Comment | India's Diplomatic Test in Qatar



10/28/20232 min read

The manner in which a Qatari court has awarded death sentences to eight Indians imprisoned for the last one year on charges of espionage is shocking, to say the least. However, Qatar has not yet made public, the allegations of espionage against them.

These people, working in Qatar's Al Dahra Company, were capable officers of the Indian Navy and had joined this job after taking voluntary retirement. One of them received the President's Gold Medal, the other officer was a fighter controller at INS Viraat, while a former naval officer, Commander Purnendu Tiwari who served as the managing director of Al Dahra Company, was awarded the "Pravasi Bharatiya Samman" (first ever Indian armed forces veteran to receive it) for his contribution in capacity building for the Emirati naval forces.

Qatar's attitude towards such respected Indians seemed suspicious and full of prejudice from the very beginning. For example, the reason for their arrest was not disclosed for a long time, their families were not given any information, they were kept separately and their bail petitions were rejected unilaterally. Whereas the citizens of Kuwait and Oman arrested along with them were released. These Indians imprisoned in Qatar are being provided diplomatic and legal assistance, and our government has promised to take all possible steps to secure their release including fighting a legal battle. Despite this, this case is a test for Indian diplomacy for at least two reasons.

Firstly, our relations with Qatar are not normal for quite some time. Qatar was the first country to criticize BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma's controversial remarks last year and since then there has been no high-level visit between the two countries. Not only this, during the hosting of the Football World Cup last year, Qatar had also hosted Jihadi preacher Zakir Nayak who had fled from India. The second problem emanates from the crisis in West Asia, where the Muslim world stands united against Israel, these Indians imprisoned in Qatar have been accused of spying for Israel. Qatar has played an important role in hosting Taliban negotiators and freeing American citizens from Hamas captivity. As far as India is concerned, it is a major importer of Qatar's natural gas. Apart from this, about 8 lakh Indians work in Qatar. In such a situation, the government will have to take all measures including diplomatic efforts to save its citizens.