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Seventh high-level visit from India to West Asia begins as Jaishankar reaches Qatar


Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has reached Qatar for a two-day visit that will see him meeting top leadership of the politically significant West Asian country. 

Jaishankar will meet the foreign minister of the country, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, and other top political leaders.

A Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) release said, “During the visit, he will hold talks with his counterpart on bilateral issues as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest. He will convey special gratitude to the State of Qatar for taking care of Indians during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

This is the seventh high-level in-person visit from India to West Asia amid Covid pandemic in the last four months. 

September saw a stop-over by both India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh and Jaishankar in Tehran, while on way to Moscow for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation defense and foreign ministers met respectively.

October saw the visit of India’s energy minister Dharmendra Pradhan to Kuwait to offer condolences on the passing away of former Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al Jaber al Sabah. It was followed by the visit of Jaishankar to UAE and Bahrain in November.

December saw two visits — the visit of Indian Army Chief MM Naravane to Saudi Arabia and UAE and Minister of State in the MEA V Muraleedharan to Oman. This visit by Indian Army chief was the first such visit to West Asia.

Overall, Indian leaders have been to seven West Asian countries — Iran (two visits), Kuwait, UAE (two visits), Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar — the maximum to any region this year.

During his current visit, Jaishankar will address the Indian community. The country hosts 7 lakh Indian workers, many of them send huge remittances to back home. 

India has welcomed the recent labour reforms measures adopted by the country — which include the institutionalisation of rights of workers, their safe movement and settlement of labour issues.

Qatar, which has punched above its weight in West Asia, also hosts the intra-Afghan talks and Taliban delegation with Afghanistan — which is also expected to be the key focus of Jaishankar’s talks with the country’s leadership. 

In September, Jaishankar virtually joined the ceremony marking the start of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government hosted by Doha.

Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Amir Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani with investment being the focus of the talks. Both sides have decided to create a special task force to further facilitate investments by Qatar investment authority into India. They have also resolved to explore Qatari investments in the entire energy value-chain in India. 

The bilateral trade between the two countries stands at US$ 10.95 billion in 2019-20.

India has continued its engagement via virtual means with West Asia amidst the COVID pandemic as well. Jaishankar has spoken to a number of his counterparts, including a meet with the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council.



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