India, Qatar and the continuing saga of eight detained ex-Indian Navy officers

Source: This post is created based on the article “India, Qatar and the continuing saga of eight detained ex-Indian Navy officers”, published in Indian Express on 16th January, 2022.

Syllabus Topic: GS Paper 3, Disaster Management

News: Eight retired Indian Navy personnel were arrested by Qatari authorities in August. They have been in imprisonment for 127 days in Doha on Saturday (January 14). Each has been kept in solitary confinement for the whole period of four and a half months.

What are the accusations against navy personnel?

Is it reported that most of the arrested men had been working at Dahra for four to six years at the time of their arrests. The men were arrested by the State Security Bureau, the Qatari intelligence agency in Sep, 2022.

Although, the charges against the men have not been made public, but their solitary confinement has led to speculation that they have been detained in connection with a security-related offence.

Neither family members, nor MEA officials are informed of the charges against them.

India and Qatar friendly ties

After the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in November 2008, the relations between both countries are improving.

In 2021, India was among the top four export destinations for Qatar, and is also among the top three sources of Qatar’s imports. The bilateral trade is valued at $15 billion, which is mostly LNG and LPG exports from Qatar worth over $13 billion.

Defense co-operation agreement signed in 2008, has been officially described as a “pillar” of Indian-Qatar ties. The pact included training of the Qatari Emiri Naval Forces (QENF) by India, as well as mutual visits.

QENF delegations participated in two maritime exercises in India last year

Last year, the two sides agreed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2023.

Challenges in India Qatar relations

First, recently, comments of one of the spokes persons of India’s ruling party, against Prophet sparked the controversy and Qatar demanded a public apology from India. The controversy was resolved after party sacked the spokesperson.

Second, the jailing of the eight ex-Navy personnel is the second big challenge. 800,000 Indians live and work in Qatar. India’s inability to resolve the issue quickly is sending wrong signal.

Third, there is an agreement between India and Qatar on the transfer of convicted prisoners to India, to serve their sentence. However, this case is still in the pre-trial stage and no charges have been framed against them yet.

Fourth, the softly approach by the government in this case is a shift from the approach of the late Sushma Swaraj. She made the welfare of Indians abroad her priority by reaching out personally to those in trouble or their families, including sending an air ambulance for a health emergency.

Fifth, in November 2019, then Southern Navy Command chief Rear Admiral R J Nadkarni told a meeting of an ex-sailor’s forum in Kochi that the Navy had taken measures to provide placement opportunities for retired personnel. He informed the meeting that MoU had been signed with the Qatar Navy in this regard. There would be more such agreements with other friendly nations. This incident will hinder the progress of this approach.


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