Leadership: India Expands Into The Persian Gulf

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November 15,2008: 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.

Qatar also 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 Qatar).

 


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