Qatar Releases 8 Ex-Indian Navy Personnel; PM Modi ‘Personally Supervised’ Case | India News


In a move hailed as a significant diplomatic success, Qatar has freed eight imprisoned former Indian Navy personnel, with seven already back on home soil. This development follows intense diplomatic efforts nearly four months after a Qatari court’s death sentences were commuted to various prison terms.

The Indian government expressed its appreciation to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, for his pivotal role in the release.

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) on Monday issued a statement thanking the Emir for his decision, which allowed the veterans to return home.

“We deeply appreciate the decision of Qatar’s govt..”: Foreign Secy Vinay Mohan Kwatra on release of 8 Indian ex-Navy veterans

“We are gratified on their return. We deeply appreciate the decision of Qatar’s government and the Amir to release them,” foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said.
Driving the news

  • Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra, in a press conference, confirmed the release of the veterans, attributing the success to the concerted efforts of the Indian government and the direct supervision of PM Modi.
  • “The Prime Minister has himself personally constantly supervised all the developments in this case and has never shied away from any initiatives that would ensure the return of the Indian nationals back to home,” he said.
  • The veterans, detained on espionage charges, had their death sentences commuted, marking a major diplomatic victory for India.
  • The individuals involved — Captain Navtej Singh Gill, Captain Saurabh Vasisht, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, Captain Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Commander Sanjeev Gupta, Commander Amit Nagpal, and Sailor Ragesh — were taken into custody in August 2022.
  • On December 28, 2023, the Court of Appeal in Qatar revised its earlier decision from October 2023, which had imposed the death sentence on all eight men, opting instead to commute their penalties.
  • The release followed intense diplomatic negotiations, culminating in a positive outcome that was welcomed by both nations.
  • “The government of India has extensive mechanisms in place of counsellor dialogues and discussions involving the Indian system and the systems in those countries, whose one of the principal tasks is to keep working towards the early release of all the Indian prisoners irrespective of which country they are,” Kwatra said.
  • He added, “There are also established mechanisms and systems in place which ensure that whatever assistance wherever possible is to be made available to these prisoners, is made available through government mechanisms. These are the systems which have been strengthened enormously, whose remit has been expanded extensively.”

Why it matters

  • The release of the Navy veterans is a testament to the robust diplomatic channels and the goodwill shared between India and Qatar.
  • It not only reinforces the safety and security of Indian nationals abroad but also strengthens bilateral ties.
  • Kwatra said that a “strong diaspora is an equally important connect between India and Qatar” with “roughly 840,000 strong, vibrant Indian community residing there”.
  • Millions of Indians reside and are employed across the Gulf region, serving as a significant source of remittances for India and playing a key role in the prosperity of Gulf economies.
  • This incident demonstrates India’s growing influence on the global stage and its ability to protect its citizens’ interests internationally.

Between the lines

  • In December, during the COP28 Summit in Dubai, PM Modi engaged in pivotal discussions with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, focusing on the “well-being of the Indian community” in Qatar. This meeting underscored the deepening bilateral relations between the two nations.
  • Behind the scenes, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been instrumental in facilitating the release of Indian detainees in Qatar, making several discreet visits to Doha to negotiate with Qatari officials. These efforts highlight the strategic diplomacy at play between India and Qatar.
  • The economic relationship between India and Qatar, particularly in the trade and energy sectors, is experiencing significant growth. Qatar emerges as India’s foremost supplier of LNG, contributing to more than 48% of India’s total LNG imports, showcasing the critical nature of this partnership for India’s energy security.
  • The release of the veterans occurred shortly after India and Qatar agreed to prolong their LNG supply agreement for an additional 20 years, extending it until 2048.
  • India’s Petronet has secured a monumental deal to continue purchasing 7.5 million tonnes of LNG annually from Qatar starting in 2029, extending for 20 years. This agreement, hailed as the world’s largest extension for liquefied natural gas, builds on an original 25-year contract initiated in 1999, with deliveries commencing in 2004.
  • Qatar’s consistent reliability as a supplier, never defaulting on a shipment nor enforcing penalties during high price periods when India deferred deliveries, speaks volumes about the strength and flexibility of this energy partnership. The extended contract’s provisions, including the catch-up on previously skipped cargoes due to price surges in 2015-16, underscore the mutually beneficial nature of this longstanding relationship.

What they are saying

  • “I feel relieved and delighted to finally be back home safe and sound. I wish to thank Prime Minister Modi as this wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for his personal intervention to secure our release. I also wish to express my gratitude to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar,” one of Navy veterans told ANI.
  • “We, as well as our anxious family members back home, had been waiting for this day for a long time. It all worked out because of PM Modi and his personal intervention in the matter. He took up our case with the highest levels of the Qatari government and eventually secured our release. I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude to him and the Emir of Qatar,” another freed Navy veteran told ANI.
  • “A remarkable development that the 8 Indian ex-naval officers on death row in Qatar, reportedly for spying for Israel, have now been released and all but 1 are back in India. That’s a major diplomatic feat to get that result for your citizens held abroad on such serious charges,” Michael Kugelman, a foreign affairs expert and South Asia Institute director of Wilson Center, said on X.
  • “The release of the men, who had been employees of a company called Dahra Global, boosts Modi’s public image in the run up to an election that’s widely expected to bring him back to power,” a Bloomberg report said.
  • The Congress welcomed the release of eight former Indian naval personnel by Qatar, even as the party accused the government of failing to act on time and letting the situation become serious.

“Wouldn’t have been possible” Ex-Navy vets freed by Qatar chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai, praise PM Modi

What next

  • PM Modi is set to visit the Qatari capital, Doha, on February 14, following his two-day trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • Modi’s journey to the UAE begins on Monday, aiming to deepen bilateral relations across various sectors, including trade and investment, energy, and the digital sphere.
  • “Upon concluding his visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the prime minister will proceed to Doha, Qatar on the afternoon of February 14,” Foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said during a press conference.
  • Kwatra added that PM Modi is scheduled to engage in bilateral discussions with Qatari Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and other prominent officials.
  • Apart from UAE and Qatar, other Middle Eastern countries have also looked to strengthen ties with India. Saudi Arabia announced its intention to invest $100 billion in the country in 2019 and during a September visit Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed ways to quicken the implementation of those plans, a Bloomberg report said.
  • PM “Modi is increasingly being courted by global leaders, including US President Joe Biden,” the Bloomberg report added.

(With inputs from agencies)





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