India has increasing diplomatic difficulties in West Asia. The spotlight has now moved to Qatar after balancing between Israel and Palestine. The current issue, which includes eight Indian citizens who have received death sentences as Navy veterans, is of great concern to New Delhi. The Indian government was taken aback by the ruling and declared that it will consider “all legal options.”
And what about New Delhi? Is it possible to spare the Indian Navy veterans from hanging? We examine the case and the anticipated course of events.
The State Security Bureau of Qatar, the nation’s espionage agency, detained eight former Indian Navy personnel on August 30, 2022, in Doha. They worked for a defence services supplier called Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, which is owned by Khamis al-Ajmi, a retired squadron leader from the Royal Omani Air Force. Although he was also detained the previous year, he was freed in November 2022.
It was alleged that the Navy veterans, acting in their individual capacities, were supervising the integration of Italian U212 stealth submarines into the Qatari Emiri Naval Force (QENF).
The website for Dahra Global was taken down in October 2022, following reports of the arrest. It stated that it offered the Qatari naval force maintenance, logistics, and training services. But the business has a new website now, and it makes no mention of its affiliation with QENF.
Accusations against 8 former Indian Navy officers
Commanders Navtej Singh Gill, Saurabh Vasisht, Purnendu Tiwari, Birendra Kumar Verma, Commander Sugunakar Pakala, Sanjeev Gupta, Amit Nagpal, and Sailor Ragesh are the guys who have been detained. According to an NDTV story, they served for up to 20 years in the Indian Navy and held prominent roles, such as instructors in the force.
The Indian Navy veterans were allegedly placed in solitary confinement after being detained on unspecified allegations by Qatar. According to reports, they were detained for espionage.
The eight Indians were accused of spying for Israel, according to a person briefed on the issue who spoke with Financial Times (FT). They will, nevertheless, have the option to challenge their sentences.
The magazine requested a reply from Israel, but Israel has not replied.
What steps has the government of India taken?
The men were taken into custody in August of last year, but it took several weeks for the Indian Embassy to learn about their detention. The former navy officers were received by India’s ambassador to Qatar and the deputy head of the mission on October 1, 2022.
The Indian Express said, citing official sources, that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been keeping an eye on the issue and has offered the detained men every assistance possible. Numerous political and diplomatic levels have addressed the case.
It was anticipated that Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar would address the officers’ issue when he visited Doha in November for the FIFA World Cup inauguration. It doesn’t seem like the topic was brought up, though.
The incarceration of eight former Indian Navy officers is “a very sensitive case,” External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar stated in Parliament in December, assuring lawmakers that “their interests are foremost in our minds.” Senior officials and ambassadors communicate with the Qatari government on a regular basis. We promise that they are our top concern.
Following the verdict, the MEA said in a statement, “We are deeply shocked by the verdict of the death penalty and are awaiting the detailed judgement. We are in touch with the family members and the legal team, and we are exploring all legal options.”
“We attach high importance to this case and have been following it closely. We will continue to extend all consular and legal assistance. We will also take up the verdict with Qatari authorities,” it added.
The release of the former Indian Navy officers is a big challenge for India.
How are relations between India and Qatar?
There has always been goodwill between Qatar and India. The visit to Qatar by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in November 2008, when he became the first Indian premier to do so, marked a turning point in the relationship.
In 2015, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, paid a visit to India following the ascension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to office. Following this, the Indian PM paid several visits to the Muslim country in 2016 and S Jaishankar made several trips there as well, indicating strong bilateral ties between the two countries.
Trade and defence cooperation are two of the partnership’s main pillars between Qatar and India. In 2021, India ranked as the fourth-largest global importer of liquefied natural gas, with 40% of the gas coming from Qatar. Approximately 800,000 Indian expatriates reside and work in Qatar, making up the majority of the country’s foreign population.
There have, nevertheless, been a few hiccups lately. After BJP spokeswoman Nupur Sharma made disparaging statements about Prophet Muhammad on a TV appearance in June, tensions flared up. The first nation to voice concerns and call for India to provide a formal apology was Qatar. India moved swiftly to contain the controversy’s effects.
The diplomatic relations between the two countries have recently been under scrutiny due to the case of the eight Indians.
What takes place next?
“Just as GOI [Government of India] cannot release a foreigner under trial in India, other countries also have their own judicial processes,” official sources told The Indian Express. The administration is acting in accordance with both Qatari and international law.
A story in Financial Express claims that India and Qatar have an arrangement in place for the repatriation of prisoners who have served their sentences. It enables them to carry out their sentences at locations that are accessible to their families.
But the cops were given the death punishment, which is quite concerning for India.
However, there is still hope. According to The Indian Express, the families of the Indian men have submitted a request for clemency to the Emir of Qatar. According to Qatari legislation, the Emir may pardon prisoners during the holy months of Ramadan, Eid, and December 18, which is Qatar’s National Day. It remains to be seen, though, if the Indian Navy veterans would receive the same respect.