By Kerem Tuncer
Following the crack in Qatar’s diplomatic relations with the Arab countries, a new problem has arisen in the country. Foreigners presently in Qatar are finding it difficult to book flights to fly back to their own countries. Though the passengers using Qatar Airways flights to/from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt have taken the hardest hit, there are many other passengers who have not been able to book a spot in transition flights to/from places like England, Singapore, and India.
In response to this, India has thought of a possible solution—it is planning to send extra flights to transport passengers to and from Doha, the capital of Qatar. The Indian Aviation Ministry has used additional planes of both the state-owned airline company Air India and the private corporation Jet Airways to increase the customer capacity. While Air India introduced extra flights on the 25th of June and plans to continue them until the 8th of July, Jet Airways has already concluded its operation, having introduced additional flights on the 22nd and 23rd of June. The new flights are following two routes – Doha-Thiruvananthapuram and Doha-Cochin.
This plan was formulated on Wednesday, June 21st, after a series of meetings between the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju. It is believed that more than half a million Indians are currently in Qatar, though they represent a mere 12 percent of the total Qatari population. Their security is the immediate concern of the Indian government.
The cause and consequence
On June 5th, during the holy month of Ramadan, nine sovereign Muslim states publicly agreed to cut off all diplomatic relations with Qatar. This coalition, led by the government of Saudi Arabia, accused Qatar of funding numerous terrorist organisations and holding close ties with Iran. According to the accusations, Qatar has donated close to a billion dollars to Tahrir al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham, and Shia militias. Additionally, the countries have also criticised Al Jazeera, a popular Qatari news network, for its biased reports.
As a result of this development, Qatar has been unable to get access to supplies over land and the Persian Gulf; the trade of the country has come to a serious halt. An individual from Qatar reported that “Supplies of sugar have been stopped, and there is no indication when they could resume,”. Also, tens of thousands of camels and sheep are stuck near the Saudi Arabia-Qatar border.
An angry retort
Following Minister Raju’s tweet over his plans to introduce additional flights, a certain individual accused him of implying that there was an “issue” in Qatar. The person, who claims to be an Indian expat living in Qatar, assured that “there were absolutely no issues” in Qatar.
The Aviation Minister personally clarified this contention by explaining that he was not implying the existence of any issue in Qatar. He assured that additional flights were being introduced only as an aid to Indians in Qatar.
India’s stand on the issue
Although India was one of the sixteen nations which called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis, it is unable to take a strong stand on the crisis as the country has good relations with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
In addition to housing a vast number of working Indians, Qatar is also vital to India’s energy supply. Official statistics suggest that exports to India make about 13% of Qatar’s total exports. The scenario is not much different with Saudi Arabia. India is not only Saudi Arabia’s 4th largest export partner, but also its 5th biggest import partner.
Nevertheless, India does not seem too troubled by the rift between Qatar and the Arab countries. Sushma Swaraj said that she did not notice any problems regarding India’s relations with the Gulf countries, and labelled the affair as “an internal matter of the GCC (Gulf Coordination Council).” Currently, the primary concern of the government is the safety and convenience of the Indians in Qatar.
Featured Image source: Flickr
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