Soft power makes Qatar master diplomatic negotiator
BY AJIT KUMAR JHA
EDITOR, QATAR TRIBUNE Dark maroon and white flags fluttering in the cool breeze, colourful bumperstickers displayed on most cars, the blowing of vuvuzelas, the pomp, pride and pageantry witnessed during the glorious parade in the morning, the spectacular laser shows in the evening presenting an exuberant rainbow of colours, the joy and enthusiasm on the faces of the children daubed with paint and the palpable signs of gaiety on the streets.
All of this and much more heralded the air of euphoria and enthusiasm marking Qatar’s National Day celebrations on December 18. Both citizens and residents flaunted all kinds of patriotic symbols.
The hope and optimism pervading Qatar’s air is in marked contrast to the images of despair and despondency visible on TV screens across the entire spectrum of Europe teetering on the brink of a recession. The tranquil and peaceful atmosphere in Qatar stands out as an exception in most of the Arab world otherwise in the throes of the Arab Spring.
Patriotism in modern times, and in great states, according to the celebrated English critic William Hazlitt, is and must be the creature of reason and reflection, rather than merely the offspring of physical or local attachment. Let us take a historical perspective on global and local events: What does reason and some reflection tell us about Qatar on the occasion of its glorious National Day? What does this visible sharp contrast between the safe and secure home and the volatile and insecure outside world signify for the future? First the facts: With a population of 1.7 million, which includes about 350,000 Qatari citizens, and an area of 11, 437 sq km, this thumb-shaped tiny country proudly jutting out into the Arabian Gulf today boasts of being the largest gas (LNG) exporter in the world (77 million tonnes), has one of the highest surging growth rates (about 18 per cent) and has the highest per capita income in the world. Qatar’s economic trajectory is a story of unprecedented boom even as the rest of the globe, particularly the developed West, has been in the last three years a tale of gloom and doom. Moreover, politically stable Qatar is indeed an economic powerhouse and the educational, cultural and sports hub of the entire region.
Despite its tiny size and small population, Qatar has big ambitions.
At a global scale these days, it is quite evident that it punches much more than its size and weight. It is no exaggeration to say that Qatar has proved itself as a skilful peace-broker and diplomatic hotshot at a time when the entire Arab world is simmering with discontent and revolt.
Consider Qatar’s high-profile and successful diplomatic initiative along with France, Italy, Britain and the United States and other NATO alliance countries in the international attempt to rescue Libya from its dictator Moamer Qadhafi. Qatar was the key Arab member of the alliance against Qadhafi.