What Does Qatar’s Isolation by Arab Neighbours Mean For India?

There are approximately 6.5 lakh Indians in Qatar, making it the largest expatriate community there.

2 min read
There are approximately 6.5 lakh Indians in Qatar, making it the largest expatriate community there. (Photo: AP) 

Qatar’s pariah status after six countries – the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Maldives – severed diplomatic ties with it over its alleged support to Iran and extremism has initiated debates over the repercussions that will soon follow.

Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Monday said that India does not see its relations in the gulf facing any issues as it was an “internal matter of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).” The only concern, she said, is about Indians there, and she expressed hope that things will normalise within the GCC.

There are approximately 6.5 lakh Indians in Qatar, making it the largest expatriate community there. The community is also present in large numbers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with whom India shares “good ties”.

Travel Hurdles in Future?

With four Arab countries announcing the closure of transport ties with Qatar, the Indian community employed and living in different Gulf countries may now face hurdles.

Many use Doha has a hub to reach their destinations in the region said The Hindu report, noting that Qatar Airways flies around 24,000 Indian passengers every week.

It said that the airline was also planning to “set up a fully-owned subsidiary domestic airline in India”. But the effect of the collective boycott of Qatar is yet to be seen.


Gas Imports Remain Unaffected For Now

India’s Petronet LNG imports 8.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas from Qatar every year.

Finance head at Petronet LNG RK Garg told Reuters that the move will not have any impact on gas supplies from the Gulf nation as “we get gas directly from Qatar by sea”.

A Business Standard report said that the Qatari government “has offered to fill up India’s strategic reserves for free [...] and easier access for Doha’s capital into the Indian economy.”


Trade and Labour

India shares strategic economic ties with Qatar and according to The Hindu, it is India’s 19th biggest trading partner with $9 billion in trade.

Plus, the majority of the Indian workforce there is currently employed in projects related to FIFA World Cup, scheduled to be held in Qatar in 2022.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi inviting Qatar’s companies to “grab” the vast opportunities for business in our “land of opportunities” during his visit to the Gulf nation in June 2016, India expects more investments.

Apart from LNG, India also imports ammonia, urea, polyethene, etc, and in 2014-15, India’s imports from Qatar were at $14.6 billion whereas its exports just exceeded $1 billion, according to a Hindustan Times report.

Indian firms including Larsen & Toubro Limited, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Wipro, MahindraTech, HCL Technologies Ltd, etc. are also operating in Qatar.

Whether the diplomatic isolation will impede the transactions is yet to be seen.

(With agency inputs)

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