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At Doha Meeting, PM Modi Expresses 'Deep Appreciation' to Qatar Emir for Release of 8 Indians

India avoided explicitly using the term 'pardon' in its public statements, yet the premature release of the men before their legal proceedings concluded spoke volumes about the situation.
PM Narendra Modi and Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of the state of Qatar. Photo: X/@narendramodi

New Delhi: Less than a week after eight Indians were released by a pardon from the Qatari leader, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Doha and thanked him for the return of the former navy veterans who were imprisoned for more than 18 months.

Three days ago, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced that the eight former Indian naval officers, who had been arrested in August 2022 and then sentenced to death, have been released due to the “decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar”.

India avoided explicitly using the term ‘pardon’ in its public statements, yet the premature release of the men before their legal proceedings concluded spoke volumes about the situation.

The visit of the Indian PM to Qatar was publicly announced on the same day, but the Indian foreign secretary pointed out that discussions regarding such high-level visits typically occur “months in advance”.

At the same time, while India and the UAE signed over eight agreements during Modi’s visit on Wednesday, no deals were finalised in Qatar, despite the usual practice of negotiating agreements beforehand to ensure deliverables in a significant bilateral visit.

Modi arrived in Doha on the night of February 14 after a two-day visit to neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

After a ceremonial welcome at the royal palace today, February 15, Modi met with the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad for delegation-level and restricted talks.

“Had a wonderful meeting with HH Sheikh @TamimBinHamad. We reviewed the full range of India-Qatar relations and discussed ways to deepen cooperation across various sectors. Our nations also look forward to collaborating in futuristic sectors which will benefit our planet,” Modi posted on his account on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Although neither Modi (on X) nor the MEA (in the press release on the meeting) mentioned this, the Indian foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra acknowledged that the prime minister expressed his gratitude.

“The prime minister thanked the Emir for his support for the welfare of the Indian community, and in this regard, expressed his deep appreciation to the Emir for the release of eight Indian nationals of Al-Dahra company. We are extremely gratified to see them back in India,” he told reporters at a media briefing in Doha.

Working for the now-defunct Omani private company Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, the eight former Indian naval officers were tasked with providing training and related services to Qatar’s armed forces. Though the exact charges were never revealed, media reports hinted at potential espionage allegations against them.

They were sentenced to death by Qatar’s First Court of Instance in October 25.

Last November, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Indian government’s plea against the death sentences. Subsequently, on December 28, the Court of Appeal commuted their capital punishment to imprisonment for different durations.

Foreign secretary Kwatra mentioned that the talks between two leaders delved into various aspects of bilateral cooperation and emphasised the importance of strategic investments and partnerships in energy and technology sectors. 

The Indian PM also invited the Emir of Qatar to India.

Besides the Emir, Modi also called on his father, the former Emir, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and met with Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

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