ways without any delay. If they are not, Qatar’s neighbouring countries should not envy its progress and prosperity. They should realise that every sovereign country, whether big or small, is equally entitled to survive and function independently and with full dignity. Hopefully, the disputes will be resolved soon through peaceful negotiations.
- Mishra is a former ambassador to Qatar