New Delhi, Aug 26 : Amid a diplomatic standoff between Qatar and four Arab nations, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani on Saturday assured India of the safety of the large Indian community in the Gulf nation.
“The visiting Qatari Minister called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hand over a letter from the Emir of Qatar,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
“He separately met with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval,” it stated.
According to the statement, Sheikh Mohamed assured India about “the continued safety, welfare and well-being of the Indian community and briefed the Indian side about new labour laws in Qatar which favour expatriate workers”.
Earlier in the day, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that the issue of Indian workers’ welfare came up for discussion in a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Sheikh Mohamed.
There are around 630,000 expatriate Indians in Qatar, many of whom are blue collar workers in that country’s construction sector.
The visit of Sheikh Mohamed, who arrived here on Friday, assumes 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 to 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 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.
“During the meeting, the Qatari side welcomed participation of the Indian companies through project exports in Qatar’s infrastructure development, including for the ongoing FIFA (football World Cup) 2022-related infrastructure, which was welcomed by the Indian side,” the statement said.
Sheikh Mohamed briefed his Indian interlocutors about the situation in the Gulf region.
“He was briefed about India’s position that peace and security in the Gulf are of paramount importance for the continued progress and prosperity of the region,” the statement said.
“Terrorism, violent extremism and religious intolerance pose grave threat not only to the regional stability but also to the global peace and order. India is of the view that parties should resolve their differences through a process of constructive dialogue and peaceful negotiations,” it added.