India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Monday that Qatar has freed eight former Indian naval officers from custody, having commuted their death sentences.
This decision, which comes over 18 months after their initial arrest, is attributed to the intervention of the Qatari Emir.
While sources indicated that the men were accused of espionage for Israel, neither India nor Qatar officially confirmed these charges. The death sentences, which were issued in October, were rescinded in December.
India confirmed that seven of the officers have returned home following their release.
Since their arrest in August 2022, New Delhi has been engaged in protracted negotiations with Qatar.
The case strained relations between the two countries, given Qatar’s significant role as a supplier of natural gas to India, one of the world’s foremost energy importers.
In its statement, the Indian ministry expressed gratitude towards the Emir of Qatar for facilitating the repatriation of these individuals.
At the time of their apprehension, the men were involved in a submarine project with a private firm commissioned by the Qatari authorities.
This development closely follows the signing of a major contract between Qatari and Indian companies for the supply of liquefied natural gas.
Additionally, it follows a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Modi and Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, during the COP28 climate summit in Dubai in December.
Discussions during this meeting reportedly included matters concerning the welfare of the Indian community residing in Qatar.
Qatar is home to over 800,000 Indian citizens who are actively engaged in various sectors of the economy.