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On Sunday night, Qatar released Indian Navy veterans. What transpired?

Qatar has released Indian Navy veterans, with the foreign secretary noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly oversaw all related developments in the case.

According to sources cited by NDTV, seven out of the eight Indian Navy veterans who arrived in India on Monday morning were unaware of their impending release. The Ministry of External Affairs announced that Qatar had released the eight former Indian Navy officers, rescinding their death sentences, with credit given to the Qatari emir for the decision, which came more than 18 months after their arrest had strained diplomatic relations. Reuters reported that the Indian Navy veterans had been accused of spying for Israel, although neither India nor Qatar confirmed these allegations. The death sentences, issued in October, were subsequently dropped in December.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who oversaw the developments in the case personally, is set to visit Qatar on February 14 and engage in discussions with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the ruler of Qatar, as announced by Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra.

As per NDTV, the veterans were instructed by jail authorities on Sunday night to pack their belongings and be ready by 9 am local time on Sunday. They were then taken to the Embassy and subsequently transported to the airport, boarding an IndiGo flight that landed in New Delhi at 2 am. The released veterans include Captain Navtej Singh Gill (retired), Captain Saurabh Vasisht (retired), Commander Purnendu Tiwari (retired), Captain Birendra Kumar Verma (retired), Commander Sugunakar Pakala (retired), Commander Sanjeev Gupta (retired), Commander Amit Nagpal (retired), and Sailor Ragesh (retired).

India engaged in prolonged discussions with Qatar following the veterans’ arrest in August 2022, and the case had strained relations with Doha, a significant natural gas supplier to India. These veterans, employed by a private company, were reportedly supporting various programs and activities for the Qatari Navy, as per a source familiar with the case cited by Reuters.

The release news emerged shortly after the signing of a major LNG supply deal between Qatari and Indian companies. It also followed Modi’s meeting with Sheikh Tamim during the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where they discussed the welfare of the Indian community in Qatar, which comprises over 800,000 citizens.

Regarding another veteran, it’s noted that Commander Purnendu Tiwari remained in Doha and is expected to return to India soon, according to sources. Dr. Meetu Bhargava, Tiwari’s sister, expressed her relief at his safety and stated her anticipation for his return. The Ministry of External Affairs expressed appreciation for Qatar’s decision to facilitate the release and repatriation of the arrested Indians, acknowledging the efforts involved in negotiating their freedom.

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