Eight Indian former naval officers have been in illegal detention in Doha for over 250 days now.
NEW DELHI: The Indian government is using multiple channels to secure the release of eight Indian former naval officers who have been in illegal detention in Doha for more than 250 days now. On Wednesday, the legal team that has been assigned these eight Indians could not present its arguments as relevant documents were still not handed over to them by the prosecution. The Indian nationals were detained by Qatar intelligence agency on the night of 30 August 2022 over unspecified charges.
While both the Qatar government and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) have declined to comment on the accusations against these Indians, official sources said that they were alleged to be doing something that went beyond the job they were given the employment visa for. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 18 May now. “Things are being followed up through multiple channels and that is something that has been going on since the last eight months. We share very friendly ties with Doha and we are confident that this issue will be resolved and the eight Indian nationals will be back soon. The due process of any country needs to be followed and we respect and understand that process,” an official source told The Sunday Guardian.
However, the recent court related development has come as a setback for family members of the detained Indians. “We were expecting that there will finally be a clarity on what are the charges under which they have been detailed for so long but all hopes were dashed as the Qatar government simply refused to share the documents with the defence team. The facial expression and body language clearly shows that he is totally broken from inside over the prolonged detention. How long do we have to face this torture for?” one of the relatives of the detained Indian national told The Sunday Guardian over phone. According to a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, the detainees would be under a lot of stress as they are devoid of free flow of information and they had no clarity on how long they would be in detention and what the Qatar government was going to do with them ultimately. “A situation where there is no clarity regarding your future, the stress level increases manifold, especially when you are in such a ‘closed’ environment,” he said. Some of the detainees have heart and sugar issues and this is likely to worsen in such a situation. The family members of these Indian nationals have already written a mercy petition to the ruler of Qatar, but are yet to receive any response.
Amidst all these fast moving developments, a massive disinformation campaign, too, has been launched against them. The origin of this social media based campaign has been traced to Pakistan. The aim of this campaign is to put pressure on Qatar not to release these Indian nationals. The two countries are celebrating 50 years of establishing diplomatic relations this year.
In January this year, the then Indian ambassador to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, had shared that the value of bilateral trade between Qatar and India had crossed the $18bn level, recording a 33% year-on-year growth. According to numbers, India was among the top five trading partners of Qatar.
The Qatari government received US$ 11.1 billion or 12.8% of its total exports from India. India primarily purchases oil from Qatar, but with this recent incident that has been prolonged due to the actions of Qatar, this may be impacted significantly in the coming days.
After China and Japan, India is Qatar’s largest market. Indian nationals are much in demand, both in blue and white collar jobs, because of the expertise and an image of being sincere employees.