‘Alternative line of defence’ proves robust: former envoy
November 16 2017 12:25 AM

The present Gulf crisis has so far proven Qatar’s robust ‘alternative line of defence’ in a bid to ensure sustained economic growth, according to a former diplomat from an Asian country.
Ever since the fall in the global energy prices, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries have embarked on strategic shift in their policies but the present crisis has by and large helped Doha reassess their weaknesses and convert them into strengths, said the former diplomat, who was recently in Doha to attend the Middle East Economic Future conference.
“They (Qatar) are doing a delicate balancing act,” the visiting delegate said, apparently referring to Doha’s position between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt had cut off diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar on June 5, closing their sea and airports and borders.
This is the second time Saudi Arabia and its allies have recalled their envoys from Doha but in the earlier instance there was no trade disruption.
“(This time) it (the crisis) has brought out the best of Qatar in terms of diplomacy as seen by the growing international clout of Doha,” the former diplomat said, referring to those powerful countries that have voiced concern over the Gulf crisis.
HE the Finance Minister Ali Sherif al-Emadi was quick enough to respond that the country’s fundamentals are in a better position than its rivals as it had huge financial reserves.
“We have sovereign wealth funds of 250% of GDP; we have Qatar Central Bank reserves and we have a Ministry of Finance strategic reserve,” he had said.
Qatar’s large positive net foreign assets (154% of gross domestic product or GDP) and uninterrupted hydrocarbon will keep the economy resilient, Washington-based Institute of International Finance had said earlier.
Ever since the blockade, Qatar was swift enough to respond by opening up new alliances in Oman, Iran, Kuwait and Turkey.
Iran and Qatar jointly share the world’s largest natural gas reservoir (North Field), which is home to 900trn cubic feet of natural gas.
Terming that Qatar’s second line of defence as robust, the former diplomat said, “The newer alliances and the opening up of new maritime and trade routes have given Doha the business continuity.”
The Gulf country braved the odds by diversifying its sources of imports, thus easing the risk of potential shortages, the diplomat added.
However, a long unsettled blockade could bring with it appurtenant costs not only to Qatar but also to those spearheading the siege, according to a senior official of an Asian political and diplomatic think-tank.

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