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‘Ex-Navy officers’ friendly banter with diplomat led to Qatar arrests’

The long internment of eight former Indian Navy personnel in Qatar gets mysterious

ins mumbai INS Mumbai, a Delhi class destroyer that uses engines from Zorya Mashproekt | Twitter

It was just a friendly conversation by a group of eight former Indian Navy personnel with an Indian diplomat posted at Doha over three months ago that sparked suspicion among Qatari authorities that secret information may have been exchanged.

“The ex-Navy men had interacted with a diplomat who they were acquainted with because of a previous professional relationship. It was purely a friendly banter and nothing more. But it got the Qatar authorities suspicious,” a source told THE WEEK on condition of anonymity.

Another source said there was a strong possibility that the information of the friendly get-together may have been passed on to the Qatari authorities by people whose interests are aligned with that of one of India’s neighbouring countries.

The eight former Indian Navy personnel were picked up by the Qatari Ministry of Interior’s State Security Bureau in late August and more than 90 days have elapsed since then with no news of the interned men. Reports say the men have been kept in solitary confinement.

They include two Navy captains, five commanders and one sailor.

An Indian Navy Captain is equivalent to a Colonel in the Army while a Navy commander is considered equivalent to a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army.

Consular access was given to the men only for a brief period on October 3 and there has been no development after that. Nor have the Qatari authorities filed charges.

Fading traces

Employed by a private company, Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services in Doha, the ex-Navy men were involved in training the Qatari Navy.

The mystery got deeper as all traces of the company they worked for has been wiped off the internet.

A click on the link to the website of the company Dahra Global Technologies & Consultancy Services produces a notice saying the website is under maintenance while related searches produce a ‘not found’ page.

Said Group Captain (retired) Vinod Kumar Gandhi: “This is what these companies do. Rather than helping people, they are more keen to wash off their hands.”

Active with issues relating to ex-servicemen, Gp Cap Gandhi said: “We have written to the PM, defence minister, the three service chiefs and have also requested for a meeting with our foreign minister. We feel the government could have done more. Why has the internment crossed 90 days now?”

On Saturday, Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar had said that the issue had been raised with the “highest leadership levels”. “Efforts are underway to resolve the issue…We hope a solution will be found out,” he had said at a Navy event.

India-Qatar ties

The traditionally warm India-Qatar relationship received a fillip when a Dubai princess Sheikha Latifa, trying to escape her family’s clutches, was seized in her luxury yacht near Goa by ‘commandos’ and handed over to the Gulf regime in 2018.

Although a UK court had named Indian special forces as being involved in picking up the royal family member for the handover, there was no official comment from the Indian government.

It was after the 2018 incident that the Indian and the Qatari navies began a naval military exercise called “Zair al Bahr” which first kicked off in 2019, with the second edition being held in 2021.


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