The decision of seven countries to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar will not affect India, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday. “There is no challenge arising out of this for us,” she said while addressing the media about the key initiatives undertaken by her ministry during the three years of the Narendra Modi government.
Swaraj said it was an “internal matter” of the Gulf Coordination Council. “Our only concern is about Indians there,” said the minister, according to NDTV. “We are trying to find out if any Indians are stuck there.” There is about 6.5 lakh Indians in Qatar.
Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought the Centre’s help to ensure the safety of Indian expatriates in Qatar. “As you are aware millions of Indians are working in countries in the Middle East and therefore the geo-political developments in the region has raised deep concerns among the people in the state since each family has at least one family member or a relative in the region,” Vijayan said in a Facebook post. Out of the 6.5 lakh Indians in Qatar, nearly three lakh hail from Kerala, according to The Indian Express.
However, an unidentified Indian official in Qatar said there was no panic among the expatriates. “People are stocking up but there’s nothing to worry about,” the official told Hindustan Times.
The diplomatic row
On Monday, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, UAE and Bahrain severed ties with Qatar, accusing the gulf state of supporting militant groups and Iran as well as interfering in other countries’ affairs. Following this, several of West Asia’s biggest airlines suspended all flights to Qatar’s capital Doha. Saudia Airlines, Etihad, Emirates, Flydubai and Gulf Air said they would halt all flights in and out of Doha starting Tuesday morning. Only Kuwait and Oman – both members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - have not suspended flights to Qatar. The Gulf states also banned their citizens from travelling to Qatar and ordered Qatari citizens to leave within 14 days.
In response, Qatar called the decision to cut diplomatic ties a “violation of its sovereignty”, and vowed to its citizens that the decision won’t affect them. In reciprocal action, Qatar Airways on Monday announced that it was suspending all flights to Saudi Arabia. It also asked its citizens to leave the UAE within 14 days to comply with Abu Dhabi’s order.
The dispute between Qatar and other Gulf countries started after the Qatar’s state run news agency was hacked recently. A statement issued by the Qatar government had read, “The Qatar News Agency website has been hacked by an unknown entity. A false statement attributed to His Highness has been published.” The incident came days after US President Donald Trump met Gulf Arab leaders in Riyadh.