PM Modi thanks Emir of Qatar for release of 8 ex-Indian Navy personnel | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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PM Modi thanks Emir of Qatar for release of 8 ex-Indian Navy personnel

Feb 15, 2024 08:10 PM IST

The former naval personnel, employed by Dahra Global that provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces, were detained in August 2022

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed his “deep appreciation” to the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, for the release of eight former Indian Navy personnel who were given lengthy prison terms after being detained in 2022.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha, Qatar, February 15, 2024. Qatar News Agency/Handout (VIA REUTERS)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha, Qatar, February 15, 2024. Qatar News Agency/Handout (VIA REUTERS)

Modi’s visit to Qatar, part of a two-nation tour that also took him to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was formally announced soon after Qatar freed the eight men last weekend. At their meeting in Doha, the two leaders discussed ways to deepen the bilateral partnership, especially in areas such as energy and technology.

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The former naval personnel, employed by a private company called Dahra Global that provided training and other services to Qatar’s armed forces, were detained in August 2022 on undeclared charges and spent months in solitary confinement before being sentenced to death last year. Following an appeal, their death sentences were commuted and they were given prison terms of varying duration.

“Prime minister thanked the emir for his support for the welfare of the Indian community and, in this regard, expressed his deep appreciation to the emir for the release of eight Indian nationals of the al-Dahra company. We are extremely gratified to see them back in India,” foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra told a media briefing in Doha.

The external affairs ministry announced their release on the orders of the Qatari emir early on Monday, marking a significant diplomatic breakthrough for the Indian side. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval spearheaded the behind-the-scenes efforts that led to their release.

Modi, who was on his second official visit to Qatar since 2016, and Al Thani discussed a wide range of areas of bilateral cooperation, including the trade and energy partnerships, investment cooperation, issues related to regional security, and people-to-people ties, Kwatra said.

The two leaders, who last met on the margins of the COP28 Summit in the UAE last December, held delegation-level and one-to-one talks that covered strategic investments and ways to bolster the partnership in energy and technology so that India and Qatar can move beyond a buyer-seller relationship.

Modi was welcomed on his arrival in Doha late on Wednesday night by the minister of state for foreign affairs, Soltan bin Saad Al-Muraikhi, before going into a meeting with his Qatari counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

The two premiers focused on ways to expand cooperation in trade, investment, energy, finance and technology. They discussed recent developments in West Asia and “emphasised the importance of upholding peace and stability in the region and beyond”, the external affairs ministry said in a readout.

The highlight of Modi’s visit was the meeting with the Qatari emir, which was held after a ceremonial welcome at the Emiri Diwan and a ceremonial guard of honour. Modi invited the emir to visit India. Al Thani appreciated India’s role as a “valued partner in the Gulf region”.

Modi also held a meeting with the father emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, and lauded his role in laying a strong foundation for the India-Qatar partnership. The father emir said the two countries have an “unwavering bond, epitomised by mutual trust and cooperation”.

Both Al Thani and the father emir lauded the role of the 800,000-strong Indian diaspora in Qatar’s development and in strengthening bilateral ties. Besides remittances from Indian nationals, Qatar has emerged as an important commercial partner for India, with two-way trade currently worth $20 billion a year

Kwatra said the leadership of both sides explored new areas of cooperation, including the energy supply chain, space, technology, education and green energy. At the India Energy Week held in Goa last week, India’s state-run Petronet LNG Limited and QatarEnergy signed a 20-year LNG sale agreement for supplying 7.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of LNG from 2028.

The two sides are also looking to increase convergences on regional issues and exploring partnerships focused on third countries, as well as exploring strategic investments that will allow Qatar to benefit from India’s economic growth, Kwatra said.

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