Prime Minister Narendra Modi was personally supervising New Delhi’s efforts to free eight Navy veterans jailed in Qatar, the External Affairs Ministry said today, hours after seven of them landed in Delhi. Responding to media queries during a special briefing, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said, “Prime Minister Modi had been personally supervising this issue. This (the release) is a proof of his leadership and also reflects the strength of (India-Qatar) ties.”
The Navy veterans had been sentenced to death by a Qatar court in October last year, allegedly for spying. Neither New Delhi nor Doha has publicly remarked on the allegations against them. Before their arrest, they were working for private firm Dahra Global and were involved in training Qatar Navy.
The capital punishment was commuted in December following Delhi’s diplomatic push. One of the eight, however, is not back yet. Sources said he is working through paper work and will return soon.
The veterans who returned today are Captain Navtej Singh Gill (retired), Captain Saurabh Vasisht (retired), Commander Purnendu Tiwari (retired), Captain Birendra Kumar Verma (retired), Commander Sugunakar Pakala (retired), Commander Sanjeev Gupta (retired), Commander Amit Nagpal (retired) and Sailor Ragesh (retired). The eight veterans were arrested in Qatar in 2022 and were in jail since. They landed in Delhi at 2 am today.
The return of the veterans is being seen as a huge diplomatic win for India. Their death sentence was commuted shortly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai.
On landing in Delhi, one of the veterans credited the Prime Minister with securing their release. “We are very happy that we are back in India, safely. Definitely, we would like to thank PM Modi as this was only possible because of his personal intervention.”
“We waited for 18 months to be back in India. We are extremely grateful to the Prime Minister. It wouldn’t have been possible without his personal intervention and his equation with Qatar. We are grateful to the Government of India from the bottom of our hearts for every effort that has been made,” said another.