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India-Qatar Relations, Areas Of Cooperation, Challenges

Context: The decision by the Court of Appeal in Qatar to overturn the death sentences previously handed down to eight Navy veterans.

India And Qatar Relations

  • India and Qatar have close and long-standing relations, dating back to the ancient Silk Road.
  • Formal diplomatic relations were established in 1973.
  • The relationship has grown significantly in recent years, driven by strong economic and trade ties, a large Indian expatriate community in Qatar, and shared interests in regional and global issues.

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India And Qatar Relations Timeline

Year Event
1971 India was among the few countries which recognized Qatar soon after its independence in 1971.
1973 India and Qatar established full diplomatic relations in 1973. The year 2023, marks the 50 years of bilateral diplomatic relations.
2008 The visit of PM Manmohan Singh to Qatar marked a significant turning point in India-Qatar Relations.
2015 The Emir of Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani visited India in 2015.
2016 PM Narendra Modi visited Qatar in 2016.

Areas Of Cooperation Between India And Qatar

Trade and Investment

  • India’s bilateral trade with Qatar in 2022-23 was US$ 18.77 billion.
  • India’s export to Qatar during 2022-23 was US$ 1.96 billion and India’s import from Qatar was US$ 16.8 billion(Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to India, with over 48% of India’s global LNG imports.)
  • India-Qatar Start-up Bridge is a joint initiative to link the start-up ecosystems of two countries.
  • 50 wholly-owned Indian companies are located in Qatar in these diverse fields and the 15,000 jointly owned companies are adding momentum to the India-Qatar economic partnership.

Defence Cooperation

  • Training Programs: India extends training opportunities in its defence institutions to partner nations, including Qatar.
  • Participation in Exhibitions: India consistently participates in the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) held in Qatar every two years.
  • Naval and Coast Guard Interactions: Indian Naval and Coast Guard vessels frequently make port calls in Qatar, underlining the bilateral cooperation and interaction between the two nations.
  • Defence Cooperation Agreement: The India-Qatar Defence Cooperation Agreement was initially inked during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit in November 2008. This pact was renewed for another five-year term in November 2018.
  • Exercise Zair-Al-Bahr: Maritime Exercise.

Indian Diaspora

  • There are over 800,000 Indian nationals residing in Qatar comprising the largest expatriate community in Qatar.

Covid cooperation

  • Qatar sent COVID medical relief material to India to combat the second wave of COVID-19, Qatar Petroleum filled Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) in cryogenic tankers which were shipped through various Indian Naval Ships to India.

Challenges for India And Qatar Relations

  • Unprecedented Verdict: The unexpected death sentence of eight ex-Indian Navy personnel, including notable veterans like Commander Purnendu Tiwari (a Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awardee), could strain diplomatic ties between India and Qatar.
  • Lack of Transparency: The details surrounding the case against the Navy personnel are ambiguous, leading to concerns about the fairness and speed of the trial.
  • Cultural and Religious Sensitivities: Cultural integration and understanding pose significant challenges, particularly given incidents like derogatory remarks about the Prophet on an Indian TV show, after which Qatar sought a public apology.
  • Labour and Migrant Workers’ Concerns: Despite reforms, issues persist around the welfare of Indian migrant workers in Qatar. Concerns include working conditions, remuneration, and legal rights, occasionally causing diplomatic friction.
  • Geopolitical Dynamics: India’s ties with other Middle Eastern nations don’t always align with Qatar’s alliances.
    • For example, the 2017 blockade by a Saudi Arabia-led bloc impacted India’s interactions with other Gulf Arab states.
    • The issue of Indian fugitive Zakir Naik, wanted since 2016 for alleged crimes, attending the FIFA World Cup in Qatar further complicated matters.

Qatar’s Influence in World Politics

  • Qatar played an important role as a mediator in the Doha Agreement between the US & the Taliban.
  • Qatar is leading mediation talks with Hamas and Israeli officials over the release of hostages after the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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