Has India’s support to Israel prompted the death sentence to Navy veterans in Qatar?

Eight lakh Indians work in Qatar; India is a major importer of LNG from the gulf state & Qatar has 25% stakes in Adani Power. What then explains India’s failure to secure the release of the 8 Indians?

India left baffled by espionage charges against 8 former Navy officers in Qatar (Photo: Imtiyaz khan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
India left baffled by espionage charges against 8 former Navy officers in Qatar (Photo: Imtiyaz khan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

NH Digital

Financial Times, London reported on Friday that “a person briefed on the case confirmed to the Financial Times that the eight Indians had been charged with spying for Israel. They will be able to appeal against their sentences…the last execution in Qatar was in 2020…”

There is shock and disbelief in India at the espionage charge because seven of the eight Indian Navy officers (the eighth is a sailor named Ragesh and details are yet unavailable) had retired after distinguished service. One of them was the recipient of President’s gold medal at graduation, another was awarded Pravasi Bharatiya Samman for commendable work abroad while a third had crossed the equator twice in the Indian Navy’s sail boat.

Former diplomat and Ambassador K.C. Singh exclaimed, “Shocking! What espionage would ex-Indian navy officers conduct & for whom? Qatar has a US airbase & Americans are not complaining. Is the allegation relate to information passed on to Qatar’s Gulf rivals?”

Ambassador Singh wondered if India had got caught in intra-Gulf rivalries? “Qatar was indeed demonised by the UAE and the Saudis. Tension has abated but distrust remains. India drew closer to rulers of those two nations, alongside US. Abraham Accords excluded Qatar…,” he went on to add. Leaders of Palestinian Hamas continue to live and operate from Qatar and speculation is rife that the Indians were sentenced to death following India’s perceived support to Israel during the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

Congress MP from Punjab Manish Tewari recalled that he had raised the issue in Parliament on 7 December last year and MEA Dr S Jaishankar has in a letter to him on 22 December assured that the Government of India was doing everything to help the former Navy personnel. Tewari on Friday posted the minister’s letter and alleged that the MEA had never been serious.

“Had they been serious then things would never have come to this pass that the 08 Navy men would have been sentenced to death for an alleged offence whose details are still unknown. The NDA / BJP Government for all its muscular nationalism has completely failed to protect the dignity, honour & lives of our Ex-Servicemen,” he tweeted on X.

In their work with Dahra Global Technologies and Consultant Services, the former Indian navy personnel were reportedly involved in training various security-related service providers of the State of Qatar. The company was also involved in producing high-tech Italian-origin submarines that are known for stealth capabilities, reported The Hindu.

The men were granted consular access on multiple occasions and the Indian ambassador to Qatar met them as recently as 1 October. Both sides, however, have maintained a veil of secrecy over the case in view of the sensitivities involved.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Doha in June 2016, followed by his meeting with the Emir of Qatar on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2019. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar also visited Qatar in February 2022.

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