Qatar: Small but powerful

After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and World War I (WW1), Qatar became a British protectorate and got independence from them in 1971. Qatar has an area of 11,000 square kilometers and its population is over 2.4 million. The majority of its population comprises of immigrants, while its own original population is two and half lacs which is 11 percent of the total population. It is also one of the richest countries in the world with a per capita income of $140,000 and a GDP of $360 billion. The US guarantees its security as some 10,000 US troops are garrisoned in Qatar and it is a major non-NATO ally. The US Combined Air Operation Centre is located in the country also, besides one of the biggest naval bases in its neighbour Bahrain.
Qatar has established itself as one of the important political players in the Middle East and Africa. It has strong diplomatic relations with the US and has balanced and good relations with everyone in the global community. Qatar has also been playing a mediating role in the region. It mediated talks between Iran and Iraq during the 10-year-long war. In 2008, it mediated and brought Lebanese leaders for a political agreement when others failed. In 2010, it mediated and brought Darfur rebels in Sudan with Sudanese government on table for negotiations. It also provided a political office to the Afghan Taliban during their struggle against the Karzai and Ghani governments. It also mediated between various Afghan factions and facilitated talks between the Taliban and the US which led to the Doha accord.
Qatar, supports the Libyan government of national accord recognised by the UN and also supports Syrian militants fighting the Asad regime and its forces along with Saudi Arabia. The Al-Jazeera channel is based in Qatar and famous for its English and Arabic transmissions. Al-Jazeera is one of the most influential media groups in the world. Qatar is the only Muslim country to have such a big media empire, influencing regional as well as international politics besides developing narratives and shaping public opinion across the globe. Qatar is one of the largest producers and exporters of LPG as well. It shares an oil field with Iran in the region of South Paras. The region has an area of 9700 square kilometers of which 6000 square kilometers is owned by Qatar and 3700 kilometers by Iran. The region has gas resources of 1800 trillion cubic feet and is known as the biggest gas field in the world.
The country’s flagship airline ‘Qatar Airways’ has direct flights to over 100 cities across the globe. Qatar airways is considered to be one of the leading airways in the world. Qatar’s port, one of the most advanced ports of the world is linked with 150 maritime destinations across the globe. Qatar recently hosted the 22 edition of the FIFA world cup for the first time in the Arab world. According to the media, some $300 billion were spent on the mega event. Opposed and contested by the West which stated that Qatar is too small of a country to organise the event. A newspaper in Switzerland wrote, “Football and world cup are too big for it”. Despite challenges and criticisms for human rights violations, the Qatari government delivered what was promised to the FIFA. During the mega event, the Qataris displayed true Arab hospitality to teams and tourists alike. They also ensured that no Islamic values were violated, besides demonstrating solidarity with Palestinians.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt decided to isolate Qatar and cut diplomatic and trade ties. A blockade was imposed and resultantly, Iran and Turkey came to rescue Qatar. Kuwait and Oman did not cut ties with Qatar. Qatar shares only land borders with Saudi Arab from where 40 percent of its food comes. A 13-point demand list was presented to Qatar. Some of the demands at that time included cutting diplomatic ties with Iran. The second demand was not to support the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ organisation in the Middle East. In the past, Qatar supported the government of President Morsi (a sympathiser of the Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt. They also demanded not to support groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Another demand was to shut down its media channel, Al-Jazeera, which was accused of supporting the Arab Spring. There was also a demand from Qatar to close Turkish military base from its territory. Despite all pressures, the Qataris took a firm stand on its foreign policy and the blockade did not work. Eventually in 2020, it was lifted altogether.
Pakistan and Qatar have well established close relations based on mutual respect and understanding on regional and international issues. The Qatar investment Authority plans to invest $3 billion in Pakistan. The International community recognises the importance of Qatar and its effective role in the Middle East and key US ally which went from a regional player to international player.

The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist. He tweets @MasudAKhan6.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt