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Blog | Modi’s Diplomacy: How the death sentence of 8 Indians was converted into imprisonment in Qatar

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Rajat Sharma, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of India TV.

Qatar’s court has commuted the death sentence of eight former Indian Navy officers to imprisonment. These former officers were sentenced to death on charges of espionage, but the diplomatic efforts of the Government of India achieved their first major success. Qatar’s Court of Appeals commuted his death sentence to life in prison. The Ministry of External Affairs said that when the hearing took place in the Court of Appeals of Qatar, along with the family members of 8 Indian citizens, the Indian Ambassador to Qatar and several officials of the Indian Mission were present in the court. The Ministry of External Affairs has said that the details of the decision have not been revealed yet, and since the matter is delicate, further information cannot be given on it at this time. After receiving the detailed decision of Qatar’s Court of Appeals, further strategy will be decided in collaboration with the families of these 8 Indians. The decision of Qatar’s Court of Appeals is a relief. In the last two months, the government raised the issue with the Qatari government at every level, advocated vigorously in the court and the result is in front of the country. It has been said by the Ministry of External Affairs that the government will not end this matter here. Work will continue on the strategy as to how the punishment of former Navy officers can be further reduced or how they can be brought to India.

In August last year, Qatar’s intelligence agency State Security Bureau had arrested eight former Navy officers working in a private company of Qatar on charges of espionage. A secret hearing was held in the court and two months ago in October, all were arrested. Death sentence was pronounced. As soon as the news of death sentence to Indian citizens came, the Narendra Modi government contacted the Qatari government without any delay. Took steps under the judicial system there, appealed against the sentence, presented his case strongly and today achieved great success. Diplomats and defense experts say that releasing a person sentenced to death in Arab countries or getting his sentence reduced is a very difficult task, the Indian government has succeeded in this, it is not a small thing. The names of the 8 former officers of the Indian Navy who were arrested while working in a Qatari company are – Captain (Retd) Navtej Singh Gill, Captain (Retd) Saurabh Vashishtha, Commander (Retd) Purnendu Tiwari, Commander (Retd) .) Amit Nagpal, Commander (Ret) BK Verma, Commander (Ret) Sugankar Pakala, Commander (Ret) SK Gupta and Sailor (Ret) Ragesh.

Shashank, former Foreign Secretary of the Government of India, said a very important thing. He says that many anti-India countries are active in the Gulf region. They want the relations between India and the Gulf countries to deteriorate and the image of the Modi government to be tarnished, because since becoming the Prime Minister in 2014, Modi has been emphasizing on improving India’s relations with the Gulf countries. India’s relations with countries like Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar have improved significantly. Therefore, now this decision of Qatar’s court has ruined the conspiracies of India’s enemy countries. The first demand from the Ministry of External Affairs was for consular access for all Indians. After getting consular access, Indian Embassy officials met these eight Indians in jail, took information from them about the entire case, their families also went to jail and met them, after which this matter was raised at the highest level in Qatar. Prime Minister Modi himself became active. This month, when Modi went to Dubai to attend the COP28 summit, he met the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. During the conversation, Modi raised the issue of death penalty for Indian ex-marines. After this, Indian diplomats helped the family to appeal against the death sentence in the Qatari court and now this relief news has come.

Foreign affairs experts believe that in future, there may be two options to bring back these 8 Indians imprisoned in Qatar. For one thing, every year the Emir of Qatar pardons the sentences of people imprisoned in his country. It is possible that they may waive the punishment of these Indians and allow them to return to India, or it is also possible that an agreement may be reached between the governments of the two countries and the eight retired officers will serve the remaining sentence in Indian jails. Permission to cut should be given. Retired Vice Admiral Anil Chawla expressed hope that very soon these eight Indian citizens would return to India as an agreement was signed between India and Qatar in 2015. Under this agreement, there is a provision to send Indian citizens serving their sentence in Qatar and Qatari citizens lodged in Indian jails to their country to serve their sentence.

The final decision on the fate of 8 retired Navy officers will be in the hands of the Emir of Qatar. The Emir has the power to pardon the punishment of any criminal, according to tradition the Emir of Qatar pardons the punishment during Ramadan. Another occasion for remission of punishment is Qatar’s National Day, which falls on 18 December. That is why this time there is no option of National Day and we will have to wait for the month of Ramadan. In Qatar, remission of sentence by the Emir occurs only after all other options for appeal through the legal process have been exhausted. That is why on one hand it is a matter of great relief for our retired Navy officers that their death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment and on the other hand it is a matter of relief that many options for their release are still open. Relations between Qatar and India have always been good. Whenever Pakistan did mischief against India, Qatar always supported India. That is why it is hoped that this time too Qatar will show a generous attitude towards our citizens. (Rajat Sharma)

Watch: ‘Aaj Ki Baat, Rajat Sharma Sath’ full episode of December 28, 2023

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