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The emergence of a neo-Qatar and new geostrategic games

Nirendra Dev

Nirendra DevSep 04, 2021, 08:56 AM IST

The emergence of a neo-Qatar and new geostrategic games

Qatar has an advantage as a mediator and it goes without stating hardly any country could ensure a major evacuation out of Kabul without enlisting help, support or advice from Qatar authorities.

 

New Delhi: Of course, there is a growing interest in the affairs of the Afghanistan-Pak region and the extended neighbourhood.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is on a two-day visit to Pakistan after his trip to Qatar. To date, in the region, Pakistan played hide and seek with its sinister double standards, most often misleading the United States.

Even Barack Obama admitted in his book, 'A Promised Land' that Pakistan has been "quietly assisting the Taliban as a means of keeping the Afghan government weak" and also that "the U.S. government had long tolerated such behaviour from a purported ally—supporting it with billions of dollars in military and economic aid." 

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and UAE were other players often used by global players, including the US, to handle issues in the Gulf and another Islamic world. But now, Qatar has emerged as a serious player. 

In the meantime, on the first day in Islamabad, British Foreign Secretary Raab held a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi and later said categorically: "The approach we are taking is that we don't recognise the Taliban as a government .... but we do see the importance of being able to engage (with Taliban) and have a direct line of communication."

Of course, Britain still has the agenda of "safe passage" of British nationals and the Afghans who worked for the U. K government to discuss with the Taliban. The importance of Qatar in a geopolitical sense has increased manifold in recent times. Turkey will be another important player among the so-called movers and shakers in the region post-Taliban 'win' in Afghanistan. Needless to add, there are other players such as China, Iran and Russia.

From 1870 onward, the British-Turkish coordination made use of Kabul or Afghanistan against the Russian empire. Turkey is hoping for a greater mileage as the Taliban trusts it, perhaps more than anyone else. Turkey is also a trusted ally of Pakistan, from where the Taliban got the training and all the logistic support. One key assignment Turkey got lately was the work to ensure the "security" of the Kabul airport. But Turkey has to handle mass migration from Afghanistan as a number of those crossing overhead for Europe.

Apprehending more influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the Turkish government has already mooted a move to construct a massive wall along the border with Iran. But let us move over a bit and examine the Qatar-Turkey relationship. There is modest diplomatic competitiveness between Qatar and Turkey.

As of now, Qatar has an advantage as a 'mediator between Afghanistan and the West. Not only all stakeholders suitably used Doha in discussions with the Taliban, even post-US withdrawal and during the chaotic fortnight, but it also goes without stating hardly any country could ensure a major evacuation out of Kabul without enlisting help, support or advice from authorities in Qatar. Of course, the refrain is unlike Pakistan. Qatar is now a trusted mediator.

Qatar has certainly come a long way. The UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt, severed ties with Doha in 2017, blocking their airspace, borders, and ports. Some credit should go to Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. 

In February 2020 itself, an AFP report in 'France24.com' had claimed - "Providing neutral space for talks on ending Afghanistan's conflict has boosted Qatar's international profile and helped it defy a painful embargo enforced by neighbours and former allies."

Previously too, Qatar has played games in diplomacy between warring sides. It quickly acted as mediator' when Iran and the United States looked to be on the verge of conflict over the assassination of an Iranian military general.

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