Amid a diplomatic standoff between Qatar and four Arab nations, the welfare of Indian workers in the gas-rich Gulf nation came up for discussion during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani here on Saturday.
“EAM @SushmaSwaraj welcomes Mr. Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Foreign Minister of Qatar on his visit to India,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted along with a picture of the two leaders.
“Bilateral issues, including welfare of Indian workers in Qatar were discussed,” he said.
There are around 630,000 expatriate Indians in Qatar, many of whom are blue collar workers in that country’s construction sector.
However, Sheikh Mohamed’s visit, who arrived here on Friday, assumes more significance as it comes at a time when the Gulf nation is in a nearly three-month-old diplomatic standoff with a group of four Saudi Arabia-led Arab nations.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt cut off diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5 charging Doha with supporting extremist organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen, and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
To end the impasse, the four-nation group has set a list of demands that include Qatar ending support for the extremist groups, closing TV news channel Al-Jazeera, downgrading diplomatic ties with Iran and shutting down a Turkish military base it hosts.
Qatar is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which comprises of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
India is close to both Qatar, the largest gas supplier, and Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest crude oil suppliers.
In the midst of this diplomatic standoff, Qatar is wooing the West with big ticket purchases of fighter jets from the US, naval ships from Italy and Brazilian football superstar Neymar from Barcelona FC for Paris St. Germain, which the Gulf kingdom owns.
By signing a new counter-terrorism agreement with the US, Qatar also nicked President Donald Trump’s initial support for the four-nation Arab group.
According to media reports, Doha is looking towards eastern Asia with its second largest bank, the Qatar Islamic Bank, raising money in Chinese yen and Australian dollars.