Rift in the Arab world could hurt India’s interests

PTI
Friday, 23 June 2017

Just over a week after United States President Donald Trump’s visit to the Gulf region, a major rift among the Gulf states has emerged. Some powerful nations including oil giants Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar sighting Qatar’s alleged support to some terror groups.

It would be interesting to look at how these developments will affect India. Most analysts now say that these developments are likely to hurt India’s interests.

Just over a week after United States President Donald Trump’s visit to the Gulf region, a major rift among the Gulf states has emerged. Some powerful nations including oil giants Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar sighting Qatar’s alleged support to some terror groups.

It would be interesting to look at how these developments will affect India. Most analysts now say that these developments are likely to hurt India’s interests.

Out of the total oil requirement of India, about 85 per cent is sourced from imports of crude and out of the total imported LNG (liquefied natural gas) over 55 per cent comes from Qatar.

This signifies how important Qatar is for India. One already sees lots of speculation happening over how developments will unfold as UAE and some other countries have even suddenly suspended flights to Qatar. Oil prices are rising on news of the rift in the Arab world.

This action by the Gulf countries comes after President Donald Trump visited Riyadh to call on Muslim countries to stand united against extremists, and singling out Iran as a key source of funding and support for militant groups.

“It seems that the Saudis and Emiratis feel emboldened by the alignment of their regional interests - toward Iran and Islamism - with the Trump administration,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the US-based Baker Institute.

The new boycott also threatens the international prestige of Qatar, which hosts a large US military base and is set to host the 2022 World Cup. It has for years presented itself as a mediator and power broker for the region’s many disputes.

The Gulf states have given Qatari visitors and residents two weeks to leave their countries. Dubai-based carrier Emirates said it will suspend all flights to and from Doha from Tuesday morning until further notice, joining Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways in a similar move.

Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of backing terror groups and broadcasting their ideology, in an apparent reference to Qatar’s influential state-owned satellite channel Al Jazeera’s statement accused Qatar of supporting what it described as Iranian-backed terrorists in its restive and largely Shia Muslim-populated Eastern region of Qatif and in Bahrain.

Qatar has denied supporting terrorism or Iran in the past. “The measures are unjustified and are based on false and baseless claims,” the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement.

Qatar has land borders with Saudi Arabia and is separated by Gulf waters from nearby Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Oil prices rose after the moves against Qatar, which is the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate - a low-density liquid fuel and refining product derived from natural gas.

India depends on this product majorly in its industrial consumption. Its a bit premature to say what India can do to counter the damage likely to be caused by the Arab rift right now and a clearer picture may emerge in the coming weeks but some kind of damage may be  anticipated.

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