Strengthening regional security By Malik Muhmmad Ashraf

Building strong ties with the Muslim World has been the cornerstone of Pakistan’s foreign policy, particularly with the countries in the Middle East and Gulf region. Qatar is one of those countries where Pakistani professionals, a skilled and semi-skilled labour force of 50,000 individuals, has played a significant role in building its economic edifice. Pakistan has always kept a special focus on cooperation with Qatar in the economic, political and defence domains.
Over the years Pakistan has attached importance to its relations due to its significant geographical location and its political importance in the political dynamics of the Gulf Region. The strong bonds between the two countries are also underwritten by religious affinity and the identical geostrategic challenges that they are facing in their own areas of influence. The bilateral trade between the two countries multiplied manifold due to a game-changing LNG deal worth $16 billion over the next 15 years. Qatar is the third largest producer of oil and gas in the world, with the highest per capita income which it owes to the small size of its population of 2.6 million.
Apart from expanding bilateral economic and defence ties, Pakistan and Qatar have also been playing a dynamic role in the peace and security process in Afghanistan. While Pakistan has been instrumental in facilitating dialogue between the USA and the Taliban as well as nudging intra-Afghan dialogue, as is evident from the recently held two-day conference in Pakistan, Qatar has provided a neutral territory to all stakeholders for the peace talks, which is indeed a very tough undertaking due to the complexity of the situation. It has allowed the Taliban to establish their international office in Doha. The Taliban consider Qatar a neutral venue where they can live peacefully and make progress on discussions in regards to bringing peace to Afghanistan and paving the way for the exit of the USA from that war-torn country. Qatar has also played important role in resolving the regional conflicts.
The strength and warmth in the relations between the two countries can be gauged from the fact that in the backdrop of economic meltdown in Pakistan and the inability of the Saudi companies to provide jobs to Pakistanis due to the downward trend economic trend in that country, it was Qatar which made the offer of 100,000 jobs to the Pakistani workers.
The cooperation and role of Pakistan and Qatar in resolving the Afghan conflict will also have far-reaching impact on the security situation of the whole region as well its economic wellbeing, provided they meet with success. Both the countries have high stakes in regional security and economic advancement which lends strength and permanence to the already tensile bonds between the two
Prime Minister Imran Khan also included Qatar in the destinations where he went to seek assistance from friendly countries in February to tide over the impending financial crisis. The offer for the jobs made earlier was confirmed during his visit. Sources believe that the figure could go up to 150,000. During the Prime Minister’s visit, the talks focused on promoting relations in the sectors of energy, food security, military-to-military ties and other issues of bilateral and multilateral importance, besides regional security.
His visit was preceded by visits to Qatar by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa. The COAS met the Prime Minister of Qatar as well as its Emir, of His Highness Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani who appreciated the positive role played by Pakistan in promoting regional stability, including in Afghanistan, besides thanking him for the assistance rendered in building the Qatari defence forces. Matters relating to enhancing bilateral security cooperation also came under discussion. Qatar also sought Pakistan’s help in the security arrangements during the FIFA World Cup it is going to host as well, as to assist her in overcoming the food security problem.
The Emir of Qatar also paid a two-day visit to Islamabad near the end of June on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan. As a result of the parleys both sides agreed to expand collaboration in the fields of agriculture and food, enhance cooperation in the energy sector, including the fields of LNG and LPG and exploration and production of oil and gas. An agreement was also reached to promote Qatar’s investments in energy, tourism and hospitality industries and increasing the number of Pakistani workers employed in Qatar. The Emir of Qatar reportedly has also announced $3 billion as deposits and direct investment in Pakistan following his visit, which has raised total Qatar investments in Pakistan to $9 billion. According to a statement issued by the ministry of foreign affairs of Qatar, the announced funding was an endorsement of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration by Qatar. The exchange of high-level visits between the two countries not only indicates the new direction given to the relations between the two countries but also makes clear the significance that the two countries attach to each other.
In the wake of deteriorating relations between Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, Pakistan has rightly adopted a neutral posture and is trying to maintain a balance in the Gulf regional political dynamics which gives it the leverage to play the role of a mediator at an opportune moment to end the estrangement between them. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have shown understanding of the position taken by Pakistan.
Qatar, like a true friend, has not only helped Pakistan in times of crisis but has also shown her willingness to further expand economic, political and defence ties with her, which in the regional geostrategic environment have great significance. Their cooperation and role in resolving the Afghan conflict will also have far-reaching impact on the security situation of the whole region as well its economic wellbeing, provided they meet with success. Both the countries have high stakes in regional security and economic advancement which lends strength and permanence to the already tensile bonds between the two.
Source : https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/07/02/strengthening-regional-security/?fbclid=IwAR1C7tXct-6STzJRLFThYIwBfTwDqPE9FHkniZFlIqP9HCmY3FR0jEoUOzo
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