• Sunday, March 03, 2024

ASIA

Modi in Qatar on Feb 14, announcement comes on day Doha freed 8 jailed Indians

The official said Modi’s visit to Qatar was aimed at strengthening the two nations’ overall ties.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

IN a significant development in India’s Middle East policy, prime minister Narendra Modi will visit Qatar on Wednesday (14) at the end of his trip to the United Arab Emirates where he will inaugurate a Hindu temple besides attending an event of the Indian diaspora.

Indian foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra on Monday (12) confirmed the prime minister’s visit to Doha, the same day the Qatari authorities released eight Indian Navy personnel who had been jailed and given death sentences over an alleged espionage case.

The official said Modi’s visit to Qatar was aimed at strengthening the two nations’ overall ties.

The Indian PM has visited Qatar only once since taking over in 2014 and it was in June 2016.

Read: India confirms release of 8 navy veterans held by Qatar

Meanwhile, seven of the Indian navy veterans who were released by the Middle Eastern nation returned home early on Monday, while the eighth one was set to return soon.

Speaking about the case, Kwatra said Modi personally looked after the case to ensure that the Indian nationals were freed.

Read: Jaishankar meets kin of 8 Indian navy veterans given death sentence in Qatar: ‘Fully share the pain…’

In a statement issued earlier in the day, the Indian external affairs ministry thanked the Emir of Qatar for releasing the Indians who were arrested in August 2022.

The Indian navy veterans apparently faced charges of espionage but neither Qatar nor India made the charges against them public.

On October 26 last year, the Indians were given death sentences by Qatar’s Court of First Instance. Two months later on December 28, the Gulf nation’s Court of Appeal commuted the capital punishment to jail terms for durations ranging from three to 25 years.

“The government of India welcomes the release of eight Indian nationals working for the Dahra Global company who were detained in Qatar,” the ministry said. “Seven out of eight of them have returned to India. We appreciate the decision by the Emir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and homecoming of these nationals,” the statement read.

Last December, Modi met Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai where they spoke over the well-being of the Indian community in Qatar. It was reported that Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval played a key role in the negotiations with Doha in securing the Indians’ release.

Freed Indian thanks PM

Meanwhile, the freed Indians did not hesitate to express their gratitude to Modi for making a personal intervention to secure their release. “I wish to thank prime minister Modi as this wouldn’t have been possible and had it not been for his personal intervention to secure our release,” one of the veterans was quoted by Asian News International as saying.

Their return to India was marked by chants ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (Hail Mother India), reflecting their joy.

Another veteran said they waited for nearly 18 months to be back in India and thanked Modi for helping them return home.

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