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India and Qatar discuss outreach to Kandhari faction of Taliban during Jaishankar’s Doha visit

External Affairs minister S Jaishankar with Qatar's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha on Wednesday (Image courtesy: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qatar)

India and Qatar on Wednesday reviewed bilateral cooperation relations between the two countries, in addition to the latest developments in the region, especially Afghanistan.

External Affairs minister S Jaishankar met Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha on Wednesday as both discussed the latest developments in Kabul and also the energy partnership between the two countries.

"The latest developments in the Afghan file and the Iranian nuclear agreement were also discussed, and the two ministers stressed their keenness to follow up on the development of bilateral relations, especially in the investment, trade and energy sectors," said Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement after the meeting.

During the flying visit, Jaishankar also unveiled the foundation stone of India's new Embassy complex in Doha with Al Thani also attending the event.

"Held productive talks with DPM and FM of Qatar @MBA_AlThani_. Discussed our broad based political, economic, digital and security partnership. Appreciate the interest in expanding investment and trade. Thank Qatari authorities for support extended to the Indian community," tweeted Jaishankar.

The meeting happened just before Jaishankar left for Australia to attend the Quad foreign ministers' meeting.  

"It is understood that Qatar's position and objectives in Afghanistan are based on stability and renewed role of Taliban's Kandahari faction, which has been sidelined by Pakistan supported Haqqani Network in Kabul," reported Hindustan Times.

"Qatar has close links with traditional Taliban leadership like Mullah Baradar and Sher Mohammed Stanekzai, who were part of Taliban's political office in Doha. Not only has Qatar been sending humanitarian aid to Taliban occupied Kabul, with a position like the West, and unlike Pakistan, does not require aid in the name of Kabul," the report detailed.

India and Qatar enjoy strong trade and economic relations. These have grown steadily over the past years.

Qatar’s key exports to India include LNG, LPG, chemicals and petrochemicals, plastics, and aluminium articles, while India’s key exports to Qatar include cereals, copper articles, iron and steel articles, vegetables, fruits, spices, and processed food products, electrical and other machinery, plastic products, construction material, textiles & garments, chemicals, precious stones and rubber.

Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to India, accounting for over 40% of India's global LNG imports and 15% of Qatar's export of LNG. On 31 December, 2015, Petronet LNG, India’s largest natural gas importer, and Qatar’s RasGas Co. Ltd had signed an agreement for an additional supply of 1 million tonnes of LNG annually from the RasGas through the remainder of the 25-year contract, ending in 2028. The original SPA was for 7.5 mm tpy implemented in 2004. Besides LNG, India also imports ethylene, propylene, ammonia, urea and polyethylene from Qatar.

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