What does it mean for Indians living in Qatar?

 A simple guide to the Qatar-Gulf crisisQatar Airways/Facebook
news International politics Wednesday, June 07, 2017 - 12:57

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terror groups, including the Islamic State, and interfering in its internal affairs.

Later in the day, Yemen's internationally recognized government, the Maldives and Libya also decided to sever diplomatic relations with Qatar.

The reason for the conflict

The Arab and Gulf nations accused Qatar of destabilising the region and claimed Doha had links with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

Now here's the lowdown

Saudi Arabia has had tense relations with Qatar for several years now. For over two years, a Saudi-led coalition that included Qatar has been fighting Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. On Monday, however, Riyadh separately announced that Doha is no longer welcome in the alliance.

As John Bacon writes for the CNBC, both Saudi and Qatar are Sunni-dominated nations whereas Iran has a predominant Shia population. However, Qatar, part of the "Sunni coalition", also has "close economic ties with Iran, including sharing a major offshore gas reserve".

The simmering tensions escalated recently.

Around two weeks ago, Qatar's state-run news agency reportedly published reports of Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Qatari Emir, purportedly saying that “Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it.”

He reportedly also said that there were tensions with the US and described his country's relation with Israel as “good”, The Guardian reported.

Qatar, on the other hand, alleged that hackers had taken over the site of its news agency and published what it called fake comments from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel.

Recently, Donald Trump, President of the United States which too supports actions against Qatar, signed a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Donald Trump even claimed credit for the pressure being placed on Qatar by its Gulf neighbours. He said his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was "already paying off" and the development might mark the "beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism," the BBC reported.

Dr David Roberts explains in a report for the BBC that the US and Qatar too have had strained relations. The reasons for this include the latter's support of several Islamist groups and Palestinian militant group Hamas, and what the US thinks is "slanted coverage in the Middle East by Qatar owned Al Jazeera".

Roberts adds, "But support for Hamas places Qatar deeply at odds with many states, such as the US, who view Hamas as a terrorist organization. And the other Gulf monarchies prefer to deal with its secular rival Fatah as representatives for the Palestinians."

In fact in March 2014, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain had recalled their ambassadors from Qatar for its alleged backing of then-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member.

However, eight months later the ambassadors returned as Qatar forced some Brotherhood members to leave the country.

Qatar's reaction

In response to the recent developments, Qatar's Foreign Ministry said it regretted the measures by the Arab nations, and called the decisions "unjustified".

"The measures are unjustified and are based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact," Al Jazeera TV cited the statement, adding the decisions would "not affect the normal lives of citizens and residents".

How will Qatar be affected?

Qatar though rich in gas, depends heavily on imports, especially food.

The land border that Qatar shares with Saudi Arabia is its only land crossing and this could deeply impact the nation's over 2.5 million people.

Some of the countries have also snapped air and sea links with the country.

Its state-owned flag carrier has begun diverting its flights to Europe, North America and North Africa via Iran instead of Saudi Arabia, flight monitoring services said on Tuesday.

The India connection

Some 4.82 million Indians live in the Gulf, including 630,000 in Qatar.

There is nothing to panic for Indians in general and Keralites in particular over Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE deciding to snap diplomatic ties with Qatar, a leading migration expert said.

Speaking to IANS, S Irudayarajan, senior faculty at the Centre for Development Studies who heads the migration unit, said if these countries ask their nationals in Qatar to return to their countries, the immediate gain would be for South Asia.

With IANS inputs

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.