New Delhi: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed their ties with Qatar on Monday, accusing it of supporting terrorism, in an unprecedented breach between the most powerful members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The coordinated move dramatically escalates a dispute over Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest Islamist movement, and adds accusations that Doha even backs the agenda of regional arch-rival Iran.
A split between Doha and its closest allies can have repercussions around the Middle East where Gulf states have used their financial and political power to influence events in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
From the perspective of India, here’s how the developments are likely to affect New Delhi-Doha ties and Indians who make up the largest expatriate group in Qatar.
Travel for Indians to Qatar is unlikely to be affected as flights from India take the Persian Gulf route to Doha. The limits placed on air space access by the Saudi-led grouping won’t have any impact over the Persian Gulf.
INDIANS IN QATAR
Direct travel for Indians living in Qatar to the UAE, which also has a sizeable population of Indians, may be difficult as it has joined Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain in denying air space to Doha. Indian expats in Qatar may have to re-route their travel to these countries with multiple stops.
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TRADE AND DEFENCE TIES
India shares strong defence and economic ties with Qatar. India’s exports to Doha crossed the billion-dollar mark to touch $ 1.05 billion in 2014-15 and total bilateral trade reached $15.67 billion.
Indian contractors Larsen & Turbo (L&T) in March 2014 won a QR 2.1 billion road project in Qatar. It also secured a $740 million order from Qatar Railways Co for the design and construction of the rail line for the Doha Metro project in Qatar.
New Delhi also enjoys warm ties with regional leader Saudi Arabia but won’t have to pick sides as the feud mostly relates to intra-GCC dynamics and geopolitics over Doha’s support of Muslim Brotherhood and alleged support to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
India’s Petronet LNG said it did not expect any impact on gas supplies from Qatar, which has the world’s third largest gas reserves. “I don’t think there will be any impact on it. We get gas directly from Qatar by sea,” RK Garg, head of finance at Petronet, told Reuters.
Petronet LNG, India’s biggest gas importer, buys 8.5 million tonnes a year of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar under a long-term contract. It also buys additional volumes from Qatar under spot deals.