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Sushma Swaraj to visit Qatar amid Saudi-led blockade

DATE: 27-Oct-2018 Reported By: Shubhajit Roy

Swaraj’s visit assumes significance since Qatar has been an important and reliable partner in India’s energy security requirements, and has consistently been the largest supplier of LNG for past several years.
At a time when Saudi Arabia is facing international criticism over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to Qatar on a two-day visit from Sunday.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar hit a rough patch in June last year and Saudi-led coalition implemented a blockade and diplomatic isolation of the tiny but rich West Asian country.

India has not aligned itself to any side, and has counselled that all parties should resolve their differences through a process of constructive dialogue.

The Saudi-led bloc accuses Qatar of supporting groups they have banned, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as supporting terrorism. Qatar rejects accusations that it supports terrorism as baseless.

Swaraj’s visit assumes significance since Qatar has been an important and reliable partner in India’s energy security requirements, and has consistently been the largest supplier of LNG for past several years.

During her visit to Qatar on October 28 and 29, Swaraj is scheduled to interact with her counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar. She will also call on Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar. Swaraj is also scheduled to interact with the Indian community in Doha.

Her visit comes days after Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman praised Qatar’s economy, a rare conciliatory remark about Qatar. Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on Wednesday, he said, “Qatar, despite the differences we have, has a great economy and they will be doing a lot in the next five years.”

The Saudi crown prince has been under considerable pressure recently in light of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul by an 18-man Saudi hit squad on October 2.

Explaining Swaraj’s visit, an Indian diplomat told The Indian Express, “Qatar is also one of the key suppliers of crude oil to us. The diplomatic and trade embargo imposed on Qatar by some Arab countries has not adversely affected our trade and energy ties with Qatar, or any other Gulf country, as India enjoys close and cordial relations with all these countries.”

“With regard to the diplomatic isolation of Qatar by some Arab countries, India’s position is that all parties should resolve their differences through a process of constructive dialogue and peaceful negotiations based on well-established international principles of mutual respect, sovereignty and non interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” the diplomat said.

After Qatar, Swaraj will visit Kuwait on October 30 and 31, where she will hold a bilateral meeting with her counterpart and Deputy PM of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah. She will also call on the Kuwaiti amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and interact with the Indian community there.

Kuwait is a major energy supplier to India and hosts about 10 lakh Indians, who form the largest expatriate community there. India’s bilateral trade with Kuwait in 2017-18 was $ 8.5 billion.

This will be Swaraj’s first visit as External Affairs Minister to both countries.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/sushma-swaraj-to-visit-qatar-amid-saudi-led-blockade-5420627/lite/?fbclid=IwAR2qL-ayvtjU4laqpumk4uOJIsdP6cn28EdcTi4XrhIAytaW7qwxhzn4lWg#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s