Monday June 17, 2024

Qatar’s challenges

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani
January 18, 2019

The Middle East faced a diplomatic crisis in June 2017 when the Gulf state of Qatar was accused by some of its powerful Arab neighbours of allegedly promoting terrorism and extremism. However, just after a year and a half, Qatar has managed to overcome the crisis successfully.

The Saudi-led coalition, as part of cutting off all kinds of diplomatic, trade and economic ties with Doha, had also started deporting Qatari nationals and imposed a land, maritime, and air blockade on Qatar. The transmission of Qatar-based Al-Jazeera Television was also banned by these countries.

This situation created a lot of panic among the people of Qatar. Regional trade organisations had to face severe challenges, due to which the international community too became uncertain about the future of the Gulf state.

Interestingly, it is believed that the main reason behind the diplomatic crisis was a controversial news report, posted on the official website and social media accounts of Qatar News Agency (QNA). Later, the news agency deleted the post and accused hackers for it.

The Qatar diplomatic crisis also echoed on various international forums, including the UN, which urged to settle the situation through dialogue. However, for the sake of normalisation of ties, the neighbouring Arab states presented a list of 13 demands to the government of Qatar. The demands included shutting down Al-Jazeera TV and its affiliate stations, closure of under-constructed Turkish military base and scaling down of bilateral relations with Iran.

The Qatari leadership refused to comply with these demands, and preferred to face the challenges. Today, when Saudi Arabia is considered a main ally of the United States in the Middle East, the largest regional air base of the US is still located in Qatar. To understand the Qatar crisis, we must not neglect regional history, which consists of various tussles and violent conflicts. In 1867, Bahrain and Qatar fought a horrific war which caused huge destruction on both sides. After its independence in 1971, Qatar’s leadership refused to become part of the UAE and decided to emerge as a sovereign independent country. We also need to remember that the current leadership of Egypt is mistrustful of Qatar because of the latter’s active support to the Muslim Brotherhood in the past.

The Qatari leadership tackled the situation on both the internal and external fronts sensibly. First, they assured the people of Qatar to have confidence in the government. On the diplomatic front, Qatar succeeded to show firm commitment to curbing global terrorism as well as proving allegations against the country baseless. The timely support provided by its international allies, such as Iran and Turkey, also played a crucial role in this regard.

To attain self-sufficiency and reduce dependency on foreign imports, Qatar initiated a number of projects related to dairy production, poultry products, and raising different types of cattle. Many farm houses were established throughout the country. The local leadership also ensured the best utilisation of natural gas reserves, which cover a major portion of the world supply. The recent report by S&P Global has also rated Qatar stable, because of “effective management of the fallout from the ongoing boycott related to trade and financial flows”.

Qatar with its very small population of around 2.5 million – most of whom are foreigners – has emerged as a real winner in this crisis. Its success proves that when there is a will there is always a way.

Pakistan is facing multiple crises – terrorism, power and energy issues, water shortage, political issues, economic vulnerability etc. We must learn lessons from Qatar’s experiences and achievements. Nature has also provided many precious gifts to Pakistan in the shape of goldmines, coal mines and most importantly, a patriotic population.

Unfortunately, we have built it into our national narrative to blame foreign players for all our failures. Following the success story of Qatar, we need to adopt a realistic approach. It is the last chance for us to struggle in the right direction with the right policies by appointing the right person at the right place so we can move our beloved country towards stability and


The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the

Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani