Qatar Perceptions- Eastern Media
The recent media releases by the eastern countries about Qatar includes the welcoming of new labor reforms; announcement of Qatar's exit from the OPEC; investments in Pakistan and Philippines; formation of new trade alliance with Iran and Turkey; addressing the plight of migrant workers from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal; visa facilitation to Indian workers, among others. The listed details are provided in the attached spreadsheet.
- The perception of Qatar, according to Eastern media sources, is much more amenable to the country than what is seen in Western sources or other media sources. Eastern media sources tend to appear to provide richer detail about the reasons behind Qatar’s actions and provide more detail about the existence of it having other Eastern allies.
- Another difference that can be seen in Qatar’s Eastern media coverage is that there is more detail about how the country reaches out to aid other countries, like Pakistan (which has its own Eastern vs. Western perception differences). The coverage related to the Philippines bilateral agreements with Qatar is another example of more positive, comprehensive coverage.
- Additionally, Eastern coverage of the country portrays the Indian migrant controversy in the region with additional insights. For instance, rather than covering the topic from only the vantage point of the vulnerable migrant workers, the coverage also reports Qatar’s actions to help alleviate the situation. Even when there is criticism of Qatar’s actions in the migrant worker situation, Eastern coverage appears to focus on providing solutions, rather than simple criticisms of the country.
- It should also be noted that harsher criticisms of Qatar—regarding the deaths of 1,400 Nepalis during the construction of a football stadium, for instance—are targeted, fleshed-out, and comprehensive. Another example of more thorough criticism is seen in the article focused on 300 Bangladeshi migrant workers who were stranded.
COUNTERING SAUDI ARABIA'S DOMINANCE
- To counter Saudi Arabia's regional dominance, Qatar has recently increased its geopolitical alignment with neighboring countries, i.e., Turkey, Oman, and Iran.
- The country increased bilateral trades with Iran by 117%, followed by the diversion of flights and ships through the regions of Turkey and Oman.
- Additionally, Qatar also called for replacing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with a new alliance.
- In 2018, Qatar announced the implementation of new laws that allow foreign workers to leave the country without requiring an exit permit from the employer.
- This move was embraced by countries with a high number of migrant workers like Bangladesh, Nepal, and India.
- Additional changes include a minimum pay rate of $200 (750 riyals) and grant to leave the country without taking the employer's NOC.
- Qatar became the first country to grant permanent residency visas to non-GCC member expats. The new policy enabled the relaxation of various restrictions for starting businesses in Qatar.
AID TO PAKISTAN
- Qatar announced the provision of more than 100,000 jobs opportunities to Pakistani workers.
- Qatar also provided aid worth $500 million to Pakistan in an agreement to invest $3 billion in the country's development.
FACILITATING VISA ACCESS
- Qatar's ambassador to India announced the opening of six new visa processing centers across the country. Additionally, Qatar also announced the launch of a 30-day free visitor visa to Indians visiting Qatar.
- New visa processing centers in sync with international standards are developed in the cities of Mumbai, Lucknow, Kolkata, Kochi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Islamabad, and Karachi.
EXPLOITING MIGRANT WORKERS
- Qatar's issue of non-compliance with labor rights is well documented by the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
- A recent documentary highlighted the deaths of nearly 1,400 Nepali construction workers and annual deaths of more than 110 Nepali workers due to accident or poor living conditions. Alternatively, between January 2014 to September 2016, about 761 Indian workers died in Qatar.
- An article reported the plight of 300 Bangladeshi migrant workers stranded by the employer in Qatar. The company did not pay the workers for the last six months, and workers were solely dependent on two-meals provided by a non-profit in Doha.
- A recent announcement by the Indian Embassy in Qatar stated that fake recruitment offers are promised to workers by agencies in Qatar.
EXIT FROM OPEC
- In January 2019, Qatar announced its exit from the OPEC, citing that the organization does not act in the interest for all member nations.
- Qatar's move to exit the OPEC was because of the dominance of Saudi Arabia. The country plans to enhance the production of natural gas to 110 million tons per year by 2024.
INCREASING BILATERAL TIES
- The heads of states for China and Qatar pledged stronger political ties and cooperation in the fields of energy, communications, infrastructure, economy, trade, and counter-terrorism.
- The Emir of Qatar announced three MoUs with Pakistan to enhance trade, tourism, business investment, and exchange of financial intelligence.
- In 2018, Qatar announced ten bilateral agreements with the Philippines. The new agreements were related to energy, youth, customs, sports, crime, education, military, among others.