Qatar releases 8 Indians facing death convictions; Emirate sights shifting geostrategic sands

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The MEA broke the news ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelling to the Middle East.

PM Narendra Modi with Emir of Qatar (FILE) Image MEA

PM Narendra Modi with Emir of Qatar (FILE) Image MEA

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, February 12: A year after convicting eight Indians with death sentences, Qatar has announced the release of eight Indians on the death row. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) welcomed the decision of Qatar.

In a statement, released early Monday morning, the MEA said: “India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company who were detained in Qatar. Seven out of the eight of them have returned to India.”

The MEA broke the news ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelling to the Middle East. Modi is set to deepen the economic partnership pact with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Modi visit is also seen as a strong signal of the seriousness of India for the IMEC (India-Middle East-Europe Economic) Corridor, and Qatar may not see sitting out of the economic and trade pie that New Delhi is seeking to enlarge for the Gulf region.

The MEA stated: “We appreciate the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals.” Ironically, the news was broken by the MEA, and none had any clues of seven of the eight Indian national already having come to their homes in the country.

The British daily, Financial Times, in a report said that the release of the eight Indian nationals by Qatar has come on the back of months of negotiations between the officials of the Indian and the Emirate. Signs of the possible relief for the jailed Indian nationals had appeared after Qatar had dropped the death convictions last year.

Former Indian diplomat Anil Trigunayat posted on the social media platform X, saying that “…in keeping with excellent bilateral relations between India and Qatar, the eight ex-Indian Navy personnel have been released. Diplomacy and the rule of law prevail. Personal relationship and respect between PM Narendra Modi and Emir Sheikh Tamim mattered a great deal”.

In fact, Qatar since 2011 has been making news for wrong reasons in India by arresting the Indian nationals. Arrest of the Indian national by Qatar has been raised on several occasions by the members of the Opposition in parliament. Union Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar had assured both the Houses of parliament that the government was engaged with Qatar to work out the release of the arrested Indian nationals.

FT stated in its report that the Indian nationals were arrested and given death sentences by a lower court in Qatar on the charges of “espionage on behalf of Israel”. Qatar is currently at the centre stage of the Israel-Hamas War. The leadership of the Hamas is stationed in Qatar. But the Emirate is also working closely with the US for the release of the hostages taken by the Hamas.

Qatar is widely known in the diplomatic circle as a close ally of China. But India has deepened ties with the likes of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and others. While the Chinese economy wobbles, Qatar is seen by the diplomatic community of having realized that the Emirate stood to lose by antagonizing India by holding the Indian nationals in prisons.  

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