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The two countries exchanged views on issues of mutual interest at the regional and multilateral levels, including cooperation at the UN.
In was a dramatic reversal of events, Arab leaders from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt signed a declaration to retore diplomatic relations with Qatar in January this year, after having imposed an embargo against the country nearly three and half years ago.
A gesture that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman affirmed as, “our Gulf, Arab and Islamic solidarity and stability”.
“There is a desperate need today to unite our efforts to promote our region and to confront challenges that surround us, especially the threats posed by the Iranian regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme and its plans for sabotage and destruction.”
The news of the reconciliation means that newer opportunities for trade and collaboration are now beginning to open up, not just with the GCC countries but also for countries like the US and India.
In fact, India was one to react positively to the announcement, with Anurag Srivastava, India’s Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson stating, “We were pleased to note the positive developments at the recently concluded GCC Summit in Al-Ula, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We welcome the reconciliation and rapprochement between countries in the region.
India shares excellent relationship with all the countries in the GCC, which is in our extended neighbourhood, and we hope that such encouraging developments will further promote peace, progress and stability in the region.
“We will continue to work with GCC countries for the strengthening of our bilateral co-operation. We also look forward to enhance our institutional dialogue and partnership with the GCC.”
India has been one of the few countries who has managed to pull off a difficult balancing act during the years of the embargo, by increasing engagement and furthering relations with Gulf countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia while still maintaining good relations with Qatar. And it appears that manoeuvring that diplomatic high rope is finally coming to fruition, as India and Qatar reviewed bilateral relations including energy, trade, investments, defence and health security at the Foreign Office Consultations yesterday.
The two sides exchanged views on issues of mutual interest at the regional and multilateral levels, including cooperation at the UN and other international fora and agreed to convene the first Joint Commission Meeting at Foreign Minister level at an early date.
Both sides expressed satisfaction that despite the COVID-19 pandemic they have kept in close touch including the telephone conversations between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Amir of Qatar and the visit of External Affairs Minister to Qatar in December 2020 “which gave new momentum to bilateral relations”. The two countries have also reiterated their commitment to working closely together in these areas and further discussing new areas of cooperation.
“The Foreign Office Consultations provided an opportunity to review the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including political, energy, trade, investments, defence, food security, health security, science and technology, consular, community and cultural issues,” an MEA release said.
Home to nearly 700,000 Indians, Qatar has a large Indian diaspora. According to data released by Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) and Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), there are over 6000 big and small Indian companies operating in Qatar at present, with an investment of about US$450 million in the country.
Qatar’s bilateral trade with India was valued at $10.95 billion in 2019-20, according to official data, and H E Dr. Deepak Mittal, Indian Ambassador to Qatar, recently stated that Qatar-India trade volume is expected to return to pre-COVID-19 level by middle of this year.
“Bilateral trade between Qatar and India crossed $11bn in 2019. Despite COVID-19 challenges the trade volume between two countries from April to November in 2020 was about $7bn which was a good growth,” He told The Peninsula.
Qatar also has great importance when it comes to India’s energy security. With an import of nearly 10 million metric tonnes (MMT) of LNG, both through a long-term contract between Petronet of India and RasGas of Qatar and spot purchases by Indian companies, Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to India, accounting for over 50% of India’s global LNG imports. In 2015, Petronet LNG and Qatar’s RasGas Co. Ltd had signed an agreement for an additional supply of 1 millon tonnes of LNG annually from the RasGas through the remainder of the 25-year contract, ending in 2028. Besides LNG, India also imports ethylene, propylene, ammonia, urea and polyethylene from Qatar.
It is worth noting that the restoration of relations between Qatar and the Gulf countries, not to mention the normalisation of relations between Israel and the GCC countries has brought with an era of infinite opportunities for trade, investment and collaboration. The world, it seems is opening up and India with its increasing stature on the global stage and strong strategic and diplomatic relations with all the countries involved is right in the centre of it.