Delhi: In a significant development, Qatar has released eight former Indian naval officers who were previously sentenced to death on charges of spying for Israel. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in India expressed gratitude to Qatar for the release of these individuals, whose arrest in August 2022 and subsequent legal proceedings had raised international concerns.
The details surrounding the arrest, sentencing, and the recent decision to commute their death sentences remain somewhat unclear. The men were accused of passing sensitive submarine-related information to Israeli intelligence, although neither Qatar nor India officially confirmed these charges. In response to the initial death sentences, India had expressed deep shock and filed an appeal.
Consular access was granted to the prisoners in December, and later that month, the appeals court in Qatar commuted their death sentences to varying prison terms. As of Monday, seven of the individuals have already returned to India. However, the release conditions, the status of the eighth man, and further details about the case were not disclosed by the MEA.
The arrested individuals were reportedly senior employees of Dahra Global Technologies and Consulting Services, a private firm advising on a Qatari program for high-tech, Italian-made submarines that could evade radar detection. The company has since been shut down. While the case briefly strained diplomatic ties, it is expected to have minimal impact on the overall relationship between New Delhi and Doha, which remain firm allies with extensive economic ties.
This incident comes amid ongoing collaborations between India and Qatar, as evidenced by a recent deal worth tens of billions of dollars signed last week. The agreement secures exports of Qatari liquefied natural gas to India until the end of 2048, highlighting the resilience of their diplomatic and economic relations.