As Saudi Arabia and its allies restored their relations with Qatar, experts have hailed this as a positive development for countries such as India, the US, and Israel.
On Monday (January 04), Saudi Arabia announced its decision to reopen its airspace and land borders to Qatar in a bid to end the diplomatic crisis that began in 2017.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain had cut their diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar and imposed a land, sea, and air blockade on it following the dispute.
Saudi Arabia has opened its land border with Qatar for the first time in over three years.
The move, after months of mediation, could end a political dispute that led Riyadh and its allies to impose a boycott on Qatar 👇 pic.twitter.com/r98TknPrld
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 5, 2021
On Tuesday, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was embraced by the de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival in the historic city of al-Ula. The Qatari ruler had come to attend the annual summit of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Saudi Arabia.
Watch the moment Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani arrives in Saudi Arabia for a historic summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
He was greeted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 👇 pic.twitter.com/p6iD54YsWe
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 5, 2021
The scene was in stark contrast to the events in the past few years when the four countries firmly stood against Doha and accused it of backing radical Islamist movements and having close ties to Riyadh’s arch-rival Iran.
Qatar has the largest American military base in the region. The Middle East nation, which shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia, has around 2.3 million inhabitants, out of which an overwhelming majority are ex-pats.
Reports suggest the quad bloc had issued a list of around 13 demands to Qatar, including downgrading its links with Tehran and even closing its Al Jazeera news network.
At the time, Doha said that any solution should be based on mutual respect, and no country should impose demands on another nation.
“No country is in a position to impose any demands on another country … Each country should decide its foreign policy,” Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani had said. It is unclear whether Qatar accepted any of the demands.
One of the key factors in solving the dispute was the involvement of Kuwait, which acted as a mediator between the two nations.
In December 2020, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmad Nasser Al Mohammad Al Sabah had indicated that progress had been made to end the dispute, by saying that “all sides expressed their keenness for Gulf and Arab unity and stability”.
While Saudi Arabia’s decision to reopen borders is a major milestone towards resolving the crisis, full reconciliation is still a distant dream due to their sharp ideological differences.
Sultan Barakat, Director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies at the Doha Institute, said the blockade has ended up making the Middle East country more resilient.
“Over the last few years, the Qataris have managed to learn to live with the blockade and that has helped them discover better ways of living and more efficient ways of sustaining their economy and managing their affairs,” Barakat said.
“This resulted in an extremely resilient country that has demonstrated itself in the lifting of the blockade without them having to address the totally irrational 13 conditions,” he added.
A New Delhi-based analyst told The EurAsian Times the eventual diffusion of tensions is good news for many nations across the world including India, the United States, and Israel.
“Many countries including India, the United States, and Israel would be rejoicing these recent developments.” “The United States and all these Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and have a common enemy in Iran. So, the main target is Iran with the maximum push against it provided by the US for all these countries.”
However, he said India will be one of the Asian nations which would be extremely happy with the decision, although it will choose not to publicly declare it.
“India, in the heart of hearts, must be delighted with the decision, however, we are not and will not disclose our joy publicly.”
In recent years, India has strengthened its ties with the United States besides Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
According to reports, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have made the biggest investment commitments in India, with the former pledging a total of $75 billion investment towards infrastructure development in India.
“We (India) are close to the US and Saudi Arabia, with the nations also supporting us,” the Indian expert said speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been coming and investing money into India, and they are gradually distancing themselves from Pakistan, so it is a clear boost for us.”