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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday (December 27, 2020) reached Qatar for a 2-day visit that will see him meeting top leadership of the politically significant West Asian country. During the visit, EAM will meet the foreign minister of the country Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani and other top political leadership.

A ministry of external affairs release said, "During the visit, he will hold talks with his counterpart on bilateral issues as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest. He will convey special gratitude to the State of Qatar for taking care of Bharatiyas during the COVID-19 pandemic."

During the visit, Jaishankar will also address the Bharatiya community. Notably, the country hosts over seven lakh Bharatiya workers, many of them sending huge remittances to back home.

Bharat has also welcomed the recent labour reforms measures adopted by Qatar which include the institutionalization of rights of workers, there safe movement and settlement of labour issues.

Qatar, which has punched above its weight in West Asia, also hosts the intra-Afghan talks and Taliban delegation with Afghanistan expected to be the key focus of EAM's talks with the country's leadership. In September, EAM has virtually joined the ceremony marking the start of talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government hosted by Doha.

Earlier this month, PM Narendra Modi also spoke to Amir Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani with investment being the focus of the talks. Both sides have decided to create a special Task-Force to further facilitate investments by Qatar Investment Authority into Bharat and also resolved to explore Qatari investments in the entire energy value-chain in Bharat. The bilateral trade between the two countries stands at US$ 10.95 billion in 2019-20.

This is the 7th high-level in-person visit from Bharat to West Asia amid COVID-19 pandemic in the last four months.

September saw stopover by both Bharat's Defence minister Rajnath Singh and EAM in Tehran while on the way to Moscow for the Shanghai Cooperation organization defense and foreign ministers meet respectively.

October saw the visit of Bharat's energy minister Dharmendra Pradhan to Kuwait to offer condolences on the passing away of former Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah. It was followed by the visit of EAM Jaishankar to UAE and Bahrain in November.

In December, there were two visits -- the visit of Bharatiya Army Chief MM Naravane to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and minister of state in the MEA V Muraleedharan to Oman. This visit by Bharatiya Army chief was the first such visit to West Asia.

Overall Bharatiya leadership have been to seven west Asian countries -- Iran (2 visits), Kuwait, the UAE (2 visits), Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar, the maximum to any region this year.

Bharat has continued its engagement via virtual means with West Asia amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as well. The EAM has spoken to a number of his counterpart, including a meet with the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council. MOS MEA addressed meet of the IORA (Indian ocean rim association) countries which was chaired by the UAE.


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