India Secures Diplomatic Triumph as Qatar Frees 8 Ex-Navy Officers; 7 Returned

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  • In a significant diplomatic coup for India, Qatar has released eight former Indian Navy officers who had been incarcerated on espionage charges.
  • This milestone achievement was facilitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s adept utilization of his rapport with Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
  • While S Jaishankar managed the diplomatic aspects, the intricate negotiations for the ex-Navy personnel’s release were steered by N SA Ajit Doval, acting on the counsel of PM Modi.
  • The ex-naval officers were apprehended in September 2022 while working for Dahra Global, a company offering security and maintenance services to Qatar’s Ministry of Defence.
  • Accused of divulging sensitive information and causing damage to defense installations, they faced a trial marked by concerns over transparency and due process.

In a significant diplomatic coup for India, Qatar released eight former Indian Navy officers who had been incarcerated on espionage charges, with seven of them successfully repatriated to India.

This milestone achievement was facilitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s adept utilization of his rapport with Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, ensuring the liberation of the Indian naval personnel from confinement in Doha.

While External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar managed the diplomatic aspects, the intricate negotiations for the ex-Navy personnel’s release were steered by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, acting on the counsel of PM Modi. Doval undertook discreet visits to Doha, firmly believing in the capacity of Qatari leadership to comprehend India’s perspective.

The genesis of this positive outcome traces back to PM Modi’s rendezvous with Emir Al Thani on the sidelines of the COP 28 summit in Dubai on December 1, 2023. During their discussions, Emir Al Thani pledged personal intervention concerning the Indian detainees, setting the stage for their eventual freedom.

Expressing gratitude for the Emir’s decisive action, the Indian government lauded Qatar’s move, emphasizing the repatriation of seven out of the eight individuals. The Ministry of External Affairs conveyed appreciation for Qatar’s Amir, recognizing his pivotal role in facilitating the return of the Indian nationals.

The ex-naval officers were apprehended in September 2022 while working for Dahra Global, a company offering security and maintenance services to Qatar’s Ministry of Defence. Accused of divulging sensitive information and causing damage to defense installations, they faced a trial marked by concerns over transparency and due process.

Following a contentious trial, which led to a death sentence in October 2023, India vehemently protested, demanding consular access. Subsequent intervention by the Indian ambassador to Qatar, Vipul, after Emir Al Thani’s involvement, granted access to the detainees on December 3, 2023.

The appellate process in Qatar’s Court of Appeal ensued, culminating in the overturning of the death sentence and the release of the Indian citizens on December 28, 2023.

This development underscores a significant diplomatic triumph for India, underscoring the robust bilateral relations between the two nations. With trade surpassing $10 billion and a substantial Indian diaspora in Qatar, the countries have collaborated extensively on energy, security, and counter-terrorism, solidifying their strategic partnership.

(With inputs from agencies)

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