It is comprehensible and appalling that eight Indian ex-Navy personnel were given the death penalty by a Qatari court.
Over the past few years, Qatar has behaved as both an Islamist haven and a would-be caliphate. It supports terror monger Zakir Naik and attacks Nupur Sharma for using Hadiths. The full zoo of terrorists that Qatar harbours, from Hamas chiefs to Taliban preachers, includes Zakir. Even Arab neighbours like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia view it with great mistrust.
In Qatar, there are over 8,000 Indian workers. With 14,000 barrels per day, it ranks as India’s seventh-largest oil exporter. As a key non-NATO ally, the United States and Qatar are considered strategic allies.
In the field of international affairs, giving up one day is neither smart nor simple. There are networks that are linked to other influence networks, masks hiding motivations, leverage, and bargaining power. India cannot act carelessly, even despite its $66 billion military budget and 20 times more active defence personnel than Qatar’s do. Any diplomatic action’s location and timing determine whether it succeeds or fails.
Therefore, why did Qatar decide to put India in this precarious predicament at this time?
First of all, the claims and timing are intriguing. The eight ex-Indian navy officers have been charged by Qatar with spying for Israel. Now, why? Is there a connection between the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine and India’s growing public support for Israel? Does it wish to disgrace India by portraying its people as Israeli spies on the international scene?
That is not going to happen if the goal is to return India to its previous, unwavering pro-Palestine stance. Among the first foreign leaders to categorically denounce Hamas’s savage attack on the Israeli kibbutz was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, India later made it clear that it still supports a two-state solution and that it has sent significant humanitarian aid to Gaza in support of the civilian casualties there.
The eight accused could soon get pardons if that is what Qatar desired.
The other scenario, however, is that Qatar seeks to thwart the Abraham Accords between the UAE and Israel, Saudi Arabia’s impending entry into it, and India’s increasing integration with the emerging Israel-UAE-Saudi axis. Should that axis be finished, Qatar’s influence in the Middle East will be significantly reduced.
Third, Qatar might be suspicious of the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor and angry that its allies, Pakistan, China, and Turkey, haven’t been invited to participate.
Fourth, India’s tough stance against Islamist funding from the Gulf through dubious NGOs and charities has not won over Qatar. The death sentence and the accusation of Israeli spying may be used as leverage to force India to reopen those taps.
Fifth, the Five Eyes (the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) may have been uneasy due to the fear that India is becoming more assertive and Justin Trudeau’s ludicrous and unsupported claims of India-backed strikes on foreign soil, especially after New Delhi expelled 41 Canadian diplomats in an effort to restore numerical parity. Pakistan continues to bemoan the operations of the R&AW on its territory. One such message to send would be through Qatar, a key US ally.
For whatever reason, there’s a definite negotiating chip in the current standoff. If the eight Indian guys aren’t put to death rather being used as bargaining chips in a bigger deal, that will be shocking.