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Why 18 December may be a key day in ex-Indian Navy personnel case in Qatar

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Why 18 December may be a key day in ex-Indian Navy personnel case in Qatar

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this case is the lack of information regarding the charges against these eight men

The Vantage Take Last Updated:October 27, 2023 09:07:12 IST Why 18 December may be a key day in ex-Indian Navy personnel case in Qatar

The fate of the former Indian Navy personnel sentenced to death in Qatar are now purely dependent on very complex diplomacy, AP

In a diplomatic mystery that has baffled many for months, eight Indian Navy veterans find themselves imprisoned in Qatar, facing a grim fate — the death penalty. The lack of transparency surrounding their arrests, charges and trial has raised questions about the circumstances that led to this dire situation.

Timeline of events

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These eight veterans were employed at a defence company called Dahra Global Technologies owned by a retired Squadron Leader of Oman’s Air Force. What raises suspicion is the transformation of the company’s website, which once claimed to have deals with Qatar’s navy but now omits any such information.

The veterans were arrested on 30 August, 2022 under the cover of darkness, picked up by Qatar’s State Security Bureau, their spy agency. What adds to the intrigue is that the Indian Embassy was not informed about the arrests. It was only on 30 September that the veterans were allowed a brief phone call to their families and on 3 October, an Indian diplomat finally visited them, more than a month after their arrest.

The trial began this year, with the first hearing on 29 March and the most recent one on 3 October. The Indian government confirmed these events and also anticipated a verdict this month.

Unanswered questions

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of this case is the lack of information regarding the charges against these eight men. India’s Ambassador to Qatar and the Deputy Chief of Mission met them in prison and they had legal representation in court indicating that the Indian government knows the charges. However, this information has not been shared with the public leaving both the families and the general public in the dark.

Sensitive diplomacy

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar referred to this case as a sensitive issue in Parliament sparking speculation about its nature. With eight former military men involved, a dubious defence firm, a clandestine arrest and a secretive trial with swift justice accusations of espionage have surfaced. Some reports suggest that these veterans were spying for Israel, but this remains unconfirmed. Speculation does not help in understanding the true nature of this case.

Diplomatic challenge

India and Qatar have historically enjoyed strong relations. The Indian diaspora in Qatar is substantial, bilateral trade is significant and defence cooperation has been ongoing since 2008. Indian warships have been deployed to Qatar and joint military exercises have taken place. Despite this robust relationship, the case of these eight veterans remains unresolved.

A diplomatic solution

As reports indicate, India invited the Emir of Qatar to visit last year, but Qatar has yet to respond. This situation poses a considerable diplomatic challenge for New Delhi requiring goodwill, political capital and discreet diplomacy. Qatari law allows the Emir to pardon convicts typically on Qatar’s National Day, which falls on 18 December. It is hoped that a resolution may come at the highest diplomatic level.

Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect Firstpost’s views.

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