Qatar on the Rise Thanks to Strategic Alliances
Lorraine Charles, Research Associate at the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge
Qatar’s most recent visa waiver agreements with Brazil and Russia saw it rise to 57th place on the Q2 edition of the Henley Passport Index. The recent agreements aim to strengthen trade and tourism between Qatar and the two countries and demonstrate Qatar’s independent foreign policy in the context of a divided Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The agreements are the most recent examples of Qatar’s opening to the world via establishing new trade links that began in haste at the onset of the economic and diplomatic boycott between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, supported by Bahrain and the UAE. As a result of this boycott, since June 2017 Qatari citizens have been barred from entering Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
The small Gulf nation has endured intense scrutiny from its GCC neighbors as a result of its relations with Iran and supposed support for the Muslim Brotherhood, deemed a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These political differences resulted in Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s political and economic boycott of Qatar from June 2017.
This political and economic isolation from its neighbors has been met with Qatar’s vigorous foreign policy actions to establish wider international links. The boycott has not harmed Qatar to the extent hoped by the GCC trio, and it has forced Qatar to pursue a range of bilateral relations with states. The recent agreements with Brazil and Russia, both also on friendly terms with Qatar’s GCC adversaries, could perhaps be perceived as a snub by Doha, showing that it can ‘go it alone’ and establish its own bilateral relations with powerful states outside the GCC union. This demonstrates Qatar’s strategy of risk diversification, creating robust political and diplomatic alliances outside the GCC in order to protect its sovereignty.