Facing a stiff boycott from neighbouring Arab countries- headed by Saudi Arabi, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar has introduced a programme on Wednesday which allows visa-free entry to citizens of 80 countries including India.
The move must be seen in the background of the Football World Cup 2022 Qatar is set to host as well as to encourage tourism and air transport in the wake of the Arab boycott.
The visa programme allows citizens from countries like the India, United States, Lebanon, Canada and United Kingdom with a valid passport to enter the country.
Citizens of 33 countries will be allowed stay for 180 days while the other 47 for up to 30 days without visa.
Qatar announced today it was scrapping visa requirements for visitors from 80 countries as it weathers a boycott by four Arab states and gears up to host the World Cup in 2022.
Under the new policy announced by Qatar Airways and authorities, citizens of 33 mostly European countries can enter without a visa for 90 days in single or multiple trips during an 180-day period.
Americans, Britons, Canadians and citizens of 44 other countries can enter visa-free for an initial 30 days on single or multiple trips and can extend that for a further 30 days.
Energy-rich Qatar's economy has taken a hit since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain moved to isolate it two months ago over allegations it supports extremists.
The quartet of Arab nations is particularly irked by Qatar's ties with Iran and its support of Islamist opposition groups. Qatar denies it backs terror groups and says the allegations against Doha are politically motivated.
The four countries cut diplomatic and transport links with Qatar in June, and barred Qatar from using their airspace and shipping lanes.
In a related development, the UAE and Bahrain today sought to clarify a statement made the day before by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which said both countries had agreed to open up some of their airspace, including new "temporary or contingency" routes, for Qatar Airways.
The two, in statements carried by the UAE's and Bahrain's state-run news agencies, said that they had not agreed to open up their airspace in full to Qatari flights but to only allow Qatari aircraft to use their airspace located above international waters.
(with inputs from Reuters)