Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 20 April 2024 9.34 AM IST

Houdini escape for ex-navy officials


With the release of eight ex-naval officers who were sentenced to death in Qatar’s dungeons, India surpassed all hurdles to achieve one of India’s quietly done diplomatic triumphs. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in securing the release of the prisoners by exerting considerable pressure on the Qatari government is one large example of diplomatic adroitness.

All eight of them were arrested on August 30, 2022, and charged with espionage and have been in jail ever since. A Qatar court on October 26 sentenced the death penalty to all eight ex-navy officials thus sending shock waves across India. India first tried taking a truce through various diplomatic channels and as a result, the Qatar court commuted the sentence to imprisonment that ranged from three years to 25 years.

Albeit India’s close camaraderie with Qatar, the chances of the Islamic nation rescinding its draconian laws were low. And now, taking all of his critics in awe, PM Modi and his external affairs ministry have pulled off a diplomatic masterclass for future leaders to emulate.

PM Modi is visiting Qatar today to personally thank the Emir of Qatar for acquitting the sailors and allowing them to return home. Seven of the eight ex-navy officials who were released from jail returned to India on Monday. Among them is Ragesh Gopakumar, a Malayali.

Qatari authorities have not yet released the nature of the crimes committed but rumours float that the ex-marines, who worked for a private firm in Qatar, were arrested for espionage. Everything was worked out covertly, as the incarcerated navy officials received a message from jail officials to get ready to return home to India, that too on Sunday only.

Hundreds of Indian citizens are arrested and imprisoned on foreign soil for various reasons. Given the nature of the offences, it is unsolicited and impossible for the central government to intervene in all such cases. However, espionage cases are a different breed and can taint the relations between two countries.

The ex-sailors albeit spending almost 18 months in prison are now elated to have returned home and that too at the behest of PM Modi. Ever since the sailors were sentenced to death, the central government had actively intervened in the matter. It is also worth mentioning that the Prime Minister was personally interested in exerting as much pressure as possible at the diplomatic level and constantly evaluating the steps to ensure their release.

Qatar a gas powerhouse and a formidable presence in the Middle East region are also aware of the growing stature of India as an economic superpower. More than 600 Indian companies are working in India. It was also recently learned that a deal was inked between the two countries to import LNG from Qatar till 2048.

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