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Indian Ambassador P.Kumaran addressing the reception of 69th Republic Day declared that 2019 will be celebrated as Qatar-India Year of Culture. He said that “The year 2019 will be celebrated as the Qatar-India Year of Culture. We expect to organize in partnership with Qatar Museums a plethora of exciting cultural exhibitions and events that will highlight the cultural and traditional ties that bind us,”

The event was attended by various dignitaries such including the Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs, H E Dr Issa bin Saad Al Jafali Al Nuaimi; Minister of Development Planning and Statistics H E Dr Saleh Mohammed Salem Al Nabit; Ibrahim Fakhroo, Chief of Protocol, several ambassadors and members of Indian community.

He further stressed on importance of India- Qatar relations stating that Indian corporate look at Qatar as a promising market and are today pursuing collaborations in a number of areas, including infrastructure, information and communication technology, energy and other areas to the mutual benefit of both sides.

“Qatar’s exports to India amount to nearly $10bn per year, making India the third largest export destination for Qatari products. On the other hand, Qatar’s imports from India, currently at about $1.2bn, have grown at a healthy rate over the past several years,”

He further stated that due to direct linking Indian ports with Qatar has led to substantial increase in Qatar’s imports from India. Moreover a total of 24 fully owned Indian companies and an estimated 6000 Qatar-India joint ventures operate in various sectors of the Qatari economy.

Various recent policy decisions taken by Qatar in context to Qatar Petroleum’s decision to expand LNG output from the North Field to 100 million tonnes, Liberalisation of visa regulations, changes introduced to Company Law, the new Free Zone regulations and the proposed Permanent Residency scheme for longstanding foreign residents have stimulated strong economic relations between India and Qatar.

The strengthening of relations is also evident from the fact that number of Indian trade delegations have visited Qatar in recent months, to participate in trade exhibitions and explore business opportunities and Indian is also keen on hosting Qatari companies for collaboration in India.

Further he stated that “We appreciate Qatar’s contribution to India’s energy security, as a reliable long-term partner for our increasing energy needs. Qatar is the largest exporter of LNG and LPG to India. Our Petroleum Minister is on record as having said that India plans to increase the share of natural gas in India’s energy mix, currently at about 7 percent to 20 percent by 2030,” Also “Qatar will therefore continue to be a key partner in our energy security calculus for many years to come,”.

Moreover, strengthening of relations between India and Qatar are of extreme importance for the welfare and well-being at the India community in Qatar which is a matter of priority. Hopefully the continued development in the relation will lead to prosperity paths for both the countries.

India clinched the deciding match against New Zealand in the final ball of the final over in Kanpur recently. It was a moment that made Ramesh Yadav jump up with joy. He became almost hysterical. I was sitting alongside him in the stadium. Ramesh, who belongs to U.P., works as an electrician in Doha and is on a one-month leave.

We got talking and he shared how much he misses playing cricket in Doha. There are places to play, but it’s mostly make-shift. He wishes for a proper cricket ground with all the related facilities where he and his fellow workers from all parts of the Indian sub-continent can play a professional game of cricket after work.

For Qatar to become a center of sports in the real sense, it must move beyond football now. Basketball, handball and motor-racing are also quite popular, with the State providing enough impetus. But cricket is a game that Qatar must re-focus on. Build more public infrastructures, facilities, academies and cricket grounds, especially because close to two million-strong workforce from India, Bangladesh and Nepal enjoy cricket more than any other sport. Playing on well-manicured green grass with pads and helmets in a cricket park is a different feeling from playing on hard turf. And a happy worker is a productive worker.

Equal attention ought to be paid to the development of the national cricket team, which is not doing so well.

Cricket has been a part of Qatar’s sports culture for long, but has fallen by the wayside. It made its international debut in 1979, at an invitational tournament that also featured Bahrain, Kuwait, and Sharjah. For a period during the 2000s, Qatar was one of the top-ranked non-Test teams in Asia, standing fourth in the 2004 Asian Cricket Council Trophy. However, it has since been relegated to the lower divisions of the ACC system, and has failed to qualify for any World Cricket League events.

In the 2017 ICC World Cricket League Division Five, held in September in South Africa, Qatar won the third-place playoff to remain in Division Five. Not a happy place to be in. The tournament was part of the World Cricket League(WCL) which determines the qualification for the 2023 Cricket World Cup.

The team may be at an ebb, but there are ways to improve the ranking and stature.

Get India on board

Cricket Coaching by Certified Coaches.

Qatar is already in talks with Dav Whatmore, the Sri Lanka-born Australian coach, who will be providing guidance to Doha-based cricket academies as part of the “Trucoach – CSS Whatmore Centre for Cricket” initiative. But he will not be a permanent fixture and will only be providing coaching lessons now and then. Even that much would benefit cricket in Qatar immensely, but difficult situations require long-term measures.

India has seasoned coaches even at the academy level and they possess the wherewithal to reverse the fortunes of the tailspinning national team. They can be spread across academies in Qatar, playing a major role in shaping budding cricketers. Like John Wright, the former India coach, says, ‘coaching is just moulding a group that has the skills and the attitude to win’. The men in maroon have the character and the potential to win, which they showed when they won the seven-nation International Cricket Council’s (ICC) World Cricket League Asia Division 1 event in Thailand with a heroic run chase. They defeated Saudi Arabia, who had stayed unbeaten in the tournament coming into the finals.

Whether from India or elsewhere, Qatar needs a top-class full-time international coach who can get them some really tough playing opportunities to bridge the gap. Instilling belief will be the starting point. It can be developed with time, like a win here and a win there.

The critical question is whether the Qatar Cricket Association will take the initiative and approach cricketing greats for coaching assignments in a manner it has not done before. Like a revolution that has made football so popular today. If the development of cricket is not taken upon on a war footing, public interest will further diminish, ultimately resulting in the shrinking of the talent pool. Merely surviving on the fringes could prove fatal for cricket in Qatar.

Qatar Museums

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

As Gulf countries including Qatar try to increase their visitor numbers in the coming years, they’d do well to look east, toward India and China.

That’s the message resonating with hospitality industry experts this week at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai.

To court these tourists, the GCC may want to take a page from Europe, which has a Schengen system that allows travelers to visit multiple member countries with a single visa.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to a new Colliers International report presented at the ATM yesterday, this idea could work well for visitors from India and China.

Overcoming obstacles

Creating a visa that makes it easier for people to travel between all six Gulf countries isn’t a novel one.

In fact, the GCC has been studying this possibility for years, possibly decades.

Fadi Benne

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In the past, there have been several stumbling blocks, including a lack of a central electronic linkup between Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE.

But lower global oil prices may be the impetus energy-rich Gulf states need to overcome any former issues, given the visa’s potential to boost tourism, business, shopping travel and economic activities.

Other recommendations

In addition to establishing a Schengen-type visa, Colliers suggested that GCC governments launch cultural exchange programs, introduce visa-on-arrival for Indian and Chinese travelers and offer special shopping discounts to them.

Qatar already appears to have taken this advice to heart.

Qatar China Year of Culture 2016

Qatar China Year of Culture 2016

China was the 2016 Year of Culture partner. And the government is currently working to offer visas on arrival for visitors from China, India and Russia.

Meanwhile, hotels can do more by providing welcome kits and signage in guests’ native languages and honoring cultural sensitivities (such as not putting Chinese guests on the fourth floor or using white flowers in the lobby because these are associated with funerals).

Establishing targeted loyalty programs and special promotions for festival periods were also recommended.

ITU Pictures/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Local hotels appear to be on board with these suggestions.

However, at another recent conference, they pointed out that GCC visitors for now are the lion’s share of Qatar’s tourists.

They added that establishing new visitors streams would be a “medium-to-long term” goal.

Colliers concluded its report by saying:

“Should GCC cities focus their efforts on attracting Chinese tourists, this would ensure a perennial stream of hotel bed nights, even during economic downturns.”

Thoughts?