The Persian Gulf nation of Qatar is expanding its military alliances by
signing defense a agreement with India. There has been trade between the
Persian Gulf and India for thousands of years, but not much in the way of
military conflict. India is too far away. The big powers in the Gulf have long
been Iran (formerly called Persia) and Turkey. The Arab states in the Gulf are
seeking ways to defend themselves against Iranian aggression, and making
friends with large countries outside the area seems a safe strategy.
Qatar is a
peninsula in the Persian Gulf with 1.5 million people and lots of oil (and the
highest per-capita income in the world). It's also an absolute monarchy, and
the king is eager to turn the country into a banking and commercial center. He
knows the oil won't last forever. So he instituted a program to suppress
corrupt practices and encourage honest business and government operations.
Partly because the Qataris are so well off financially, the program is working.
Old customs die hard, but arrest, prosecution and prison awaits those who
oppose the king.
gave women the vote (some government officials are elected), and more equal
treatment in legal and commercial transactions. This has been condemned by
Islamic conservatives, as has the kings support of American military operations
in the region. There has only been one terrorist bombing (in 2005, by an
Egyptian worker) in Qatar since September 11, 2001.
Qatar is a
base for U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy operations. But all this is out in the
desert, or out of the way in general. About 70 percent of the kingdoms
population are foreigners, there on work contracts to help the natives handle
all their wealth. While there are religious conservatives in the kingdom, the
big threat is seen as Iran. The arrangement with India involves Qatari military
personnel training in India, and Qatar investing in Indian military development
projects. In a pinch, the Indians have made it known that they might station
some troops in the kingdom (to give the Iranians another reason not to attack