Espionage Charges on Indian Navy Veterans

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November 08, 2023

Why in news?

A Qatari court sentenced 8 Indian Navy veterans to death on charges of spying for Israel, thus straining the bilateral relations between the two countries.

What is the bilateral relation between India-Qatar?

  • Political relations- There has been regular exchange of high-level bilateral visits.
  • Both countries build a forward-looking partnership by further broadening and deepening the bilateral engagement in various arenas.
  • Economic relations- India's bilateral trade with Qatar in 2020-21 was US 9.21 billion dollars.
  • Qatar is the largest supplier of LNG to India, accounting for over 50% of India's global LNG imports.
  • Investment- Joint Task Force on Investment has been set-up between both the countries to facilitate investments by Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) into India, and also to explore Qatari investments in the entire energy value-chain in India.
  • Pandemic cooperation- During COVID-19 Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) sent medical relief material to India for combating second wave of pandemic.
  • Defence- India regularly participates in the biennial Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (DIMDEX) in Qatar.
  • India-Qatar Defence Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2008, was further extended for a period of 5 years in 2018.
  • Cultural relations- Cultural ties between India and Qatar are deep-rooted and actively nurtured by both sides.
  • Agreement on cultural cooperation was signed in 2012.
  • The year 2019 was celebrated as India-Qatar Year of Culture.
  • Qatar is co-sponsor of declaring June 21 as International Day of Yoga in United Nations.
  • Diaspora- There are over 700,000 Indian nationals residing in Qatar, the largest expatriate community in Qatar.

What is the issue about?

  • Issue - 8 former Indian Navy officials working for a Doha-based company were sentenced to death by a Qatari court
  • Initial reports suggest that the authorities apprehended the officials under suspicion of engaging in espionage for Israel, specifically regarding Qatar's military submarine program.
  • India is exploring all legal options to save the Indians and has taken up the matter at various official and political levels with Qatar.
  • Expatriation - Qatar is a friendly foreign country and there is an existing bilateral agreement to expatriate convicted citizens.
  • However, Article 4 of the agreement excludes the death penalty.

What are the options that India can explore?

  • Legal process- The case is in ‘The Court of First Instance’. The Indian government can help the Indians challenge the death sentence in higher courts, and seek reprieve from the death penalty.
  • Mercy petition- Indian government is helping the Indians to file a mercy plea before Emir of Qatar.
  • Strategic diplomacy- India should use diplomatic channels, bilateral talks, and international platforms like International Court of Justice to secure the release of detained veterans.
  • Engagement- India should engage with the Indian diaspora in Qatar and the US to leverage their influence.
  • Trust building- India's response should be measured and phased, ensuring room for de-escalation and maintaining the balance in West Asia.
  • Diplomatic challenge- India has to appeal to the Emir’s clemency and balance its relations with Qatar and other regional actors.
  • Potential economic actions- India can diversify its energy sources and expedite its renewable energy initiatives to reduce the dependency on Qatar for energy.

Quick facts

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

  • It is a regional political and economic alliance of 6 countries in the Gulf region - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.gcc
  • Headquarter - Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Aim - To achieve ever closer union between the energy rich Gulf countries.
  • Significance - GCC has over 8.5 million non-resident Indians, constituting around 65% of total NRIs.
  • Al-ula declaration-During the 41st GCC summit, it was signed based on greater cooperation within the Council.


Related linksKulbhushan Jadav Case, Italian Marines’ Case



  1. Indian Express- Options India could explore
  2. The Hindu- Indian veterans in Qatar case  
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